Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival

Dormeshia, America(na) To Me by Christopher Duggan


Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Turns 90: Dance Video & Photo Roundup

by | Jul 8, 2022 | Dance Film, Performance Video | 0 comments

This is a guest post by Christopher Duggan

A great start to a special summer

Our family spends much of June through August in Berkshire County, MA, at the magical place that is Jacob’s Pillow. Nel is the Pillow’s Director of Media and mentors a hard-working media team, and I’m the Festival Photographer, making photos of Festival events, performances, and creative portraits whenever possible. 

This is an extra-special summer for me, because it’s the first Festival featuring a full exhibition of my work – “Now & Then: Evocative Dance Portraits by Christopher Duggan.” Much of our work on the media team at Jacob’s Pillow is meant to document the historic events that take place in this special place, but this exhibition shares a lot of what I’ve made beyond documentation – creative portraits and inspired photo shoots with dance artists that I’ve done largely for the art of it.

It’s really exciting to see so many visitors engaging with my photography! Nel’s team produced this amazing video of me working with Irene Rodriguez during Gala week to show my artistic process:

Celebrating 90 Years of Jacob’s Pillow with a Livestream

For the first time ever, Jacob’s Pillow has a full room dedicated to filming, and occasionally livestreaming, performances in the newly renovated Ted Shawn Theatre. Nel used to have to set up in a small corner, seated essentially on the floor, live mixing cameras. Now, her team has a full room to direct live mixes and stream high-quality productions. It’s amazing.

The 90th Anniversary Gala was live-streamed across the globe. It felt like a really important thing – to open the Festival and the renovated theatre with everyone watching, in-house and from home. Nel’s team has been refining their skills in creating hybrid performance events that incorporate live-stream, not as an afterthought, but as an integral part of the production. I wish I could share video excerpts from the show, but you had to buy a ticket to be there!! They made this amazing film to open the show. So inspiring:

Opening Week: Photos & Video from America(na) to Me

During opening week, Jacob’s Pillow presented a variety of artists in a show titled, America(na) to Me. It was challenging and exciting to capture the unique energy and voice of each individual dance artist or company during the show. 

Above photos, in order, feature works by Dormeshia; Warwick Gombey Troupe; Nélida Tirado; and Sara Mearns and Joshua Bergasse; all by Christopher Duggan 

I was excited to have several of my photographs featured in reviews in The Boston Globe and The New York Times.

Nel’s team is making promotional videos of the show, because the Pillow is making select performances available for streaming after the Festival ends… 

A lot of what we create for video in the summer is sharing now & also looking ahead: What do we need to promote future appearances and performances? What special moments do we want on camera to share now and later? 

For example, Nel’s team always captures and packages the Post-Show Talk video, so audience members have access to more context around each show:


Week two, we photographed Ronald K. Brown / EVIDENCE in the Ted Shawn Theatre and BODYTRAFFIC on the outdoor stage. 

EVIDENCE’s week-long run at Jacob’s Pillow’s Ted Shawn Theatre felt so personal to me because I was able to be there during their creation process of The Equality of Night and Day in the Pillow Lab (I filmed for Nel Shelby Productions)!⁠

The world premiere featured an original score played live by composer & jazz pianist, Jason Moran. ⁠

Hearing Moran play live versus the recording of the music the dancers were using in rehearsal was unreal. I was in awe the entire performance!⁠

I am so, so grateful to know Ronald K. Brown. He is the most uplifting, meditative, spiritual soul. It’s undeniable – when you see EVIDENCE perform, you always leave the theater feeling uplifted. ❤️

Above photos in order: Ronald K. Brown / EVIDENCE performs “Upside Down”; Shayla Alayre Caldwell in “Gatekeepers”; Demetrius Burns in “The Equality of Night and Day”; all by Christopher Duggan

Jason Moran is actually returning this summer to perform with LINES Ballet, so Nel’s team captured a behind-the-scenes video of him playing for social media. You can watch the artists’ Post-Show Talk here:

Henry J. Leir Stage is one of my favorite places to photograph dance.

The natural light is a fun challenge, because it changes throughout the season as the sunsets change over time. BODYTRAFFIC had a week-long engagement on the outdoor stage, and it was such a delight to photograph them.

All photos of BODYTRAFFIC at Jacob’s Pillow by Christopher Duggan

We’ll be sharing much more video and photography from Jacob’s Pillow throughout the summer. It’s only Week 3!!

Follow us on Instagram for more in-the-moment content, too: @nelshelby & @cdugganphoto

Christopher Duggan is Nel’s husband! He has been the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival photographer since 2006, photographer for Vail Dance since 2021, and has photographed many world-renowned dance companies during his career. This summer, Christopher’s work is on exhibition in Blake’s Barn at Jacob’s Pillow, in an installation called: “Now & Then: Evocative Dance Portraits by Christopher Duggan.” You can also find Christopher behind-the-video-camera and operating our drone at Nel Shelby Productions. NSP always offers photography as part of our dance services, because we believe dance photography is an essential part of our media toolkit. That includes photographing live performance, in-rehearsal creative processes, and creative portrait shoots. You can learn more about the depth and breadth of Christopher’s dance photography here.