Last week of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival 2011

The end of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival always seems to come too soon. But nothing could have made for a more perfect closing than this past week’s performances and events. A photography idol, a master of movement and two hip and wildly talented choreographers from New York City.

Meeting Annie Leibovitz

Yesterday Annie Leibovitz was on the grounds to visit her absolutely incredible exhibit in Blake’s Barn, which pays tribute to her longstanding collaborative relationship with Mark Morris. The Barn was overflowing for what became the most exciting Pillow Talk of the whole summer. Not one, but two American masters speaking about their work together and separately. It was wonderful to see the huge respect each had for the other. And the warmth of their friendship, too. Annie and Mark are absolute icons, but the manner in which they spoke about making their art brought it down to a common plane of humanity.

Maura Keefe leads Pillow Talk with Mark Morris and Annie Leibovitz

Maura Keefe leads a Pillow Talk with Mark Morris and Annie Leibovitz in Blake's Barn

Annie Leibovitz’s photographs are such an interwoven piece of American culture that it’s hard to describe how her work has impacted me. Spending this summer in Blake’s Barn surrounded by over 300 of her prints was an added gift. Studying these portraits, I’ve marveled at her unique ability to allow the person being photographed to calmly exist. One of my favorite images in the exhibit has clearly been staged, but her subjects, Johnny Cash’s family, appear incredibly natural. There is a beautiful simplicity and quietness to these portraits.

Annie Leibovitz Pillow Talk photo

Annie Leibovitz discusses her photography exhibit at the Pillow

Mark Morris celebrates his company’s 30th anniversary

Annie seemed so touched by Mark Morris’s work at the Pillow. I was fortunate enough to see him in action at dress rehearsal in the Ted Shawn Theatre in addition to the actual performances. The last time I saw Mark Morris Dance Group perform was at Jacob’s Pillow in 2007. This year it’s Mark Morris Dance Group’s 30th anniversary, and it’s obvious why the company is still held in such high esteem.

Mark Morris Dance Jacob's Pillow photos

Mark Morris Dance Group celebrates its 30th anniversary this year

One of the things you always hear about the group, which is so apparent when you see his work, is how intricately he pairs the dance with the music. This is no new revelation – everyone talks about it – but for me, watching rehearsal on Wednesday night, it was a lesson in mastery. This rehearsal marked the first time the dancers were working with these specific musicians (from our much-admired neighbor, Tanglewood), and not only was Mark working with the dancers, but he had an impeccable command over the music. Using metaphoric language to describe the way the phrases should sound, he spoke with the musicians about specific movements and all of his musical direction was clearly illustrated in the dance. His energy and whole way of working is just so impressive. What an eye-opener for me this week.

Kyle Abraham and Camille A. Brown Tear Up the Doris Duke Theatre

Equally exciting were this week’s performances by Kyle Abraham and Camille A. Brown. The two New York-based artists teamed up at the Pillow during a Creative Development Residency to create a duet, commissioned by the Pillow, which premiered during this week’s performances. I’m hooked on Kyle Abraham’s work – most recently photographing his dances at The Joyce Theater’s Gotham Dance Festival and Dance From The Heart for Dancers Responding to AIDS this year, and we’ve become friends as we continue to collaborate on projects.

Kyle Abraham at Jacob's Dance Festival photo

Kyle Abraham's Abraham.In.Motion

Nel and I have also worked with Camille A. Brown on several occasions, and it’s nice to be with our fellow New York artists as we look forward to returning to the city. Both of them are such powerhouse performers. They have a command and presence that is delightful to watch. They can do anything.

Kyle Abraham and Camille A Brown Jacob's Pillow Dance photo

Kyle and Camille perform their new duet "How We Process"

When I met Annie Leibovitz, she said, “Wow. You’re the festival photographer. This must be an amazing place to make photographs. It’s so beautiful and relaxed here.”  She is so right. What a gift it is to spend the summer making images with inspiring artists doing what they do best. | | (888) 379-1359

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