About the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival

Jacob's Pillow Dance FestivalDance enthusiasts will delight over one of the finest festivals in the state of Massachusetts. With vibrant, intriguing, and inspirational shows performed by dancers from around the world, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival is the perfect event to experience different cultures come together and share their talents with each other.


The New York Times writes that the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival is “the dance center of the nation”. Home to America’s longest-running dance festival, the event continues to carry the traditions of generations past. We here at Gateways Inn wish for you to have the best experience when you are in the area. Here are a few things you should know about Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival!


The event is located in the beautiful Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts and hosts more than 50 dance companies from around the world. With 350 free and ticketed performances, talks, exhibits, films, classes, tours and community events, guests at the event are sure to find something that suits their fancy. The Festival presents truly extraordinary artists from Australia, Brazil, China, Italy, Israel, and across the United Sates. Get ready for the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, which is held from June 14th through August 24th.


Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival began in 1790 as a mountaintop farm at the top of a twisting stagecoach road between Boston and Albany. The local residents viewing the winding road from the bottom of the hill thought it resembled the rungs of a ladder. The biblically minded New Englanders named the road “Jacob’s Ladder”. The pillow part of the name came from the boulders dotting the farm’s pastures. Later on, the Cater Family settled on the property and gave their farm the name Jacob’s Pillow.


In 1930, modern dance pioneer, Ted Shawn, bought the farm as a retreat. At the time, Shawn and his wife were America’s leading couple in dance. Shawn had long harbored a vision of legitimizing dance in America as an honorable career for men. In 1933, Shawn created part of his vision by recruiting eight men for his new company. The group of dancers performed on a deck in front of the Bakalara Studio to promote their work. The first audience consisted of 45 curiosity-seekers and expanded weekly. By the end of summer 1933, people were being turning away. The roots for what would evolve into the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival were established.


Today, people from all around the world have the opportunity to experience the elegant dancers, inspiring art, and intriguing exhibits by talented people at the Festival. All the exhibits are free and open to the public throughout the Festival, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to fully grasp all the beautiful art and photography!


The archives open a window to the past, present, and future, and exemplify founder Ted Shawn’s mission to broaden appreciation for dance. One of the numerous exhibits to experience is the GOTTA DANCE exhibit. Located in Blake’s Barn Tuesday through Sunday, the exhibit celebrates the art of the dance movie poster with an extraordinary group of vintage posters from throughout the world.


A fantastic way to learn about the history and legends of the National Historic Landmark that the festival is held on is on a free 30-minute guided tour across the 220-acre grounds. Tours start at the Welcome Center on Thursdays and Saturdays at 5:30 P.M. Also during the Festival, visitors have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of dance companies and styles at the Inside/Out Performances. The event is held on the new Henry J. Leir Stage at the breathtaking Marcia and Seymour Simon Performance Space on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 6:15 P.M. For the list of dance companies performing, click here!



When planning your Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival itinerary, don’t forget to book your stay at our local Lenox bed and breakfast. Just minutes away from the Festival, the Gateways Inn provides luxurious accommodations as well as fine dining and entertainment in our Restaurant and Lounge. Pick one of our elegant guest rooms and experience the best of the Berkshires, or just come to relax in our lounge after a long day of Festival activities. We’re looking forward to seeing you very soon!



Photo courtesy Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism.