Dance Heginbotham and Brooklyn Rider Premiere Chalk and Soot at Jacob’s Pillow

“‘Exit’ from Chalk and Soot at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival 2014”

[Becket, MA] – In the evening-length world premiere of Chalk and Soot, choreographer John Heginbotham, the Artistic Director of Dance Heginbotham and 2014 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award winner, and violinist and composer Colin Jacobsen, “one of the most interesting figures on the classical music scene” (Washington Post), combine their unique artistic forces. Inspired by Vasily Kandinsky’s book of poems entitled Sounds, this premiere features imaginative, theatrical choreography; live music performed by superstar string quartet Brooklyn Rider; the vocal styling of Shara Worden, the acclaimed singer-songwriter and founder of indie-pop group My Brightest Diamond; and singer/songwriter Gabriel Kahane on harmonium and back-up vocals. Chalk and Soot was created in part through two Jacob’s Pillow Creative Development Residencies and will be presented in the Doris Duke Theatre July 30 – August 3.

Ella Baff, Executive and Artistic Director of Jacob’s Pillow, comments “It is a pleasure to present the premiere of this new work in the same year that we recognize John with the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award. He is an adventurous, intelligent artist, energetically experimenting with dance, music, opera, theater, and visual design. His originality and wit add new and different ideas to the dance field.”

One of the largest cash awards in the dance industry, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award is granted to the recipient to be used in any way he or she chooses. The award was presented to Heginbotham at the Jacob’s Pillow Season Opening Gala on June 14. Past recipients include tap choreographer and Festival 2014 artist Michelle Dorrance, Crystal Pite, Kyle Abraham, Merce Cunningham, Big Dance Theater, Alonzo King, and Bill T. Jones. The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award was created in 2007 with an ongoing, annual anonymous gift of $50,000, of which $25,000 is given to an artist of exceptional vision. In commemoration, the honoree receives a custom-designed glass award sculpture by Berkshire-based artist Tom Patti, whose work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among other prominent institutions worldwide.

Drawing from inventive musicality and quirky, theatrical style, Heginbotham’s choreography has been defined as “a refreshing mixture of casualness and discipline, lunacy and sincerity” (The New Yorker). Chalk and Soot features angular, eclectic costuming and Heginbotham’s lightly humorous tone, while exhibiting a full range of artistic collaboration between multiple talents.

Heginbotham is an alumnus of The School at Jacob’s Pillow, along with two of his performers: John Eirich, who has performed with the Limon Dance Company and Mark Morris Dance Group, and Macy Sullivan, who has worked with Luca Veggetti, Sidra Bell, and Pam Tanowitz. Also performing are Lindsey Jones, Courtney Lopes, Weaver Rhodes, and Sarah Stanley. Heginbotham’s dancers possess “an ability to shift from weighted to light, modern to balletic, goofy to elegant, often in short spans of time.” (Andrew Boynton, The New Yorker)

Multiple music powerhouses will perform live with Dance Heginbotham in the work, notably with the prolific string quartet Brooklyn Rider. The group has previously collaborated with dance artists Wendy Whelan, Damian Woetzel, Matthew Neenan, and Brian Brooks, and has been called “one of the wonders of contemporary music” by The Los Angeles Times. They will be joined by renowned vocalist Shara Worden of indie-pop group My Brightest Diamond, “a singer who possesses one of the most powerful and dramatic voices of the past decade” (NPR) and singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Kahane whose “music absorbs everything from nineteen-twenties neoclassicism to blue-grass and modern indie pop with potent melodies bridging the disparate styles” (The New Yorker).

John Heginbotham and Colin Jacobsen will discuss the artistic collaboration behind Chalk and Soot in a free, hour-long PillowTalk on Saturday, August 2 at 4pm. Following the opening night performance on Wednesday, July 30, audience members are invited to gather in Blake’s Barn and share their opinions and perspectives in an informal, book club-style discussion of the work, with complimentary beverages.


Founded in 2011 by John Heginbotham, the work of Dance Heginbotham features highly structured, technically rigorous, and theatrical choreography, frequently set to the music of contemporary composers. The company gave its first performances in January 2012 at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and has since been presented by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Baryshnikov Arts Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Carolina Performing Arts, among others. Dance Heginbotham performed as part of the Jacob’s Pillow 2011 Inside/Out Series, and made its debut in the Doris Duke Theatre in 2012. Andrew Boynton of The New Yorker writes: “Watching a new dance by John Heginbotham is like witnessing the introduction of a new language. It seems familiar, for it’s built from bits of our experience, or things we’ve seen before. But he raids the grammar and vocabulary and syntax we know and cobbles together something strange and alluring, leaving us off balance, but pleasingly so.”


Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Heginbotham studied choreography at Jacob’s Pillow with Bessie Schönberg in 1991 and graduated from The Juilliard School in 1993. He was a member of the Mark Morris Dance Group from 1998-2012, performing with the company in ten different Pillow seasons during that time.

In addition to his work with Dance Heginbotham, John’s choreography has been seen at Dance Theater Workshop, The Museum of Modern Art, Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater, and the New York and Toronto Fringe Festivals, among other venues. He has created work for the Cork Opera House (Cork, Ireland), The Wooden Floor (Santa Ana, CA), Big Apple Baroque, Oasis Theater (Minneapolis, MN), art/pop group Fischerspooner, cabaret artists Lady Rizo and the Assettes and Our Lady J, and many college and university dance programs including The Juilliard School. In December 2013, he choreographed Isaac Mizrahi’s Peter and the Wolf at the Guggenheim Museum, and collaborated with Mizrahi again on The Magic Flute at the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in June 2014.

A frequent collaborator with live music, Heginbotham has worked with numerous composers and ensembles including Alarm Will Sound, the Raymond Scott Orchestrette, and the American Classical Orchestra, among others. He is a two-time recipient of the Jerome Robbins Foundation New Essential Works (NEW) Fellowship Grant and is a founding teacher of Dance for PD®, an ongoing collaboration between the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson Group.


Dance Heginbotham and Brooklyn Rider in Chalk and Soot
Wednesday, July 30—Saturday, August 2, 8:15pm
Saturday, August 2 & Sunday, August 3, 2:15pm

Free Pre-Show Talks with Jacob’s Pillow Scholar-in-Residence Maura Keefe are offered on the porch of the Doris Duke Theatre 30 minutes before each performance
Tickets $22-42. Now on sale online at, via phone at 413.243.0745, or in person at the Jacob’s Pillow Box Office.
Box Office hours: Sun, Mon, Tues, 11am-5pm; Wednesday- Saturday, 11am-8pm

Related Event
Free PillowTalk: Chalk and Soot: Composing & Choreographing
Saturday, August 2, 4pm
Blake’s Barn

Choreographer John Heginbotham and composer Colin Jacobsen premiere Chalk and Soot this week in the Doris Duke Theatre. Heginbotham studied dance composition at Jacob’s Pillow in 1991 with the legendary Bessie Schönberg, and has returned many times since as a dancer with Mark Morris and other companies. The choreographer and composer discuss their inspirations, their working process, and the journey thus far.

For more information, visit

[Photo of Dance Heginbotham by Janelle Jones, courtesy The Watermill Center]


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