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NGI Recipient: Christine Merryman

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - American Dance & Music Week (2016)

I had such an amazing time this year during the CDSS American Dance & Music Week at Pinewoods Camp.  Thanks to the scholarship, I was able to live in another world of dance, music, and fun!  I made new friends, enjoyed countless hearty meals, went swimming, played games at the camphouse, and danced until my legs almost fell off.

One thing that changed this week was that I gained more confidence in leading.  It sure helped that there were more follows that attended camp this session, but I would have led dances regardless of the balance of leads to follows.  I do feel however that this unbalance encouraged me to do even more leading.

One of the classes that I attended was the Waltz Workshop.  I’ve been waltzing for over 7 years now, the majority of those years waltzing as a follow, so I feel super confident dancing that role.  I have not had as much experience leading and maybe started leading waltzes 1-2 years ago.  Because I was determined to improve my leading in waltz, I led every day.  Whenever I came across a person that was switching from lead to follow, I switched with them so we could both practice the new move we learned in both roles.  Not only was Gaye Fifer an amazing teacher, but I was also lucky to have so many fantastic follows in the class.  It was very refreshing to get constructive feedback as well from each of my partners, which was greatly encouraged throughout the week.

A moment that truly stood out for me happened not at Pinewoods but happened back in the real world when I brought what I had learned at camp into a contra dance that I attended in East Thetford, Vermont.  I had never been to this dance before, didn’t know anyone, and just wanted to check it out while I was in the area. When it came time for the 1st waltz, I asked this woman to dance and began leading her around the barn, throwing at her all the tricks and fun moves I had learned all week at camp.  I must have been leading her well because she picked up all the moves and had this blissful smile on her face throughout.  Everything just clicked so well.  I’ll never forget her look of surprise and excitement at the end of the waltz when she told me how much fun she had and complimented me on my leading.  A truly memorable moment that I will never forget.

The whole camp experience at Pinewoods was very special and I felt so lucky to be able to attend under this scholarship.  Thanks again and I hope to return in the future!