Sunday Sites
dancing through
Durham Development

What does it mean to make something beautiful flower in a decrepit space?

I pondered this question in a dusty room filled with sunlight this weekend. Behind an unlocked door, in a space where unused light fixtures rested on the floor and exposed beams dangled with wires of uncertain origin; Art was being made.

Sweaty dancers flowed across a black and white tile floor laid in an different era, a time when this was a new car showroom on Durham’s Main Street. Having passed through several incarnations since, the old Fishmonger’s Restaurant has fallen into disrepair and each step raises a puff of dust that joins with the sunlight streaming in through the huge front glass windows to make a microcosmos of swirling motes. The dancers rhythm; steps, leaps, and twirls spin the dust already floating in the air. If confetti was microscopic and immune to gravity’s forces, it might look like this. Music plays gently in the background. Their leader calls out, “Yes, yes. Good,” encouraging them, spurring them on through the heat and grime.

Kristin Taylor dances in a photo by Stephanie Leathers

Kristin Taylor dances in a photo by Stephanie Leathers

It was poetic.

What does it mean to make something beautiful flower in a decrepit space?

It is the tree growing in concrete. It is the possibility of anything happening anywhere. It is a tiny nudge that says this space is not gone. It is not useless. No space is useless. All can be transformed. This is the DNA of hope. It is the substance of what can be transformative. The recognition that all spaces and all places can be transformed.

I was reminded of the old REM tune that asks you to, stand in the place that you live, stand in the place that you work, and challenges you to look at them differently than you have before.

I have been walking by the outside of these Fishmongers windows for fifteen years plus. It is on Main Street.1 What had I seen through these panes? From the street I had looked, south hundreds and hundreds of times I’m sure, across the parking lot towards Parker and Otis (previously Fowler’s) and Morgan Imports.2

These dancers through their presence and movement in an empty space were able to transform the vista in a way that I had never envisioned. Moments of transcendent beauty in motion, flesh dappled with sunlight.

What does it mean to make something beautiful flower in a decrepit space?

Any space can be the start of transformative change. It is all in how you move through it. Give of yourself, give it weight, imbue with emotion; and it has extant power and magic.



Choreographer, dancer, photographer, creator Stephanie Leathers continues her exploration of Durham, development and change with her series “Sunday Sites” dance and art making in transitioning or otherwise abandoned spaces. More photographs are on Ms. Leathers’ Instagram.

Residency at the old Fishmonger’s site runs through November. Multimedia collaborative performances on November 10th, 11th, and 12th. Look through the windows any time between now and then to share the experience.

Dancers include:

Emily Aiken
Ally Lloyd
Nicole Oxendine
Anne Talkington
Kristin Taylor
Syndney Vigotov

Sound contributors:

John Le Sueur aka JLa
Johnathan Lawrence Harmon aka The Real Laww


Sunday Sites, this time at West Seminary Avenue photo by Stephanie Leathers

Sunday Sites, this time at West Seminary Avenue feat. Myra Scibetta Weise photo by Stephanie Leathers


Sunday Sites at West Seminary Avenue photo by Stephanie Leathers

Sunday Sites at West Seminary Avenue feat. Myra Scibetta Weise  photo by Stephanie Leathers




1 You must know about the Down Under?

2 There was a pre-Dos Perros era of margaritas at Toreros, too.

Aaron Mandel

Aaron Mandel is a writer and an accomplished public speaker. He is the publisher of the Clarion Content. For more than a decade, the Clarion Content has covered Durham’s arts, politics, music, and cultural milieu. From breaking news stories to the hottest local acts, the Clarion Content is on the scene. The Clarion Content published more than twenty distinguished guest columnists and garnered nearly a million views. Mandel is a volunteer for the Durham Mighty Pen Literacy Project and serves as the President of the Board of Sustain-A-Bull Durham, a local small business collective with more than 200 members. He writes regularly on the Clarion Content and has been quietly writing fiction since the 4th grade. Mandel has been published in the Raleigh News and Observer. He has also produced numerous art shows, including, “Durham under Development”. He was a featured speaker at “The State of Publishing” conference. He has presented to Durham Chamber of Commerce, “Chamber U” on the “New Media”. He has also served as the play-by-play announcer for the D.B.L., a Durham youth basketball league. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Religious Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington. An avid policy debater at Indiana and a Nation Debate Tournament qualifier, Mandel was also a member of the New Jersey State Champion two-person Policy Debate Team. He has lived in North Carolina, New Jersey, California, Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Indiana, and Baja California, Mexico.

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