Berkshires Scene: Wendy Whelan at Jacob’s Pillow Dance

Tap for Slideshow
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Kathleen Chrisman and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Democrat.

Close
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Kathleen Chrisman and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Democrat. Close

Kathleen Chrisman and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Democrat.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Hugh Hardy, architect, Wendy Whelan, principal dancer at New York City Ballet, and Frederick Beinecke, president of Antaeus Enterprises. Close

Hugh Hardy, architect, Wendy Whelan, principal dancer at New York City Ballet, and Frederick Beinecke, president of... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Anisa Keith, who works at BRP Companies, a real estate private equtiy fund, and Suzanne Dance, a managing director of institutional sales at Citigroup Global Markets Inc. Close

Anisa Keith, who works at BRP Companies, a real estate private equtiy fund, and Suzanne Dance, a managing director of... Read More

Photographer: Karli Cadel/Jacob's Pillow via Bloomberg

Michelle Dorrance taps in the Ted Shawn Theatre at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. Close

Michelle Dorrance taps in the Ted Shawn Theatre at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Samuel Wilson and Michaela De Prince arrive at the post-performance dinner on Jacob's Pillow gala night. Close

Samuel Wilson and Michaela De Prince arrive at the post-performance dinner on Jacob's Pillow gala night.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Christopher Jones, chief investment officer of the gorwth and small cap U.S. equity team at JPMorgan Asset Management. Close

Christopher Jones, chief investment officer of the gorwth and small cap U.S. equity team at JPMorgan Asset Management.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/BLoomberg

Chet Walker, choreographer of "Pippin" and a member of the faculty of the School at Jacob's Pillow, with Ella Baff, executive and artistic director of Jacob's Pillow Dance. Close

Chet Walker, choreographer of "Pippin" and a member of the faculty of the School at Jacob's Pillow, with Ella Baff,... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Jordan Matter, a dance photographer, and Peter Reed of MoMA. Close

Jordan Matter, a dance photographer, and Peter Reed of MoMA.

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Mark Leavitt, managing director and global head of technology, media and telecommunications at Piper Jaffray, and Taryn Leavitt, a jewelry designer. Close

Mark Leavitt, managing director and global head of technology, media and telecommunications at Piper Jaffray, and... Read More

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

The Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival gala tent, under a night sky in Becket, Massachusetts. Close

The Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival gala tent, under a night sky in Becket, Massachusetts.

A route with a view led the way to the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Saturday evening.

In the woods of Becket, Massachusetts, the largest gala audience since 2007 kicked off the festival’s 81st season with cocktails in Blake’s Barn, performances in the Ted Shawn Theatre -- equipped with comfortable new seats -- and a tent-sheltered dinner prepared by Peter Platt of the Old Inn on the Green.

Highlights: shiitake mushroom and radish salad, and giant macaroons with fresh strawberries and cream.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick attended as the gathering marked the re-awakening of culture in the Berkshire Hills for the next few months. Tanglewood opens, and Wilco curates a festival at MASS MoCA next weekend. The Clark Art Institute has a Winslow Homer exhibition, and Patricia Clarkson will play Zelda Fitzgerald at Williamstown Theatre Festival on July 1.

At Jacob’s Pillow on Saturday the biggest star on stage was New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan, who performed with Martha Graham Dance Company soloist Lloyd Knight in Graham’s “Moon.” This was a hint of the contemporary duets Whelan is creating for the Pillow with dancer/choreographers including Kyle Abraham and Alejandro Cerrudo, to be presented in mid-August.

“Alejandro and I will be working tomorrow, stop by,” said Whelan, capturing the informal spirit of the festival.

When Executive and Artistic Director Ella Baff announced that the students of Jacob’s Pillow had learned their dance in just four days -- starting the day they arrived -- the audience gasped.

Dance Variations

Dance Theatre of Harlem offered a “Swan Lake” pas de deux performed by Michaela DePrince and Samuel Wilson. The company is in residence at the Pillow June 19-23.

“It’s amazing to watch all the different types of dance,” said Chet Walker, the choreographer of the Tony-winning revival of “Pippin,” who directs the Jazz/Musical Theatre Dance program at Jacob’s Pillow.

Tap dancer and choreographer Michelle Dorrance, recipient of $25,000 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award, performed for a bit with the stage dark, to emphasize her view of her art form as music. A choral group joined her as the back wall of the stage opened to a bright green forest.

“This place is dance heaven: for the dancers, for the people watching, for the students who come from all over the world to study here, and for the people who want to create dance,” said Christopher Jones, chief investment officer of the growth-and-small-cap-U.S.-equity team at J.P.Morgan Asset Management.

Jones served as a gala chairman along with Mark Leavitt, managing director and global head of technology, media and telecommunications investment banking at Piper Jaffray Cos. (PJC) They helped the event raise $411,000, with 471 guests attending, including the founders of Alex Toys Inc., Nurit and Rick Amdur, who three weeks ago sold their company to Propel Equity Partners.

“Tonight is about giving back,” said Leavitt, president of the Jacob’s Pillow board.

“It’s also so much fun,” said his wife, Taryn Leavitt, a jewelry designer, before sweeping her husband onto the dance floor. At this party, everyone danced.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

Muse highlights include Patrick Cole and James Tarmy on music.

To contact the reporter on this story: Amanda Gordon in New York at agordon01@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.