Nestled away in Western Massachusetts’ bucolic Berkshire Mountains sits Jacob’s Pillow, founded in the 1930s by visionary dance pioneer Ted Shawn and now home to the U.S.'s premiere dance festival and teaching center. The Pillow’s unique history and striking performance credentials receive a warmly reverent close-up in Ron Honsa’s documentary “Never Stand Still.”
A virtual Who’s Who of modern and classical dance masters have taught, choreographed or performed at the Pillow, known the world over for its annual summer celebration of the art form. Such icons as Paul Taylor, Suzanne Farrell, Judith Jamison, Bill Irwin, Marge Champion and the late Merce Cunningham offer valuable perspective here about both the culture of dance and the vitality of Jacob’s Pillow.
Younger dancers including Rasta Thomas (“Bad Boys of Dance”) and Shantala Shivalingappa are seen and heard to stirring effect as well.
Honsa also weaves in archival clips and back story about the Pillow (famed dancer-choreographer Bill T. Jones narrates) along with a vibrant and eclectic blend of recent rehearsal and performance footage. What’s missing, however, is a sense of how the Pillow’s beloved festival is actually programmed, its various technical and financial issues and the mecca’s specific impact on the surrounding communities.
Still, for lovers of dance, “Never Stand Still” should prove a fleet, enjoyable excursion.
“Never Stand Still” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 13 minutes. At Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.