Ballet Stars

#TBT Extravaganza: Alicia Alonso, Erik Bruhn, Maria Tallchief and More from Jacob's Pillow's Archives

Alicia Alonso in "Giselle." Photo by Frank Alvarez, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Over the years, many companies have premiered works or made their U.S. debut at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, and some of the world's most famous ballet dancers have performed there. This week I will give some more insights from the Pillow's extensive archives into the dancers that have graced this world famous festival's stage. Click on the links below to watch video footage of their performances.


Alonso and Bruhn performing "Giselle" in 1955. Photo Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.


Alicia Alonso and Erik Bruhn in Giselle, 1955

The great ballerina Alicia Alonso performed at the Pillow in 1955 on the invitation of Ted Shawn. This wonderful footage from that season shows Alonso and renowned Danish dancer Erik Bruhn performing the Act II pas de deux from Giselle. The couple also performed the black swan pas de deux from Swan Lake.

Click here to watch footage from this performance.

Speaking of his partnership with Alonso, Bruhn said, "Our performances were so memorable for me that it seemed as though we had danced a great deal together."


Royal Danish Ballet's Mona Vangsaae in Bournonville's "Konservatoriet." Photo by Jack Mitchell, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

The Royal Danish Ballet, 1955

Bruhn was invited to perform at the Pillow after his debut in the role of Albrecht with Alicia Markova at Ballet Theatre in the spring of 1955. That summer Shawn also invited 10 dancers from the Royal Danish Ballet to "demonstrate the art of Bournonville to the American Public," reuniting Bruhn with the company at which he started at.

Here is a clip of Stanley Williams and Mona Vangsaae from The Royal Danish ballet performing Konservatoriet in 1955. (Williams would go on to become a renowned teacher, joining the faculty of the School of American Ballet at the invitation of George Balanchine.)


Kistler and Hübbe n Balanchine's "Apollo." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

Nikolaj Hübbe and Darci Kistler, 2002

The Pillow has continued to have a rich connection with The Royal Danish Ballet since this time. Ted Shawn was even knighted by the King of Denmark for his efforts on behalf of the company! In 1985, a young Nikolaj Hübbe, now Royal Danish Ballet's artistic director, received a scholarship to study at The School at Jacob's Pillow. Hübbe also danced at the Pillow with New York City Ballet, where he was a principal, in 2002. This wonderful clip shows him and Darci Kistler performing Balanchine's Apollo.


Tallchief in "Firebird." Photo via Pinterest.

Maria Tallchief, 1951

Ballerina Maria Tallchief performed at the Pillow on several occasions from 1951 throughout the 1960s. Her first visit to the area, however, appears to be in 1946, when Tallchief and George Balanchine spent their honeymoon in the country home of costume designer Barbara Karinska, just down the road from the Pillow. In her biography Tallchief recalled, "After the ceremony… we drove to Barbara Karinska's house in the Berkshires … for both of us work was more important than a honeymoon … a weekend in the country sufficed.'" The small blue house is still there and now bears the plaque "Karinska House."

Tallchief first performed at the Pillow in 1951, where she danced a pas de deux from Firebird and Sylvia with Michael Maule. Below are excerpts from their perfromance:

Tallchief and Michael Maule in Firebird, 1951.

Tallchief in Sylvia, 1951.

Tallchief continues to be presence at the Pillow, with one of the female student cabins named in her honor. Happy #TBT!

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