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Jacob’s Pillow dance festival canceled for first time in its 88-year history, due to coronavirus concerns

Miami City Ballet Dancers Jovani Furlan and Kleber Rebello in "Polyphonia," shown in a 2017 file photo. Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon. Miami City Ballet performed at the Jacob's Pillow dance festival in 2018.
Miami City Ballet Dancers Jovani Furlan and Kleber Rebello in "Polyphonia," shown in a 2017 file photo. Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon. Miami City Ballet performed at the Jacob's Pillow dance festival in 2018.

One of the nation’s premiere dance festivals, held annually at Jacob’s Pillow, has been canceled due to growing COVID-19 concerns.

Since 1933, the Berkshires’ summer festival has gathered more than 50 national and international dance companies for a slew of free and ticketed performances, talks, and tours in Becket, Mass. This year’s event was intended to run from June 24 to Aug. 30. The decision marks the first cancellation in the festival’s 88-year history.

“For the safety of our staff, artists, audiences, and the larger Berkshire community, this is our only responsible action,” executive and artist director Pamela Tatge said in a statement.

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“If our collective efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 are effective, and people are able to congregate again in August, we will make every effort to try to bring audiences together in keeping with the public safety guidelines in effect at that time.”

In the past four years, the festival has expanded into a functioning year-round organization, which relies on the fest’s $8 million annual revenue. News of the cancellation delivered a significant blow to the center, which has been forced to reduce its 45 full-time staff positions by 40 percent. Ten people have been laid off, a fifth of the workforce has been shifted to part-time, and a number of other positions remain unfilled.

In lieu of the festival, Jacob’s Pillow is planning to release digital content from its archive and create new virtual programs featuring artists that were scheduled this summer.

Diti Kohli can be reached at diti.kohli@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ditikohli_.