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Restoring the Soul through Nature and Ballet

By Linda Tuccio-Koonz

Photos by Ryan Lavine

Scott Thyberg grew up in the wilderness of Warren, on a wondrous property where his parents ran a children’s summer camp. “It was a place where you could spend time with yourself and explore your heart,” says the accomplished choreographer and founder of the dance company Dansereye. “I had 400 acres to play in. It was unbelievable to me.”

The nonprofit camp was his father’s dream—started with a 100-acre purchase made upon his return from World War II; he grew it from there. Generations of children affectionately referred to Thyberg’s parents as Uncle Al and Aunt Elaine; the camp thrived for 60-plus years.

Many kids came from inner cities, where they hadn’t experienced nature’s grandeur. “When anyone would come up, they were just blown away by how stunningly beautiful it was,” Thyberg says of the land where he and four siblings chased butterflies and hunted for frogs in babbling brooks that disappeared into the woods. 

“There were so many incredible natural features. People would say to my father, ‘What a beautiful place you have here,’ and he would immediately correct them and say, ‘This isn’t ours, we’re just the stewards; we’re the caretakers.’”

It’s a sentiment Thyberg holds dear, especially since losing his father to dementia, the illness that left him unable to keep his beloved camp going. Thyberg, 66, a Juilliard-trained musician whose ballets have been performed throughout the United States and in Europe, returned home to care for him in 2013; he died in 2019, at age 95.

With his siblings scattered around the world, Thyberg knew he needed a new dream for the property—one that preserved its beauty while combining his passions for dance and nature. 

He decided it was time to create a home for Dansereye, and that it should include an intimate amphitheater with natural features. (Think tiered seating areas amid lush gardens and stone outcrops, nestled into a gentle hillside).

After protracted negotiations, much of the original property is now in the hands of the Warren Land Trust, which will see to its preservation. The remaining 5 acres serve as Dansereye’s home, a place to “retreat, revitalize, and perhaps even restore the soul,” says Thyberg, 66.

There are no permanent structures for the amphitheater, which will serve a maximum audience of 150 to 180. Lighting and sound equipment will be set up each year.

“Even if ballet is boring to you, you can listen to owls, look at the fireflies dancing around, or just listen to the beautiful music,” says Thyberg, who served on the faculties of the Nutmeg Conservatory in Torrington and Ballet Academy East in Manhattan, among others.

“I spent many years in other places, but the yearning to come back to where I grew up was always there,” he says. “I feel so inspired by this area.”

The amphitheater won’t open until 2025, but Thyberg chose 10 professional dancers from around the country to participate in this year’s residency. Their work this summer will culminate in two performances at the Visual and Performing Arts Center at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, August 9 and 10, at 7:30 pm 

If you go: “Dansereye: The Fifth Temperament” opens with the return of the 2023 genre-bending ballet, “The Seven Deadly Songs.” That’s followed by “Second Salt,” a new ballet featuring music by Emmy-nominated composer Craig Safan (“The Last Starfighter,” TV’s “Cheers”). Thyberg describes “Second Salt” as a “dramatization of what really happened at Sodom and Gomorrah,” adding “Spoiler: It wasn’t about the sex.” The final offering is another world premiere from Thyberg, a charming comedy set to beloved Italian classics.—@dansereye

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