Becket, MA – After touring 11 countries across Europe, North America, and Oceania, Tero Saarinen Company and The Boston Camerata return to Jacob’s Pillow with the acclaimed production Borrowed Light. This unique evening-length work had its U.S. premiere at Jacob’s Pillow in 2006 and was invited for a return engagement as part of the 80th Anniversary Season “Back by Popular Demand” series. A beautifully integrated union of stunning visuals, powerful choreography, and haunting live music, Borrowed Light presents a highly theatrical experience inspired by the culture of the Shakers. John Rockwell of The New York Times raved, “The movements evoke religious austerity and ecstasy…‘Borrowed Light’ is a true child of ‘Appalachian Spring,’ and for a lover of American modern dance there can be no higher praise.” Borrowed Light runs July 11–15 in the Ted Shawn Theatre.
“Borrowed Light premiered in the U.S. at the Pillow in 2006, and many audience members have talked about it since as one of their most memorable experiences.” commented Ella Baff, Executive and Artistic Director of Jacob’s Pillow. “I asked Tero Saarinen and The Boston Camerata if they would revive it for our 80th Anniversary Season; if ever there was an evening of dance and music that belongs at Jacob’s Pillow, it is this one. Borrowed Light is full of passionate dancing and exalted, spiritual music. It is a very contemporary work, but the inspiration and the music are part of the unique history of New England and the Berkshires.”
First premiered in 2004 in France, Borrowed Light was developed by Finnish choreographer Tero Saarinen and Joel Cohen, the Music Director Emeritus of the pioneering early music ensemble The Boston Camerata; together with the stark, extraordinary lighting and set design by Mikki Kunttu, this work is rich with spiritual vision.
The United Society of Believers was a religious sect of Christianity founded in 1747 in Manchester, England, and soon came to be known as the “Shaking Quakers,” then finally the “Shakers,” after outsiders witnessed adherents’ convulsions of spiritual experience. Shaker tenets included celibacy, pacifism, and the sharing of goods and wealth. They moved to America in 1774, and sought to lead a life of heaven on earth in their tight-knit communities, the first of which was established in New Lebanon, New York, just across the state border from Jacob’s Pillow. Another center was closer to the Pillow, in Hancock, Massachusetts, a village which continues today as one of the foremost examples of Shaker life. The phrase “borrowed light” comes from Shaker architecture, which is characterized by simple but highly practical designs using materials such as wood, stone, or bricks; the term describes the passage of light from one indoor area to another through an ideally placed window. The historic Ted Shawn Theatre at Jacob’s Pillow, America’s first theatre built specifically for dance, is thus one of the few places in America where Borrowed Light could appear with so much contextual power. John Rockwell of The New York Times writes, “Considering the…deep Shaker tradition in this part of the country, Jacob’s Pillow is the ideal spot to see and hear this dance.”
While Borrowed Light draws motivation from the traditions of Shaker communities, Saarinen and Cohen stress that this work does not aim to recreate Shaker history or comment on their beliefs. Rather, they were inspired by the Shakers’ powerfully simple music as well as their cultural emphasis on community and devotion. The work unites Saarinen’s ecstatic contemporary movement with the Shakers’ haunting compositions that Cohen transcribed and arranged from previously unpublished original manuscripts; a few of those Shaker songs had not been performed live in America for more than one hundred and fifty years until Borrowed Light‘s 2006 U.S. premiere at the Pillow. What arises from these Shaker influences is a work that audiences and critics alike have rendered as one of the most spiritually moving works in recent years. Karen Campbell of The Boston Globe called Borrowed Light “a powerful, strikingly original evocation of communal devotion unlike anything this reviewer has experienced.”
Tero Saarinen, a former soloist with the Finnish National Ballet, has created over 30 works, which have been presented by prominent dance companies around the world including Nederlands Dans Theater, Batsheva Dance Company, and Lyon Opéra Ballet. Saarinen’s works are considered all-encompassing productions that present impressive combinations of striking visuals, live music, and unique choreography. His style shows influences ranging from butoh and Nepalese folk dance to classical ballet and Western contemporary dance. Saarinen was an artist faculty member of The School at Jacob’s Pillow in 2009.
Tero Saarinen Company was founded in 1996 to promote a greater understanding of humanity through the language of dance. The company has toured in nearly 40 countries in addition to running an international teaching program. Tero Saarinen Company’s most recent productions include Scheme of Things and Vox Balaenae with the Ensemble Intercontemporain (France) and Avanti! Chamber Orchestra (Finland). The group is the resident company of Helsinki’s Alexandre Theatre, the former home of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet.
