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NGI Recipient: Amanda Schuepfer

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - American Dance and Music Week (2019)

The American Dance and Song Week was an incredible opportunity for me to improve my skills as a dancer, leader, and dance organizer for welcoming newcomers into the dance community, and my skills as a beginning caller.  I was profoundly shaped by the experience as a dancer and beginning caller, because of both the people and experiences I had during the week of community, song, and dance.  I would have not had the opportunity to attend a full-week camp session at Pinewoods without the help of the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS) and Pinewoods Camp scholarship program.

I was grateful for the opportunity to dance with Sierra Club members, who were newcomer dancers to the contra and square dance community.  One experience I was blessed with, was being the very first contra dance partner to two members of a family during the evening dance.  I also was fortunate to be the partner of a third member from this Sierra Club family for his second dance.  Before the dances, the family had only participated in a newcomers to contra dance workshops during the daytime part of their camp week.  As a starting dance caller, it was a priceless experience to learn strategies and tactics for teaching newcomers the flow and moves of contra dances.  Also, I was grateful to dance with two younger members of the family, who had positive attitudes of adaptability, going with the flow, and having fun!  Dancing with a family of relative newcomers to contra and community dance taught me that, as a future dance caller, looking for signs of joy and fun from new dancers is equally important as teaching the dance technique.

Sarah VanNorstrand’s calling workshop was also highly valuable to myself as a dancer and a beginning dance caller.  She explained to myself and other participants how to design and call an effective dance walkthrough in ways that are clear and concise for dancers.  Sarah helped provide tips for writing and revising dance walk-throughs that supported my dance teaching skills as a beginning dance caller.  She served as a strong role model through her willingness to share actual dances and calling cards.  Also, I learned how vital it is for dance callers to be collaborative and cooperative, through the way she collaborated and connected with the musicians and sound team at the calling workshop, and her other contra dance sessions.  In addition, I was fortunate to have classmates with varying experiences and strengths as callers and learned much from the cooperative atmosphere and discussion with classmates during the calling workshop sessions.

The calling, contra, and square dance workshops I participated in were highly valuable, because I walked away with a stronger sense of my identity as a Sicilian circle dance, American community dance, and contra dance caller.  The new skills and dances I became aware of during camp will help me in the near future.  For example, I am a preschool teacher, and I teach Universal Pre-Kindergarten at a school with 2 dance and music performances during the academic year.  I’m looking forward to continuing to develop my beginning dance calling skills as I share some simple American community dances or Sicilian circle dances with my preschool class.  Last school year, I only taught 1 American community folk dance, but, this year, my goal is to teach students at least 2 dances for their performances.  Also, I hope now to teach extra Sicilian circle or American community dances as a choice activity when students have outdoor or gross motor play, so the children who are interested and excited in American community dance have many experiences to have fun dancing!

I emerged from Pinewoods transformed; moreover, the confidence and skills I developed as a beginning caller reflect the truth of what was a magical dance experience.  For example, now, I have more confidence in seeking opportunities to call dances.  For instance, I go camping with a group of family friends annually and realized that would be the perfect opportunity to call a Sicilian circle dance and American community dance.  I am organizing an event either on the beach at North/South Lake that weekend, or at a campsite that evening for my friends who are campers.  Some of my friends in the camping group have not had the opportunity to try Sicilian circles or American community dance before.  I realize my challenge lies in what to do in the future, with the joy of American community dance I felt at camp, and how to bring it into the world to children and families who many not have experienced it yet.

Pinewoods helped me to realize it is the mission of any folk dancer or musician who truly cares about the folk traditions of music and dance to seek out opportunities to bring the joys of American folk dance and music to others, from newcomers to more experienced dancers.  I am looking forward to sharing simple circle, family, and American barn dances, both with my Universal Pre-Kindergarten students, and with my family friends who are relative newcomers to American community and barn dance.