Marsha Parrilla Explores Her Puerto Rican Heritage as Part of Jacob’s Pillow Creative Residency

Parrilla in Boston. Photo courtesy of Jacob's Pillow

Danza Orgánica artistic director Marsha Parrilla uses movement rooted in multiple dance genres as a vehicle for social justice and women's rights in her dance-theater work. This month she brings her company to its first-ever creative residency at Jacob's Pillow.

“We're just thrilled with this honor—it's a huge milestone, and it comes during our 10th anniversary," says Parrilla, who also founded and produces an annual arts festival in Boston, We Create! Celebrating Women in the Arts.

“We are very interested in working with New England choreographers as part of the program's portfolio, and Marsha's work rose to the top," says Pamela Tatge, Jacob's Pillow director. “Her work is deeply rooted in her Puerto Rican heritage. It connects some of the traditional dance of her country with a modern dance aesthetic."

During her residency, Parrilla will develop a new work that explores Puerto Rican heritage and identity. Also as part of the residency, she will hold a lecture demonstration for the 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, based on her most recent work, Running in Stillness, which focuses on the impact incarceration has on women and the children of incarcerated parents.

Jacob's Pillow Creative Development Residencies allow selected artists to develop, research and rehearse new repertory. The 2016–17 season has the largest residency roster yet—10 artists, up from 6 the previous season. “We want to be an active participant in creating and developing dance, so we are redoubling our commitment to the support of the creative process," says Tatge, who became the Pillow's new director last April.

Residency artists receive free housing, unlimited use of the Doris Duke Theatre and studio spaces, access to the Pillow's archives, a stipend and resources, such as staff consultation and archival recording. A new, second stipend has been added to allow the artist to bring in a collaborator to inform the work, such as another choreographer, a related artist or an expert in the field. Parrilla hired a researcher, a guitarist and a drummer.

Each residency concludes with a private, informal showing that is filmed for the artist and kept in the Pillow's archives. Another addition: Dance students from nearby colleges watch and participate in an artist talkback.

Parrilla's residency takes place February 20–26. Other residencies this spring include choreographer Ronald K. Brown's collaboration with Grammy Award–winning jazz musician and composer Arturo O'Farrill; New York City Ballet principal dancer Sara Mearns with hip-hop duo Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez; and Camille A. Brown's use of hip-hop albums from the '70s onward to explore issues of race, politics, gender and cultural identity.

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