Jacob’s Pillow–my first time up

The Financial Times wanted a piece that explained the Pillow as well as reviewing the week’s attractions for people not already in the know. A fun assignment, especially as it gave me an excuse (and the means) to go up there for the first time. I thought it was only California that you could drive in for miles and still be nowhere near the border.

Here’s a few paragraphs, taken from the middle of the piece, about Rennie Harris PureMovement, which performs there through Sunday. (Isn’t “Adidas workout trousers” the most adorable Britishism you ever have heard?):

In spite of the range of offerings, a common thread does run through
this year’s Festival: hip-hop. The form is so pervasive that it has
transcended its original values and circumstances. The Canadian troupes
Rubberbandance (August 9-12) and Kidd Pivot (August 19-23), for
example, use the low-riding, sideways-loping legs, the jigsaw body and
the pliant use of the floor to create delicate interior worlds.

Rennie Harris, whose PureMovement troupe is this week’s main
attraction, has probably done more to make that expansion possible than
anyone. The one-time dancer for Run-DMC and Kurtis Blow has turned
hip-hop towards narrative, with a West Side Story set in
present-day North Philadelphia, where he grew up. He’s tackled big
social questions via dancing as silken as a cloudy midnight. And he’s
masterminded a variety show that demonstrates how rapping, DJing,
bucket-drumming and so forth form a whole with b-boy tricks and hip-hop
steps. But whatever he’s done, Harris has never forgotten the form’s
social origins.

“Students of the Asphalt Jungle” (1995)– one of three early works on
the programme– begins with eight buff men in Adidas work-out trousers
crouched in a sprinter’s start. They blast off into b-boy manoeuvres,
presented in the usual fashion: one dancer at a time trying to outdo
the rest, spinning like a disc, tumbling through enough flip-flops to
turn into a blur, tying himself into a tangled knot. The other men lie
on their stomachs in push-up position with noses and eyes pressed to
the floor. Harris doesn’t offer hip-hop exhibitionism and machismo
blindly. He’s wondering, What’s driving us– or who– and what are we
getting for our effort?
The audience on Wednesday didn’t hear the
troubling question. They cheered wildly at the spectacular moves.

Click here for the whole piece.


Melanie Cotton, Crystal Frazier, Kyle Clark, and Dinita Askew of Rennie Harris
Puremovement in Something To Do With Love – Volume One, choreography by Rennie
Harris. (Photo, Christopher Duggan

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  1. says

    Thanks for this great post – really pleased to have found your site at long last !
    [Apollinaire responds] Well, thank you! And I look forward to checking out your blog as well.

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