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Dance alumna hired by prestigious Massachusetts dance festival: Q&A with Fiona Scruggs
This past year has been an exciting time for recent dance alumna Fiona Scruggs. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the Radford University Department of Dance in spring, and by September 2019 she was hired by Jacob’s Pillow, a dance center, school and performance space located in Becket, Massachusetts. We reached out to Fiona to inquire about her accomplishment and how her studies at Radford University contributed to her success.
CVPA: What is Jacob’s Pillow and what does the organization do?
Scruggs: Jacob’s Pillow is a world-renowned dance festival that has been running since 1933, making it the longest running summer dance festival in the United States. The organization is a center for dance performances, training, research and audience engagement. The festival runs for ten weeks in the summer with over twelve performances each week across three theatres. Visitors to Jacob’s Pillow can witness premiere dance training for both aspiring and professional dancers. The school hosts six different programs throughout the summer, varying in dance styles, choreography and dance photography. The archives are open daily for the public to explore books, materials and dance videos, many of which are accessible only through Jacob’s Pillow. The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive is also a great resource which provides access to video excerpts and essays from artists, companies and dance scholars who have performed or researched at Jacob’s Pillow.
Jacob’s Pillow is a year-round institution. When it is not festival season, we are preparing for next year’s festival as well as organizing other events throughout the year such as Pillow Labs. Pillow Labs are residencies for dance artists and their companies to develop choreography and research using the facilities (studios, theatres, Archives, etc.) at Jacob’s Pillow.
Jacob’s Pillow is truly an amazing organization not only for arts and dance communities, but for anyone who wants to experience dance in any capacity, whether it’s their first time seeing a dance performance, or if they are a seasoned professional dancer.
CVPA: Tell us about your role with Jacob’s Pillow.
Scruggs: My title is School Programs Coordinator, which means I work in The School at Jacob’s Pillow. We are currently preparing for the six school programs that will take place next summer during Festival 2020. During the summer Festival, I will be working with the dancers and artist faculty to implement the programs and presentations that The School at Jacob’s Pillow will perform each week.
CVPA: What are you most excited about with regard to joining this historic organization?
Scruggs: I am most excited about the fact that I am actively a part of the living, breathing history that is Jacob’s Pillow. This is a place that you read about in dance history courses and textbooks. Some of the most influential dance pioneers (Ted Shawn, Ruth St. Denis, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, etc.) have legacies connected to Jacob’s Pillow. It is incredible to think about choreographers and dance companies who come here to perform and how their connection to Jacob’s Pillow will be read about in future dance history textbooks.
CVPA: How did you find out about the position?
Scruggs: Every summer since my freshman year at Radford University, I searched for and attended either an internship, intensive or study abroad. Through talking with faculty in the Department of Dance, I learned about Jacob’s Pillow internships and training opportunities. In January 2019, I applied for an internship at Jacob’s Pillow. In previous years, the dates had not lined up with other summer dance opportunities and the start of Radford University’s semester, so I pursued other training opportunities. Since summer 2019 followed my graduation, I was open and available to everything that Jacob’s Pillow could offer that summer. I was thrilled to be accepted for their internship program. I have to thank the dance faculty at Radford for putting the bug in my ear about Jacob’s Pillow during my sophomore year and for providing references for my applications. I am especially thankful to Professor Deborah McLaughlin, who wrote countless recommendation letters for me during my time at Radford.
During the summer of 2019, I interned at Jacob’s Pillow as a School Programs Intern in The School at Jacob’s Pillow. During my internship, the School Programs Coordinator position became available and I knew I had to apply. I enjoyed being a part of Jacob’s Pillow so much that I didn’t want the experience to end. Fortunately, I was offered the position and accepted it. I have been working as a full-time, year-round employee since September 23, 2019.
CVPA: How did your studies at RU prepare you for the position with Jacob’s Pillow?
Scruggs: Radford University gave me more than I could have imagined to prepare me for this role. The Department of Dance, Honors College, Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, and Citizen Leader were each influential to my career. The dance faculty provided strong training in dance technique and performance, as well as fostering a well-rounded understanding of the dance field, its history, and what it means to be a dancer in today’s world. Completing an honors capstone through the Honors College required me to think in-depth and out-of-the-box, and was very influential in preparing me for a professional career. I want to give a special thank you to my mentor Professor Deborah McLaughlin, who served as my honors capstone advisor, student-teaching supervisor, academic advisor, and was a major source of support during my four years at Radford University.
CVPA: How can folks keep up with your ongoing endeavors?
Scruggs: Definitely follow along! I recently started a blog, too. All of my web and social media information is below.
Facebook: Fiona Scruggs Dance