At some point in mid-December my daughter starts counting down the days until she returns to summer camp. Tucked into the secure nestling trees of the Berkshires on the East Coast, is a unique all-girl residence camp where very lucky girls from all over the world spend six full weeks training in theatre, dance, music, art, and enjoying fun team building activities that make Belvoir Terrace an oasis.
Often thought of as a second home by its’ campers, Belvoir Terrace is more than a summer camp vacation. It takes young girls out of the hustle and bustle of their stressful every day lives and transports them to a place where time stands still. Electronics are not allowed. The creative process is fostered. The spirit of sisterhood is encouraged. Life skills are garnered. Confidence is primed and memories are harvested.
The West Coast is filled with camps that offer two-week sessions, rushing your child in and out before they’ve learned a thing or gained any independence. Most of us Californians are unaware that other options even exist. Yet, six-week long summer camps sessions, like the one offered at Belvoir, are a tradition decades old on the East Coast and for very good reason.
The first summer I sent my daughter to Belvoir, my California girlfriends nearly disowned me wondering how I could part with my tween for so long. Admittedly, I wondered too. For goodness sake the umbilical cord was still attached! I cried daily. I counted the hours until visitor’s day. But I knew Hovercraft Mom—that’s me–must retreat to give her daughter a little wing space to fly on her own. The experience wasn’t about me missing her; it was about her learning to soar.
My daughter returned from Belvoir refreshed, rebooted and so appreciative of everything I do for her—like fold laundry–which she had to do for herself while she was away. “Pleases” and “thank-yous” filled my ears with a joy I cannot truly express. She had learned both the violin and piano; took private vocal lessons and participated in the theatre ensemble; played tennis, joined the swim team and learned about photography. She had real life experiences I could have never given her at home. She learned to problem-solve and think for herself. She had to navigate friendships and prepare herself for her next class without mom there to arrange play dates or remind her to grab her ballet shoes. She wore a watch for the first time and got herself where she needed to be on her own. Imagine that!
My daughter returned home as my same sweet girl, but better, in an enriched sort of way. In the meantime, those same moms who nay-said my idea were pulling their hair out over the number of hours their children spent arguing with one another, watching television, and playing video games not to mention the expenses they encountered of entertaining the kids on a daily basis. The minute I heard these stories I knew my daughter would be a “camper for life” at Belvoir Terrace.
ABOUT Belvoir: Belvoir Terrace was founded in 1954. Campers grades three through ten follow an all elective exciting, educational program in art, acting and musical theater, dance, music, and individual sports. In Belvoir’s caring environment with professional staff, girls develop self-confidence as they gain new skills and make lasting friendships.
For more information on Belvoir Terrace, please visit http://www.belvoirterrace.com.
Letter from a camper: English 7th Grade
When Ms. Han first told us that we had to write an essay about our favorite place in the world, a chorus of sighs, groans, and mumbling arose from the class. The first thing that popped into my head was Belvoir Terrace, no sighs, no groans, no mumbling, just Belvoir Terrace- a place that changed my life and truly is my favorite place in the world. I couldn’t wait to get started. Belvoir Terrace means so much to me for so many reasons and I am eager to share them.
Belvoir Terrace is the place where girls learn who they really are. They learn that they are dancers, singers, actresses, tennis players, or anything else that they discover. No matter what their interests are, their talents, or their dreams, every camper will discover something new about herself. There is something new for everyone to learn and that is something that campers appreciate so much. If it weren’t for Belvoir, I might not have discovered that I love singing, acting, guitar, art, and practically everything Belvoir has to offer. Belvoir Terrace really is life changing, for it opens the doors to new opportunites and new talents
Another great thing about Belvoir Terrace is the people there. The teachers are all very experienced in their fields. They all know the right way to teach all of the campers and their one and only goal is for them to improve. The teachers are all exceptionally talented and trained in what they do which helps the children learn. All of the teachers are role models for the campers, which makes it easier for students to do exactly what they say. I really appreciate what all of the teachers do for me. Although it is not always easy to control a bunch of wild campers, they never fail. I learned more in one class at Belvoir than I could ever learn anywhere close to my home. Diane and Nancy, the camp directors, are so important to every camper at Belvoir Terrace. Even though they don’t directly teach a class, they have a great impact on a campers life. Whether they are helping us choose a class, discover what our true interests are, or talking to us about life at camp, they make a huge difference.
Finally, at Belvoir I made friends that will last a lifetime. It means a lot to me to have friends that don’t live near me or go to my school. I can talk to them about anything and know that they will always be there for me.
It’s fun to get to know people that aren’t the same age as me, whether they are straightening my hair for the socials or just talking to me. At Belvoir everyone is friends with everyone no matter what unit they are in, what talents they have, or interests. Friends that I have made at Belvoir will be my friends forever, and I am very appreciative to have people like them in my life.
I am so grateful to have a place like Belvoir that I can call home. I thank everyone there from teachers to friends for being so terrific. Belvoir is my favorite place in the world and I am sure that it will be even after my cottage summer.
