Summer Spotlight: The School at Jacob's Pillow

For most teens, summer is a time to kick back and relax. But for dancers, the school-free days provide an opportunity to spend more time honing their skills. The School at Jacob's Pillow, located in the tranquil Berkshire Hills, offers summer programs in range of dance forms. Amaya Perea, a 20-year-old from Santa Barbara, CA, Jacob's Pillowwho grew up studying ballet and flamenco, attended programs at The School in 2008 (flamenco) and 2009 (jazz/musical theatre dance). Amaya was recently accepted at the selective CAP 21 musical theater conservatory in NYC and she spoke to DS about her experience at The School at Jacob's Pillow.

Dance Spirit: How did you hear about The School?
Amaya Perea: I got a scholarship in flamenco through YoungArts and the director of Jacob's Pillow asked me to come to the Cultural Traditions: Flamenco program in the summer of 2008. I immediately fell in love with it--the people, the energy and the environment. That's how I heard about the jazz/musical theatre program.

DS: What did you like about the environment?
AP: Jacob's Pillow is a small community in the middle of nowhere; it's like a hidden treasure. You live in close quarters with everyone, and the teachers and Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival performers stay on campus, too. You all eat together, so you get to mingle.

Amaya PereaAfter class you can talk to your teachers and get to know them on a personal level, which adds to the whole experience. [Broadway veteran] Dana Moore came in and choreographed for us and I was able to talk to her and ask for her opinions about the industry and what schools would be good to pursue. She mentioned CAP 21 and I took her advice and auditioned--she actually wrote my recommendation.

DS: Had you always been interested in musical theater?
AP: I had done a few local things, but not much. The School at Jacob's Pillow was definitely a big turning point. Before attending, I wasn't sure if musical theater was what I should be doing. Afterward, I knew without a doubt that it's what I have to do.

DS: What was the program like?
AP: It's small [the program is capped at 24 students], so you get to know the other dancers and connect with them. Chet Walker is the director and he taught most of our classes. Every day we had jazz or ballet in the morning, then pilates or yoga, and then we had a lot of rehearsals. We danced from 9 am until about 4 pm, or sometimes later in the evening, like 9:30. We were working towards a big performance.

DS: Did you work on all aspects of musical theater?
AP: It was mainly dance, but acting played a part in the dancing and singing. Ric Ryder taught us voice lessons. We had to bring a solo to the program and we took turns singing for the group. It was terrifying at first! Because we each had our own strengths and weaknesses, he worked with us individually and helped us find the content of the scene.

DS: How did you change as a performer?
AP: It really built up my stamina. We had to work so hard. My dancing is now sharper and bigger because Chet pushed us to open up and not hold back. I also gained confidence in singing and strengthened my voice.

DS: What was your favorite part about your experience at The School at Jacob's Pillow?
AP: The studios are open all night, so a lot of us would get together late at night and sing and dance. Another big moment was doing the performance at the end. They brought in a bunch of Broadway stars and dancers who performed with us. It was incredible to be on the stage with them.


For more information about The School at Jacob's Pillow and the 2010 Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, which just got underway, click here.



Photos top to bottom: Amaya (second from left) performing with the Jazz/Musical Theatre program at Jacob's Pillow in 2009 by Karli Cadel; Amaya Perea by Natalie Perea.

Latest Posts

Performers in HBO Max's "Legendary" (Barbara Nitke, courtesy HBO Max)

How to Express Yourself Through Vogue Fem—While Honoring the Community That Created It

"Who are you when you're voguing fem?" asks the choreographer and dancer Omari Wiles, father of the House of Oricci and founder of the dance company Les Ballet Afrik. "What energy is shaping your story?" In voguing, personal expression is the goal, and vogue fem one way to achieve it.

This flamboyant dance form has experienced a recent wave of mainstream visibility, thanks to the critically acclaimed TV drama "Pose," the hit HBO Max's competition show "Legendary" and, now, the proliferation of TikTok videos centered on voguing.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
by Lee Gumbs, courtesy Lew

Sean Lew's New Film is Bound to Leave You Speechless

If you know Sean Lew (and let's be real—you should), you know that he pours his heart and soul into his craft. Born a star, Lew has danced alongside artists like Sia and Janet Jackson, choreographed for names like Justin Bieber and Meghan Trainor, and performed on two seasons on NBC's "World of Dance."

At only 19, Lew's worn more hats than your average human (or even superhuman), and yet he continues to build upon his long list of natural skills—by adding "producer" into the mix. This time around, he's focused on his own passion project. He produced, wrote, directed, choreographed, edited and even stars in his upcoming film II: An Unspoken Narrative, which also features some of our other fave dancers like Kaycee Rice, Zach Venegas and Bailey Sok, just to name a few.

More than just a dance video, and described as his "life's work put into motion," this experimental film fully encapsulates the past four years of Lew's life, depicting an unspoken narrative expressed through dance. There's no dialogue—everything is up for interpretation. Keep reading to get the inside scoop, and be sure to follow Lew at @seanlew as he continues to influence the world with his endless creative ventures.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Emily Roman performs her solo, "Weight of Light" (Break the Floor Media Team, courtesy Roman)

Emily Roman is Your January Cover Model Search Editors' Choice Winner

Congratulations to the January Cover Model Search Editors' Choice video winner, and our first 2022 CMS semi-finalist, Emily Roman! Watch her solo below, and be sure to enter the Cover Model Search here.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search