Nurturing the desire to dance; At famed dance center Jacob's Pillow, young dancers from around the world come to learn the art of movement
Becket, Mass. — On a sun-splashed wooden stage set in a dense grove of pines and poplars, Benjamin Harkarvy is preparing a young ballet dancer for performance. Harkarvy and the tall, lithe girl move in tandem, he calling out positions as she dances.
Suddenly he shouts to his dancer: ''It isn't deep enough! That move.'' She stops. The girl, Chantal Germain from Montreal, responds in a thickly French-accented English, ''I'm sorry, I was wrong.'' Her desire to fulfill his expectations is so deep that a look of sadness flickers across her face.
For 132 carefully chosen young dancers and some of the finest choreographers and teachers, this is the type of interchange till summer's end. They are part of one of dance's most unique and valued institutions: Jacob's Pillow.
Each year the Pillow selects promising young dancers from across the world to train at its facilities - two large studios, an outdoor stage, an indoor auditorium, and cabins - set deep in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts.
Started 52 years ago by Ted Shawn, the modern-dance great, Jacob's Pillow has long been famous for its summer dance festival, bringing the finest in the field to perform each summer in a rustic Berkshire setting.
Less known - at least outside the dance world - is its adjoining dance school. Bringing in such dance notables as Mr. Harkarvy - who has served as artistic director of the Pennsylvania and Royal Winnipeg Ballets and who founded the Netherlands Dance Theatre - the school offers its students superior dance instruction, as well as the opportunity to see the summer's performances.
The school is split into five sections: The Ballet and Jazz Projects, which focus on preparing the dancer for a performance at the Pillow after five weeks of classes and rehearsals; and the Horton, Post-Modern, and Jazz Workshops, which concentrate on their individual techniques. There are also daily lecture/demonstrations on the outdoor stage and talks by visiting dance figures.
Harkarvy, Ballet Project director for the past two years, talks about the Pillow experience:
''I love it,'' he says, not only because of the beautiful surroundings, but because ''you work without distraction in a very concentrated atmosphere. I take one group of students for five weeks, with a three-hour class and rehearsal every day, and in five weeks of such an atmosphere you can actually see changes taking place.''
And, says Harkarvy, these are highly promising young artists. He calls Chantal Germain, the dancer described above, ''very gifted - one of the most talented dancers I've seen in years.''
Marissa Luther, another of his students this summer, hails from Copenhagen and is currently an apprentice with the Royal Danish Ballet. Marissa, a quiet beauty with blond hair, says of the school, ''It's great! The atmosphere is so friendly, and the program is so well put together.''
Harkarvy continues, ''It's a very special experience,'' not only for the students but the teachers and performers as well - ''there's a shared love of the profession.'' He adds, ''So much goes on at Jacob's Pillow, covering the whole range of dance from classical ballet to post-modern, it's like seeing a microcosm of the whole field. It's very rare.''