The Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival and School, in Becket, Massachusetts, in the southern part of the Berkshire Hills, traces its origins to the 1930 purchase of the Jacob's Pillow farm by dance pioneer Ted Shawn (1891-1972), who was in the process of separating, personally and professionally, from his wife and dance partner, Ruth St. Denis. Shawn had long harbored a dream of forging a new style of male dance that would challenge the "sissy" image of male dancers, and would legitimize dance in America as an honorable career for men. In 1933, he recruited eight men, including Barton Mumaw, a former student at Denis and Shawn's Denishawn dance school, and several physical education students from Springfield College (then a men's school) for his new company. In July 1933, Shawn and his Men Dancers began giving public "Tea Lecture Demonstrations" to promote their work, and to raise money to pay the expenses. In addition, from 1933 to 1940, Shawn and his Men Dancers toured throughout the United States and to Canada, Cuba, and England, performing more than 1,250 times in 750 cities. By the Fall of 1939, Shawn felt his personal and professional crusade had been a success--public, press, and educators were accepting the dance as an honorable profession for men--and he announced in October that the forthcoming tour would be the last. The Men Dancers disbanded in May 1940. Shawn first leased the property, with the option to buy, to Mary Washington Ball, who produced the Berkshire Hills Dance Festival on the site in 1940. Although Shawn considered Ball's introduction of diverse programming an artistic success, the festival was a financial disaster. Shawn next leased the property to British ballet stars Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin, whose 1941 International Dance Festival was so successful that local supporters formed the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Committee, raised $50,000 to buy the property and to build a theater, and made Shawn director in 1942. The Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival and University of the Dance, by combining daily classes and evening performances, became the first intensive summer dance program in the United States. Shawn remained director until his death in 1972.
Source: Jacob's Pillow, http://www.jacobspillow.org/archives/history.asp, accessed on March 14, 2007.