In a time when women went to college to get their Mrs, or to find a husband, Portia Mansfield and Charlotte Perry decided instead to open a dance camp high in the mountains of Colorado. Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp was established in 1913 and revolutionized the arts. “Art is born of nature,” Charlotte was often quoted as saying. Their camp took that philosophy to heart, engaging all campers in dance, theater, art, the equestrian program and outdoor activities.
By the 1920’s their remote camp was serving as a hub for top dancers such as Jose Limon and Harriette Ann Gray to hone their craft. In addition to training thousands of pointed toes and arched feet the school taught English Riding through their equestrian program and developed standards for Western Riding. The theater department, run by Charlotte Perry, grew in notoriety through performances of Shakespeare, Garcia Lorca and Tennessee Williams’ work. The theater program eventually attracted budding actors like Julie Harris Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Biel. Author Dagny McKinley presents the history of America’s Longest continuously running performing arts camp.
About the authorDagny McKinley is the author of seven books with a focus on women’s history and connection to nature. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Naropa University and an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Western Ontario. Her day job is serving as the Development Director for Steamboat Creates, the foundational organization for arts and culture in Steamboat Springs, CO.