The Boston Camerata was founded in 1954 and is considered to be America’s foremost early music ensemble, presenting European and American music from the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque eras. Simple Gifts, a recording of Shaker spirituals and chants, topped the national Billboard magazine classical charts in 1995 and 1996, with subsequent releases of English and American folk music becoming bestsellers in Europe. Joel Cohen led the ensemble for 40 years before becoming Music Director Emeritus in 2008, when Anne Azéma became the ensemble’s Artistic Director. In June 2011, The Boston Camerata presented five new programs of medieval music during a residency in Reims, France, to celebrate the 800th Anniversary of Reims Cathedral.
Cohen and The Boston Camerata have collaborated with Tero Saarinen Company on the creation and performance of Borrowed Lightsince 2003.
Performance and Ticket Information
Ted Shawn Theatre
Wednesday, July 11 through Saturday July 14 at 8pm
Saturday July 14 and Sunday July 15 at 2pm
- Free Pre-Show Talks with Jacob’s Pillow Scholars-in-Residence are offered in Blake’s Barn 30 minutes before every performance.
- A Post-Show Talk with Tero Saarinen and a Pillow Scholar will take place onstage on Friday, July 13.
- Tickets $59-64. Now on sale online at jacobspillow.org, via phone at 413.243.0745, or in person at the Jacob’s Pillow Box Office.
- Box Office hours: Monday and Tuesday, 10am-6pm, Wednesday through Saturday 10am-8pm, and Sunday 11am-5pm.
- · Jacob’s Pillow is located at 358 George Carter Road in Becket, MA, 01223 (10 minutes east on Route 20 from Mass Pike Exit 2). The Jacob’s Pillow campus and theatres are handicapped-accessible.
Free Inside/Out Performance: Ian Spencer Bell
Wednesday, July 11, 6:15pm
Choreographer Ian Spencer Bell, described as “stealthy as a nocturnal feline,” by The Village Voice,
is interested in strenuous, athletic movement, as well as repetition, speed, and stillness. Two-Minute
Songs―set to music by the Beastie Boys, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Roy Orbison and others―is
danced in six sections, each part repeating, changing qualities with the music, and expanding in
size. His group, Ian Spencer Bell Dance, also performs Split, set to the sound of keys dropping and
inspired by the poem “One Art” by former U.S. Poet Laureate Elizabeth Bishop. FREE
Free Inside/Out Performance: Cari Cunningham/bellē contemporary dance co.
Thursday, July 12, 6:15pm
Based in Reno, Nevada, this all-female contemporary dance company has performed across the
country and is joined for this engagement by guest performer Trannon Mosher. 30/Love was inspired
by the give-and-take of a tennis match, Unforseeable explores tactile intimacy in relationships, and
Slipping the Circumference comments on the dancers’ femininity as they negotiate large hoop skirts.
Free PillowTalk: Judith Jamison’s Life in Dance
Friday, July 13, 5pm
This PillowTalk features an intimate conversation with Judith Jamison, Alvin Ailey’s star dancer in
the 1960s and ‘70s, who became his successor in leading Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and
recently retired after more than two decades of triumphs. FREE
Free Inside/Out Performance: OtherShore
Friday, July 13, 6:15pm
OtherShore’s mission is to showcase the works of diverse contemporary choreographers, including
former New York City Ballet dancer Edwaard Liang, Big Dance Theater directors Annie-B Parson
and Paul Lazar, and most recently Stephen Petronio. Their Inside/Out program includes Bird, Bear,
Grey Violet-Blue by Bessie Award-winning choreographer and recent Festival performer Jodi
Melnick, a deliberately illusive quartet that is imbued with subtle gestures and unexpected twists.
Free PillowTalk and Film Screening: Finding Billy: The Search for Broadway’s Billy Elliot
Saturday, July 14, 4pm
This 90-minute presentation includes a screening of the acclaimed film Finding Billy, about the search
for the stars of the hit Broadway show Billy Elliot. Trent Kowalik, one of Broadway’s three original
“Billys,” appears in person along with film director Joe Locarro. FREE
Free Inside/Out Performance: The School at Jacob’s Pillow Contemporary Program
Saturday, July 14, 6:15pm
Under the direction of master teacher Milton Myers, dancers conclude their first week of study with
work created by and set on them by Artistic Director Emerita of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Judith Jamison and her assistant, notable Ailey dancer and faculty member, Elizabeth-Roxas-