Dance and souvenir programs for Ted Shawn and
his Men Dancers, 1934-1938, and for the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival,
1954-1955 and 1957-1958; publicity materials and dance programs, circa
1940-1949, for dancers Barton Mumaw and Foster Fitz-Simons; stylized drawings,
circa 1936, of Ted Shawn, Barton Mumaw, Frank Overlees, Dennis Landers, Foster
Fitz-Simons, Fred Hearn, and Wilbur McCormack; and photographs of Ted Shawn
(1954) and Barton Mumaw (circa 1941).
The Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival and School, in Becket, Massachusetts,
in the southern part of the Berkshire Hills, traces its origins to the 1930
purchase of the Jacob's Pillow farm by dance pioneer Ted Shawn (1891-1972), who
was in the process of separating, personally and professionally, from his wife
and dance partner, Ruth St. Denis. Shawn had long harbored a dream of forging a
new style of male dance that would challenge the "sissy" image of male dancers,
and would legitimize dance in America as an honorable career for men. In 1933,
he recruited eight men, including Barton Mumaw, a former student at Denis and
Shawn's Denishawn dance school, and several physical education students from
Springfield College (then a men's school) for his new company. In July 1933,
Shawn and his Men Dancers began giving public "Tea Lecture Demonstrations" to
promote their work, and to raise money to pay the expenses. In addition, from
1933 to 1940, Shawn and his Men Dancers toured throughout the United States and
to Canada, Cuba, and England, performing more than 1,250 times in 750 cities.
By the Fall of 1939, Shawn felt his personal and professional crusade had been
a success--public, press, and educators were accepting the dance as an
honorable profession for men--and he announced in October that the forthcoming
tour would be the last. The Men Dancers disbanded in May 1940. Shawn first
leased the property, with the option to buy, to Mary Washington Ball, who
produced the Berkshire Hills Dance Festival on the site in 1940. Although Shawn
considered Ball's introduction of diverse programming an artistic success, the
festival was a financial disaster. Shawn next leased the property to British
ballet stars Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin, whose 1941 International Dance
Festival was so successful that local supporters formed the Jacob's Pillow
Dance Festival Committee, raised $50,000 to buy the property and to build a
theater, and made Shawn director in 1942. The Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival and
University of the Dance, by combining daily classes and evening performances,
became the first intensive summer dance program in the United States. Shawn
remained director until his death in 1972.
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