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Camp Spillian 2017: I Was a Dancer
June 11- June 16, 2017
By Invitation

On Camp Spillian 2017: I Was A Dancer… Each year, Spillian is making a commitment in the second week of June to offer a special gathering to support creativity and community. At this point in its development, this is a by-invitation event. The 2017 version is for former and current professional and semi-professional dancers that we know, and Spillian is donating the facility (the mansion and grounds) so participants will only have to chip in to create meals together. In the future, we may well opening this annual imaginal exploration up to applications, but we are finding our way as we experiment with community who are already connected to our vision.

This year, it’s Camp Spillian 2017: I Was a Dancer.

This will be a special week for friends old and new who have danced in our lifetimes. Many of us are midlife at this point; some have continued on in dance or other performing arts as a career, as performers, educators, choreographers, and directors. Others of us have left dance somewhere in our rear view mirror. But, we believe that if you have been a dancer in your lifetime, there is a connection to the power and beauty of dance that does not die.

We are going to explore that connection, the yearnings, the desires, the joys, and sorrows involved within the phrase, “I was a dancer.” We will dance into this idea in conversation, in movement, in indoor and outdoor space, culminating in a Thursday evening sharing in front of an audience of what we’ve discovered about ourselves.


Camp Spillian 2017: I Was a Dancer is an event for current or former pro/semi-pro (i.e., serious) dancers who have a connection to Spillian. (My background is as a dancer predominantly in modern dance, and that is what we’ll focus on this week.)

What I’m interested in exploring is what it means to have been a dancer – and where are the spaces and openings that creates in our lives, whether we are actively dancing now or not. Part of this is a deep yearning that I’ve been having to find a place for dance in my life again, part of it a realization that I still think of myself as a dancer, even though I’ve not been dancing in any real way for far too long. I’m fascinated by this, and think it would be a deeply rewarding process to explore how dance gets into our bodies and our psyches with lasting impact. We will talk, imagine, and move. We can individually or as a group build some dances on ourselves, and I am thinking that we will offer an informal performance on Thursday night, the last night we are together, for the community. We may also create a video from this week, as I am hoping that it will capture some of the essence of Spillian’s work in the world in a special way.

Alongside this question of what it means to have been/be a dancer, I am interested in strengthening and reviving old creative relationships as well as building new ones.

This will be a workshop experience, a gathering and creating of a clan – some who danced together years ago, and some who are landed in the Catskills – to play creatively and lightly, but with deep focus. As such, it will only be open to participants until the public performance on Thursday evening.

Spillian is donating the space for this week, and participants will pool resources for food. We will have eight rooms available for out-of-town participants to stay onsite – nine beds plus a couple of rollaways. We can comfortably house 12 to 13 people without sharing beds.

This is an experiment in creative community building and our donation to that experiment. Spillian is planning to offer an annual version of this week, an opportunity for cultural creatives to gain access to the site and its energy, and we will be focusing on a new theme/community each year. The idea was birthed last year when we hosted a gathering of my husband/partner Mark’s clan of theater designers and technicians. It was a profound experience for them – and for us – and we felt that inviting people to come out of their daily lives, particularly midlife, to see how they are imagining themselves through memory and ideas about the future, is something that deeply reflects Spillian’s mission about helping people to imagine past what they think is possible.

Eventually, we may throw the doors open more widely and invite applications for this as a residency/workshop program, but as we take these first initial steps, we are excited to engage with our community and deepen its connections to our work, our play, and one another.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.


Leigh Melander
Partner/Founding Fomenter, Spillian