From “I’m never leaving home” to “I’m never leaving camp”
In the summer of 2012, my daughter Reilly was 11 years old. She has always been an adventurous sort, but when the subject of sleep away camp came up, she wasn’t having any of it. She couldn’t imagine leaving her home and her friends for over a month, and the thought to trying to fall asleep in the middle of the woods with strangers and without her parents was far from appealing.
Throughout that Spring, we spoke to Rachel Kerchman, the Director of Brant Lake Dance Camp, no less than five times. She even made time to visit our home when she was in Washington DC. Kerch was patient and warm, open and respectful of my daughter’s feelings. Reilly agreed to try BLDC, and we started packing.
As the bus pulled away from Lincoln Center that first summer, Reilly never looked back. (I cried my eyes out, however!) During every weekly phone call, Reilly’s happy voice and excited stories made us sure she was in the right place.
It is now five years later, and Reilly is getting ready for her last summer as a camper at BLDC. She is dying to get back to her friends and Brant Lake’s beautiful setting, but the thought that her time as a camper is coming to an end is bittersweet. She knows the years that follow will hold new adventures and challenges, but if she had her choice, she would ask for five more summers.
It is bittersweet for us as well. During these last five years, we have watched Reilly grow into a graceful, poised, self-assured, independent and outgoing woman, in no small part because of her experience at BLDC. Her friends and counselors have seen her through happy and hard times, from the exhilaration of her first Enchoreo to the heartbreak of a chronic injury which took her off the professional track she was aiming for. Reilly’s Dad and I are grateful for the love, friendship and endless summer days she has experienced at Brant Lake. While I still cry every time she leaves, we now know that camp, after being eagerly anticipated for ten months, will be the highlight of her year. And who knows? Maybe we will be back if we have a grandchild that loves to dance as well.
A message from Former Camper and Counselor Lily Brown
When I was 17 and applying for college, one of the questions on the common app was: “Where do you feel most at home?”. Brant Lake Dance Camp was the first place I thought about and still do to this day whenever this question is posed. I started attending Brant Lake as a baby because my dad was the modern dance teacher, and when I was old enough to be a camper I jumped at the opportunity. When I was looking for a summer job before going off to college, I knew exactly where I wanted to be.
Now here I am three years later, a rising senior at American University, and Brant Lake is the only place I could image spending my summers. While my peers clutter their resumes with unpaid internships and “real-world” experiences, I count the stars in upstate New York and think about the invaluable lessons I have learned at such a unique place.
I reminisce about learning a double time step in Tap 2 when I was 13 and about winning lip-sync my final summer as a camper at 15, but mostly I think about how my life continues to be shaped by the incredible people who also call Brant Lake home. I have joined a family for life, and I hope I can emanate that sensation to every new camper, parent, and visitor who steps on our grounds and into our lives.
Brant Lake teaches leadership. It teaches commitment and confidence. It fosters friendships and mentorships the supersede any that I have experienced to this day.
While nothing beats the thrill of a great afternoon swim in gorgeous Brant Lake… or leading a camp-wide evening activity called “LassaPallooza”, the moments I will never forget are the sing-a-longs on the arts and crafts bead porch, the hours spent sipping hot chocolate on the Adirondack chairs, or the numerous times giving advice to campers the way it was given to me nearly a decade ago.
The amount of pride I have in the work we do at Brant Lake is unmatched. Seeing my campers grow into intelligent, empathetic, caring, and beautiful young women year after year is what keeps me coming back. There is a lot that changes in a year, and I love hearing about all of the incredible things they have done. We have less then two months until drop-off day, and I can’t wait. With a walkie-talkie on my hip, a clipboard in my hand, and enough bug spray to make it through five weeks…I am home.
So while my peers clutter their resumes, I count down the days till I can jump in the lake and walk up that hill.
A message from Guest Artist Terez Dean
As young girls, Rachel Kerchman (better known as “Kerch” at camp) and I trained together at the Ballet Arts Studio in Beacon, New York. Our summers were spent apart; hers enjoying the life as a Brant Lake camper, and mine vigorously training at either the School of American Ballet in New York City, Miami City Ballet or the San Francisco Ballet. While maintaining our close friendship through care packages and letters, our life paths became very different. Kerch went on to study math education, and I left New York to take my first professional job at the State Street Ballet in Santa Barbara. Kerch’s passion was not only in math, but in the well-being of these young girls who came summer after summer to Brant Lake Dance Camp. After years of listening to Rachel rave about the wonders of this beautiful place, she invited me to be a guest teacher. I happily accepted.
