Matthew McLaughlin at Jacob's Pillow; photo by Christopher Duggan

Matthew McLaughlin; photo by Christopher Duggan

 

Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival 2023: Creative Portraits

by | Aug 9, 2023 | Warm Note | 2 comments

This is a guest post by Christopher Duggan

We’re having a wonderful time at the Pillow.

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

I’m excited to share some of the creative portraits I’ve made this summer…

The School at Jacob’s Pillow – Contemporary Ballet Dancers

Nikita Baryshnikov and Allison Whitley at Jacob's Pillow; photo by Christopher Duggan

Nikita Baryshnikov and Allison Whitley at Jacob’s Pillow; photo by Christopher Duggan

Alyssa Eyster and Trey Ferdyn; photo by Christopher Duggan

Alyssa Eyster and Trey Ferdyn; photo by Christopher Duggan

Darel Perez and Laura De Los Santos; photo by Christopher Duggan

Darel Perez and Laura De Los Santos; photo by Christopher Duggan

OK, fine I’ll say it: I love ballet! There’s something so beautiful about photographing and collaborating with classically trained dancers. It’s fun to have them improvise and make photos of them in movement that comes to them naturally. It’s inspiring to work with them.

Matthew McLaughlin of Mark Morris Dance Group

Matthew and I had so much fun making photos over by “Fred’s Cabin,” one of the oldest structures on the Pillow’s campus!

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 I love getting to do creative portraits and inspired photo shoots with dance artists just for the art of it.

Matthew McLaughlin of Mark Morris Dance Group at Jacob's Pillow; photo by Christopher Duggan
Matthew McLaughlin of Mark Morris Dance Group at Jacob's Pillow; photo by Christopher Duggan
Matthew McLaughlin of Mark Morris Dance Group at Jacob's Pillow; photo by Christopher Duggan
Matthew McLaughlin of Mark Morris Dance Group at Jacob's Pillow; photo by Christopher Duggan

Matthew McLaughlin of Mark Morris Dance Group at Jacob’s Pillow; photos by Christopher Duggan

Dutch National Ballet

Dutch National Ballet made their historic Pillow debut this summer.

I love making creative portraits alongside performance photos of the same dancers in the same week. I get to see the many sides of the artists and how they are on and off the stage. I’m lucky to be able to capture those different states of creativity.

Emma Mardegan and Nina Tonoli of Dutch National Ballet; photo by Christopher Duggan
Elisabeth Tonev and Victor Caixeta of Dutch National Ballet; photo by Christopher Duggan
Elisabeth Tonev and Victor Caixeta of Dutch National Ballet; photo by Christopher Duggan

(left) Emma Mardegan and Nina Tonoli, (right) Elisabeth Tonev and Victor Caixeta, of Dutch National Ballet; photos by Christopher Duggan

Emma Mardegan and Nina Tonoli of Dutch National Ballet with Norton Owen; photo by Christopher Duggan

Emma Mardegan and Nina Tonoli of Dutch National Ballet with Norton Owen; photo by Christopher Duggan

 

 

 

Norton Owen, Director of Preservation at Jacob’s Pillow, stopped by to chat during our creative portrait session- he is truly a gem (and a comedian)!

Te Ao Mana

Having the opportunity to work with dancers at the Pillow one-on-one in natural light is so great.

Te Ao Mana expands the presence of Indigenous Polynesian culture worldwide through creative projects, dance classes, workshops, and community gathering and sharing. The dance company began in New York City among a group of friends with a passion for the cultural arts of the Polynesian Islands.

Anthony Aiu of Te Ao Mana; photo by Christopher Duggan
Anthony Aiu of Te Ao Mana; photo by Christopher Duggan
Anthony Aiu of Te Ao Mana; photo by Christopher Duggan

Anthony Aiu of Te Ao Mana; photos by Christopher Duggan

The School at Jacob’s Pillow – Contemporary Dancers

The Contemporary Program dancers of The School at Jacob’s Pillow are always fierce. It’s fun to have the dancers improvise and make photos of them in movement that comes to them naturally.

Celia Handing and Elizabeth Russell at Jacob's Pillow; photo by Christopher Duggan

Celia Handing, Carly Brooks, and Elizabeth Russell at Jacob’s Pillow; photos by Christopher Duggan

Carly Brooks at Jacob's Pillow; photo by Christopher Duggan
Natalie Wong and Xavier Logan at Jacob's Pillow; photo by Christopher Duggan
Natalie Wong at Jacob's Pillow; photo by Christopher Duggan

Carly Brooks, Xavier Logan, and Natalie Wong at Jacob’s Pillow; photo by Christopher Duggan

Finding beautiful scenery for photos isn’t difficult to do at the Pillow. It’s gorgeous here.

 

A few hundred acres tucked into the hills – that’s a part of what makes the Pillow what it is, and I love being able to capture that spirit in my photos.

These images were made with love and joy. The experience of making them has enriched my life in countless ways.

I hope you enjoy!

 

Follow us on Instagram for more in-the-moment content: @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. In 2022, Christopher’s work was 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.