This PBS documentary was shown in my neck of the woods last night and it was pretty good. It would be worth seeing if only for last glimpses of interviewees Merce Cunningham (looking a little wan) and Frederic Franklin (bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as ever). Structually it’s a little loose – we hop from choreographer to choreographer and clip to clip – but the dance segments are enjoyable and the setting of course is beautiful. Also heard from are Rasta Thomas, Judith Jamison, Bill Irwin, Paul Taylor, and Mark Morris (his work isn’t for everyone, but it’s for anyone? Gee, where did that come from?)
We get some history at the beginning, with a few shots of Denishawn and Teddy with Miss Ruth. The marriage is mentioned, Shawn’s homosexuality is not – come on, people, it’s the 21st century – and the manliness of Shawn’s enterprise is reinforced with photos of shirtless young men with saws and hammers, building Jacob’s Pillow with "their bare hands," as Bill T. Jones’ voiceover helpfully informs us.
I was pleasantly surprised by the interview with Suzanne Farrell and to see extended clips from her company (although you could argue that time from those clips could have been more fairly distributed to lesser-known troupes). The longstanding association between Jacob’s Pillow and the Royal Danish Ballet also gets screen time, with remarks from Nikolaj Hubbe.