Thrift store treasure

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Summer slips up on you in the Lowcountry. You have to know how to pace yourself. It’s too hot for doing too much. After a day’s writing, there’s nothing better than sitting on the porch and thinking of summers past. Summers when I would sit on the porch with Byrne Miller, both of us drinking wine and gathering up our skirts way past ladylike to keep cool.

How like a summer’s dream then that I stumbled on a souvenir of my life with Byrne. It came by way of a woman who, had she lived in Beaufort during Byrne’s era, surely would have been one of her many adopted daughters. Byrne would not only have approved of Lisa Rentz’ one-woman drive to publicize the arts in Northern Beaufort County – she would have capitalized on it. And she would have loved the fact that a decade after her death, Lisa left me this note in the mailbox of the house I bought from Byrne.

“Hi Teresa – thought you’d enjoy this. Found it in the pocket of a man’s blazer at a local thrift shop.”

It’s a ticket stub for a performance by the Oberlin Dance Collective – a company Byrne adored so much she convinced them to add Beaufort SC to their tour back in the year 2000. This is a San Francisco-based company that has performed for more than a million people in 32 states and 11 countries.

Their dancers and choreographers have collaborated with artists as varied as Robin Williams and Wayne Thiebaud. Beaufort must have been the smallest town they’d ever heard of, or danced for. They didn’t know the man in the audience wearing the blazer that wound up in a thrift store a decade later.

What they did know was that an amazing woman sitting in the front row set a chain of events in motion that led to that man putting on a blazer and paying $15 to see the one of the best modern dance companies in the world. Right here in a small southern town where summers are so hot you sit on porches with your skirt up and think about these whispers from the past.

3 thoughts on “Thrift store treasure

    barbara kelly said:
    July 1, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    Great story. And isn’t Lisa Rentz a find?
    I think we ran into each other @ the thrift store that day.
    Guess we all got lucky.


    Cynthia Wass Shepard said:
    August 6, 2011 at 8:20 PM

    I was talking with my 2 daughters today about how I danced Modern Dance under Byrne Millers wonderful eye! I had always been a lover of ballet, but she introduced me to something I truly ended up loving. Our little group (I think there were 5/6 of us) 1985/6 time frame. We ended up dancing on television on the local bft tv station…Too funny. So wonderful to come across your page and to know that she created a wonderful program after I left. If you don’t mind me asking, when did she…and Duncan pass away? I’ve often wondered.

    I live in Columbia right now, but have always kept Beaufort in my heart, as my husband’s AF career kept us on the west coast and in DC for these many years.

    Thanks for sharing your story….I adored her!


      teresabrucebooks said:
      August 8, 2011 at 7:37 AM

      Wow- so glad you stumbled across the blog. Please pass it along to anyone you think might enjoy it. The more readers we get the easier it will be to convince a publisher to release the book about her. She deserves it! I’m so jealous you knew her in the 80s, when she must have been ever more of a force to be reckoned with than when I met her. Also – to have known Duncan before Alzheimer’s – how wonderful. He died first, in Apri of 1993, just shy of their 60 year wedding anniversary. Byrne died in July of 2001 – and her dance theatre continued for a year or so without her. Alas, there was and will be only one Byrne. Thanks for thinking of her.


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