SPOTLIGHT ON THE ARTS: Dance as universal language and expression

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By Ariel Blum

This summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to be a part-time education intern at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, a prestigious dance center in the Berkshires in which companies and students from all over the world come to perform.

Students came to The Pillow for a short period of only three weeks to prepare for a performance. They arrived from several different countries and, without speaking the same language, were able to communicate through dance.

As an education intern, I organized and implemented the administrative and financial details for working with guest artists and faculty to prepare for The Jazz Happening.

My responsibilities included preparing welcome packets, receiving updates for the faculty “Letter of Agreements,” arranging complementary tickets for the guest faculty, attending production meetings, and more. I was also able to attend dance classes and performances at The Pillow.

To prepare for The Jazz Happening benefit, twenty-four students arrived at The Pillow for the intensive Jazz/Musical Theatre & Dance program. They studied with director Chet Walker and had classes with Emanuel Abruzzo, Brad Musgrove, and vocal coaches Ric Ryder and Teri Ralston.

This year’s theme for The Jazz Happening was “Bob Fosse.” The students and guest stars performed several variations from Pippin, Guys and Dolls, and similar productions.

The students danced, sang, acted, and even flipped during the show. A few weeks prior, several of them had barely even sang a note in front of an audience.

After a standing ovation, the excitement continued with a reception for the opportunity to meet the Broadway stars and dancers. During this reception, I met talented individuals, such as Trent Kowalik (Billy Elliot), Andy Gale (Les Miserables), and Dana Moore (Chicago).

With the preparation and suspense of adding more and more faculty folders, editing bios, and updating the program, I knew that all of my hard work had paid off.

The Happening was a wonderful collaboration that brought so many performers together to share their experiences, training, and love for jazz.

Overall, it was a great experience, and I was proud and honored to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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