This June will be my third year teaching in the picturesque dance studios up in the woods of Brant Lake. After nine years of dancing for the Smuin Ballet in bustling San Francisco, Brant Lake has become my summer oasis where I can share my twelve years of experience as a professional dancer with these energized young women. With my strong ballet background, I’ve enjoyed teaching the girls the more contemporary repertoire that I have learned and performed throughout the years. The campers in all three dance levels are learning works from world renowned choreographers: works that I’ve dreamt of dancing ever since I began ballet. Sharing the studio space with these fun and talented young ladies has been an honor and a privilege. I am really looking forward to coming back, taking in the fresh pine air, and hearing all of the laughter as the girls walk down to the lake, or to their next meal.
Being in an environment where everyone involved comes together to share their craft is truly inspirational. As a dancer, we use movement to motivate people, to provide comfort, hope and joy to those surrounding us. These summers at Brant Lake Dance Camp are special because I watch the girls develop a newfound confidence through dance, I watch them take artistic risks, and I watch them discover new ways of interpreting the music. After the class, the students are smiling, gladly drenched in sweat as they walk out of the studio onto another wonderful activity provided at the camp.
One of the very unique opportunities that Brant Lake Dance offers to the girls is the chance to choreograph for their peers. I also love how the campers and teachers share meals. This time allows for us to get to know the each other on a personal level. Each teacher, whether in tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop, or contemporary is around to mentor, support, and lend an ear for them through their creation process. For these young women to be able to have the chance to stand in front of the room and explore what their new friends can do is incredibly special. Brant Lake Dance Camp is a place where you not only gain tons of knowledge, but you meet lifelong friends along the way.
Looking forward to dancing with you all this summer,
Brant Lake Camp featured in Town and Country magazine (again)
We thought you would all like to see the recent article in 'Town and Country' magazine on today's best summer camps-- which we are proud to say included Brant Lake Camp.
The list of 19 camps, noted as the "Ivy League" of summer camps, also provides a short synopsis of all the top programs. Several years ago, we were noted by the same publication as the camp with the "Best Traditions"—largely driven by our ever-popular "Green and Gray" color war competition.
We very much look forward to BLC and BLDC springing back to life with the arrival of all our campers in just a couple of short weeks-- and we wish you all the best.
A great article explaining the benefits of a phone-free experience at camp.
Brant Laker Jason Gillet (95'- present) of Moving Pictures is proud to announce that the company's award-winning documentary Never Stand Still will be having its NYC theatrical release at the Quad Cinema located at 34 W 13th Street on May 18 - May 24, 2012. Jason was involved with the film since its inception as a sound engineer and throughout the editorial process. Sharon Gersten Luckman also has a connection to the film as Judith Jamison and the Alvin Ailey Company are profiled in the film. Never Stand Still was filmed on location at Jacob's Pillow and is distributed by First Run Features. Here is the film's press release: Click here
We wanted to share a recent news announcement concerning Sharon Gersten Luckman, brother of Brant Lake Camp's Director Rich Gersten, oldest daughter of Bobby and Libbie Gersten and sister-in-law of present Dance Camp Co-Director Mieks Gersten.
After a long and highly successful tenure as Alvin Ailey's Executive Director, where she re-energized and dramatically strengthened the position of this amazing and unique Dance organization, Sharon has decided to step down from her post after 16 years and perhaps pursue other endeavors.
As you may know, Sharon founded the Brant Lake Dance Camp in 1980 and helped to successfully develop it's strong program and high standards of professional dance instruction-- coupling it with a real summer camp experience for girls.
Prior to her position at Alvin Ailey, she was the Director and dance teacher of the well-know 92nd Street YM/WHA Dance Center, Executive Director of the Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation as well as Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. She has also been awarded numerous awards for leadership and achievements in the arts.
We hope you enjoy reading about one of our own.