The History of Neskaya

Work Together for Transformation


In 1990 Dana Johnson was teaching Aikido, and Jenny Deupree was teaching Sacred Circle Dance in various locations in Franconia, New Hampshire. They sometimes joked that the town needed a “Dance-Hall/Dojo” and added the fatal words “if we have to build it ourselves.”

In the summer of 1991, Jenny returned from a visit to her cousin Lydia, filled with the energy of jealousy because Lydia had built herself a dance studio, and said to Dana: “Let’s do it.”

And that was the beginning.


There isn’t any name in English that describes our building. “Dojo” comes the closest with the understanding that Aikido is not just a martial art but also a spiritual practice. Our purpose was to create a space for activities which involve the use of that mind-body energy which is known as ki or prana. When we first began to apply for various permits, the town officials called it a “fitness center” as the only category they could think of. We corrected that to “school for movement arts” which is good enough for the bureaucracy.

But for ourselves, as we cast about for a name, we wanted something that would carry the sacredness of our intent. One of us, we can’t remember who, said “Let’s call it after a tower on Darkover,” and the other said “Neskaya!” and that was exactly right. For those of you unfamiliar with Marion Zimmer Bradley’s science fiction, the planet Darkover is one where people developed a technology based on the powers of the psyche. This work is mainly done by a circle of people trained in laran, who learn and practice their calling in a “tower”, of which the most famous are Hali, Arilinn, and Neskaya. We wrote to Marion Zimmer Bradley to get her permission for the use of the name which she graciously granted us. Our building isn’t exactly a tower, and the energies we work with may or may not be the same as laran, but it is intended to be a place where a group of people work together for transformation.

Looking up in The Forbidden Tower, we discovered that Neskaya is where Damon went to meet Varzil the Good to learn that the role of “Keeper” of the circle had once been restricted to men, though in Damon’s time only women were allowed to function in this central position. Since part of our work in the world is teaching that there is no human potential that should be restricted to one sex, we felt that Neskaya was an entirely appropriate name.


It took three years to find the land, and battle our way through the thickets of the bureaucracy to get the required permits. In the summer of 1994 we began construction, and by the end of the year we had the slab in place and a steel structure to hold up the roof.

Spring 1995 saw the building of the forms for the roof. In July they sprayed concrete on the roof forms to create the beautiful curving roof. Throughout the fall, construction went on. We danced there in December and it was cold and damp, like dancing in a concrete cave.

In the spring of 1996, the dance floor was constructed. By fall, the floor was carpeted, the walls were plastered and painted, all the lights, including the emergency lighting required by the bureaucracy, had been put in. The curving stairs and the railing on the balcony were finished.


We were fortunate to find a yoga teacher who had trained at Kripalu, and we opened with the first yoga classes on October 3. Our first regular Circle Dance was held on October 6, and we have danced every Sunday since then. Aikido classes began in November. It turns out that the acoustics of our building greatly enhance the sound of musical instruments. In February 1997, some friends ( did a recording project at Neskaya, which resulted in a CD: “Balance on Air”. We hope to have more musical events there.


At the beginning of May 1998, Jenny taught a workshop called “Dancing the Sacred Calendar. 16 people came to celebrate the whole year in 24 hours, starting with Summer solstice at noon on May 2, and ending with winding the Maypole at 9AM on May 3. Eight altars were made around the dance floor, one for each of the eight major holidays. Jenny explained the astronomical significance of each and related it to the symbolism of the altars.

We celebrated our first “Moosemas” on Saturday, November 28, 1998.


Neskaya incorporated as “Neskaya, Inc.” in the spring of 2002, as a “not-for-profit” corporation in the State of New Hampshire. One of the first members of the Board of Trustees was Julia Lynam. On being asked to become a Trustee of an organization whose mission was to increase personal happiness, she responded ecstatically: “You’ve made my day! My Week! My Millenium!!!”

We applied to the IRS for Non-profit status. After jumping through the required hoops, and serving a 5-yr probationary period, in May of 2007 we were classified as a public charity, (501 (c) 3).This means that your donations are tax-deductable!!