BECKET, Mass. — Among the principle sights of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival is its bucolic setting right here within the Berkshires. But the information this yr is a return to the good indoors. In 2020, the dual blows of the pandemic and a fireplace that burned down one of many pageant’s two theaters pressured a cancellation of all performances. Last yr, the exhibits have been outdoors, climate allowing. The essential stage — the barn that the pageant’s founder, Ted Shawn, transformed into the primary theater within the United States devoted to bop, 80 years in the past — was present process crucial renovations.
The Ted Shawn Theater is now open once more for enterprise, half of its exterior wooden weathered and historical-looking, the opposite half clear and new. (The second theater has not but been rebuilt.)
The first program within the renovated theater, final week, was indicative of one other change: the addition, in 2020, of two affiliate curators, Melanie George and Ali Rosa-Salas. The present, “America(na) to Me,” was their thought — “our response,” they mentioned in a speech earlier than the present on Sunday, to the primary packages that Shawn introduced on the theater in 1942, showcasing his conception of American dance (sq. dances, Agnes De Mille).
Their thought was “a more prismatic understanding of what it means to be an American or from the Americas,” and that extra prismatic understanding has carried over into this week’s program, the return of Ronald Okay. Brown/Evidence. Taken collectively, the 2 exhibits provided a imaginative and prescient of America, by way of dance, that was partly hopeful, partly distressing — about proper for 2022.
“America(na) to Me,” was a range present: numerous, inclusive and, with seven acts, considerably overstuffed. In a method, it wasn’t significantly diversified. Apart from the opening act — the all-male Warwick Gombey Troupe, from Bermuda, whose masked dancing and drumming is each West African and Native American in origin — this was a female-led, female-centered program.
Some picks have been explicitly feminist. In “Ar|Dha,” or “Half,” the exact Bharatanatyam dancer Mythili Prakash, a baby of immigrant mother and father, revised a mythic dance competitors between the gods Shiva and Kali — a rigged contest that Shiva gained, within the conventional telling, by elevating his leg to his ear, a transfer forbidden to Kali as a result of she is feminine. You can most likely guess how Prakash’s model ended. Her lifted leg was triumphant, and whereas the struggles that preceded it have been just a little murky, they have been accompanied by some beautiful singing (by Sushma Somasekharan, Kasi Aysola and Ganavya Doraiswamy, who composed the music with Aditya Prakash).
“Unsung Sheroes of the 20th Century,” by the queenly faucet dancer Dormeshia, was a historic rescue mission, a tribute to 4 underrecognized Black predecessors: Cora LaRedd, Mable Lee, Harriet Browne and Juanita Pitts. First the splendidly wild Brinae Ali tapped and sang in regards to the sheroes to the tune of Nina Simone’s “Four Women,” then Star Dixon, Marie N’diaye, Quynn Johnson and Dormeshia did justice to every in solos that balanced the kinds of the originals with their very own.
Nélida Tirado’s “Dime Quién Soy” (“Tell Me Who I Am”) introduced on some guys for a enjoyable salsa bit and posed a couple of commonplace questions on id in a voice-over, but it surely was most forceful when Tirado, backed by three different ladies, pounded out some fierce flamenco in monitor fits throughout a waiting-for-the-subway scene. Who is she? A New Yorker.
Sara Mearns, joined by her New York City Ballet colleagues Gilbert Bolden III and the not too long ago retired Gonzalo Garcia, made much less of an impression, performing some cutesy ballet-jazz (choreographed by her husband, Joshua Bergasse) to Gershwin piano preludes. Jasmine Hearn made probably the most magical entrance — by way of the rear loading doorways which open onto the inexperienced outdoors — and principally maintained the thriller in a solo of beguiling lightness and sensitivity.
It was left to the efficiency artist Alex Tatarsky to handle the topic of Americanness most head on, spitting barbs about immigration, people dance and white entitlement all through an absurdist rant-with-gesticulation “Americana Psychobabble.” Outrageous and profane in an old-school East Village fashion, this was a slip-of-the-tongue descent into the American id: virtually too simple as satire, however depressingly correct.
A way of America in misery is also present in Brown’s “The Equality of Night and Day,” which had its premiere on Wednesday. It contains a considerate rating by the jazz pianist Jason Moran, who performs dwell, however these sounds alternate with recordings of speeches by Angela Davis, whose view of America isn’t flattering both.
Some of the factors she makes are evergreen (how the Black male physique has been stamped with felony associations), some quaint (George W. Bush as an avatar of conservative overreach). Brown’s choreography responds primarily with a ritual of prayer and grief: the dancers circling round a testifying soloist or retreating right into a nook, palms raised, or eradicating the highest halves of their costumes and putting them like choices or our bodies in a pile.
A repeated sequence of jumps spring miraculously upward — on a diagonal, out of nowhere. But not like Brown’s juicier older works on this system (“Gatekeepers,” from 1999, and “Upside Down,” from 1998), “Equality” by no means actually locks right into a transcendent groove — not even when Moran provides in a four-on-the-floor drum machine beat. This subdued temper additionally feels depressingly apt.
For an actual sense of elevate on Wednesday, you needed to depend on the older works or look ahead to the bows. Brown, who had a stroke final yr, walked out with the assistance of a cane and the corporate’s affiliate creative director, Arcell Cabuag. It was like a second in considered one of his works: He stood witness and watched the others dance. The large smile on his face mentioned every little thing.