About the Theatre Program:
Theater is a popular and exciting program at Belvoir. The theater program is designed for girls with a serious interest in acting and it also works well for those with less prior experience who would like the opportunity to take an acting class and gain performance skills. Fourteen professional teachers/directors teach small classes in acting techniques, improvisation, Shakespeare, musical theater, directing, and all aspect of technical theater including lighting design, the building and painting of sets and props, and costuming.
Theater majors can choose daily classes in acting, Shakespeare, and musical theater plus electives in play-writing, improvisation, costuming, and more. Most majors support their theater interest with classes from the dance department as well as private voice and music instruction. The theater program at Belvoir provides a complete performance training experience for every actress.
The younger campers enjoy creative dramatics with classes meeting three times a week or daily. They present shorter plays and musicals to the entire camp group. The more experienced acting students enjoy intensive daily classes learning character development, acting techniques and theater analysis. These students study and perform important and exciting theatrical materials. Campers enjoy performing for the camp community in the five varied theaters at Belvoir.
Belvoir’s outstanding acting program offers a combination of excellent teaching, small classes, exciting direction and quality performance experiences. All of this enhances skill, encourage s cooperative work, and nurtures self confidence. Many Belvoir campers continue in theater and develop careers on Broadway, and in television and film in both New York City and Los Angeles. Theater at Belvoir is truly exciting.
Nicole Hanratty, is a contributing writer and event photographer for HMB. Nicole Hanratty lives in Southern California. She is a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend and every day mom, ie. housekeeper, taxi-driver, athletic model, personal chef and family social planner. Follow her twitter antics on @LifeOfARockStar
Ok yeah well thanks Nicole now my decision is even more difficult…HA! Thanks for sharing Belvoir looks outstanding!. I’ve been trying to decide what to do as I am supposed to be on vacation in LA this summer for 6 weeks. I was looking for an acting camp/classes for my daughter while I was on vacation and it’s just been overwhelming the choices that are available. I’ve been struggling with this decision. Based on my research my options so far are:
1. Young Actors Space
2. The Talent Academy
3. The Acting Camp
4. Lee Strasburg Camp
5. Various coaches – Irene Dreayer, Diane Christiansen
Now I have to add Belvoir to the list and possibly forfeit my vacation…ahh the sacrifices mothers make for their children. Any comments would be appreciated on my options so far – decision time is drawing near. This site is the best it is my lifeline for information!!!
Thanks for your wonderful feedback & the compliments! We completely agree that camp options can be overwhelming. My own daughter attended the Lee Strasberg Camp in NYC for 2 weeks (LOVED it) and she’s taken classes at Strasberg LA and found it to be very warm and friendly. Keep in mind however, Strasberg offers day camp only – not residential. The Young Actors Camp is residential so that might better fit your needs this summer. There are also a few other east coast residential camps that are amazing like Stage Door Manor, Long Lake Camp, Interlochen and French Woods and as for the coaches, YES, contact Irene Dreayer (The Dray Way) and do some skype sessions – She’s Amazing – and the kids can continue to skype with her when they return home! If you make it to L.A. I would also recommend supplementing camp with one of Diane Christiansen’s classes – all the parents of the kids that take class with her adore her but I’ve heard there is a waiting list. Good luck and if you end up at Belvoir, congrats!! Tracy Bobbitt, Editor HMB
Mixed reviews on this camp:
Dear Donita — I feel your pain, a little bit! My daughter is readying for her fourth summer at Belvoir — well, actually, by visiting day last year she was already making plans for this year’s schedule! Each camper gets to choose 10 courses — so that five periods each day, six days a week they are immersed in an incredible array of artistic experiences. It’s an incredible privilege and opportunity to be immersed in a crowd of bright, talented, engaged, motivated, happy campers and staff — lifelong friends are made in the Berkshires. (I’m not just the mother of a Belvoir girl, but I spent seven glorious summers there myself!) Good luck with your decision making — Robin (ps vacationing in the Berkshires for six weeks this summer might even be better than LA!)
M daughter Sabine “graduated” from Belvoir last summer and we miss it so much! belvoir truly shaped who she is today nd she made wonderful friends and has great memories! The best!
Each day that goes by leaves me more undecided…this is just sad. So many choices. I left a vm for YAS and i’m waiting for a call back. Talked to the people at Strasberg – she was so nice. I know I really want to go to LA so I think I’m going to at least stick with that plan. There’s so many opinions out there on acting methods (Strasberg, Meisner and the other guy) that I’m wondering if it really matters. Maybe I should just do eeny meeny minee mo and call it a day. Trying to decide which acting camp/coach is the best fit for my child is literally giving me grey hairs. Can somebody get the Miss Clairol #3b on standby please…LOL!
Not to toot my own horn, but we have the best day camp in L.A. if your child wants to act in movies and/or television!
We not only make a short movie, but we premiere it in a real movie theatre. Check out the teaser trailer for last year’s teen short on our website at valleyactors.com/summer-camp.html
I’d like to toot my own horn and mention that we have the very best Summer day camp for kids and teens who want to act in movies in all of Los Angeles. At Actors Space West summer camp, we actually shoot a movie with a professional crew and then premiere the film at a real movie theatre. Please check us out! Go to valleyactors.com/summer-camp.html and watch the teaser trailer for one of last years movies!