The Ted Shawn Theatre at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts, looks like a barn, with large sliding doors at the back of the stage. They tend to part for marvels.
They were open five years ago, when I saw Alvin Ailey perform an excerpt from “Revelations.” Dancers in flowing white costumes raised their arms toward the tall trees.
At this year’s June gala, marking the Pillow’s 80th anniversary as the signal place where modern dance goes for summer re-creation, American Ballet Theatre and Bolshoi Ballet star David Hallberg danced against that same leafy backdrop.
Bare chested, with his blonde hair glowing in warm pink sunlight, Hallberg twisted and turned in a black ruffled skirt. The Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato had given him a flamenco challenge.
“I’ve never danced in a big skirt like that, and I’ve never danced in a place that was inside and outside,” Hallberg said later that night. “It’s very freeing. That’s why I come to the Pillow, to go beyond my everyday experiences.”
For artists as much as for audiences, the Berkshires in western Massachusetts offer opportunities to stretch. Something about the arcadian setting of forest, mountains and lakes invites the abundance of visual and performing artists and patrons looking for high culture in informal settings.
That’s the feeling in Becket, where Hallberg returns August 1-5, as well as in nearby Lenox, home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer headquarters, Tanglewood. Musicians from James Taylor to Yo-Yo Ma preside over concerts in the shed and Ozawa Hall throughout the 75th season, which begins July 6 with a Beethoven program conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi.
On stage, the Berkshire Theatre Group is presenting revivals of “A Chorus Line” and “A Class Act” (the biomusical about “Chorus Line” lyricist Ed Kleban). The Barrington Stage Company has a play about the life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
“We’ve got Bradley Cooper!” Matt Harris, a partner and founder of early stage venture capital firm Village Ventures said, promoting the Williamstown Theatre Festival he chairs: Cooper, the actor from “The Hangover,” will star in the festival’s production of “The Elephant Man” from July 25 to August 5.
Chances are he and other actors will be spotted getting a coffee at Tunnel on Spring Street, or running lines on one of the lawns at Williams College. Part of the fun of culture staged in country towns is getting close to the artists.
Sometimes that allows for a conversation that puts things in perspective. Waiting for the Wagyu steak at the Jacob’s Pillow gala dinner, dancer and choreographer Jomar Mesquita talked about how the growth in the Brazilian economy has strained the finances of his dance company, Mimulus.
The rent on the company’s studios in the Prado section of the city of Belo Horizonte has increased to $2,000 a month from $800 a month in the past two years, even as government funding decreased.
“The country is more interested in soccer than dance,” Mesquita said, referring to the push to build facilities for the World Cup in 2014. Those construction projects have ripped up roads and reduced parking around Mimulus’s studios. As a result, enrollment is down at the company’s school.
Like many international dance companies, Mimulus had its U.S. debut at Jacob’s Pillow. It is a refuge for them, as well as for the weary financier who works a few-hours-drive away.
“The Berkshires is full of interesting people and you essentially never talk about business,” said Hans Morris, managing director at General Atlantic LLC.
You never know where you’ll find a titan of finance. In a gallery at MASS MoCA, in North Adams, rests a log with the name “Steven A. Cohen” carved into it, referring to the hedge fund manager and art collector.
And then there is the use of logs at the Dream Away Lodge, in Becket. On a recent Saturday night the group sitting around the bonfire was serenaded by a banjo player.
Jacob’s Pillow is at 358 George Carter Rd., Becket. Information: +1-413-243-9919, http://www.jacobspillow.org.
Tanglewood is at 297 West St., Lenox. Information: +1-413-637-1600; http://www.tanglewood.org
“A Chorus Line” is at the Colonial Theatre, 111 South St., Pittsfield. “A Class Act” begins July 10 at the Unicorn Theatre, 6 East St., Stockbridge. Information on both shows: +1-413-298-5576; http://www.berkshiretheatregroup.org.
Barrington Stage Company is at 30 Union St., Pittsfield. Information: +1-413-236-8888; http://www.barringtonstageco.org.
The Williamstown Theatre Festival is at 1000 Main St., Williamstown. Information: +1-413-597-3400; http://www.wtfestival.org.
Other Muse highlights include Jeffrey Burke on books and Richard Vines on restaurants.