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NGI Recipient: Dana Dwinell-Yardley

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - Harmony of Song and Dance (2017)

Thank you so much for the scholarship that made it possible for me to attend the CDSS Harmony Week. Six weeks later, I am still thinking about my experience, which is a testament to the effect that this week had on me.

I hadn’t ever been to Pinewoods or to a weeklong dance camp before. Having that much time to settle into friendships, dig into new skills, and find my way in a new space was truly magical. Each day was so full, and each night I went to bed thinking, “I can’t believe I get to do this again tomorrow, and the next day, and all week!”

Arriving in the dark late on Saturday night, I spent the first 24 hours learning the geography of Pinewoods, and falling in love with the twisting paths, the marble runs, the open-air pavilions, glimpses of the pond and bits of music and laughter coming through the trees. There is nothing like being outside all week to help me be an optimal human being.

I deeply enjoyed the three classes I attended: duets and trios with Mia Bertelli, choral singing with Nils Fredland, and blues with Tresne Hernandez. All three leaders were talented, compassionate, fun, and encouraging — which really could be said about all of the week’s staff! I also felt great support from the other campers. I have been in very few other folk and singing environments where folks with such a wide range of musical skills were so kind and welcoming and supportive of one another.

That culture of support and enthusiasm for trying new things helped me to take risks and grow as a singer over the week. I stretched the boundaries of my repertoire and my ability to learn quickly in Nils’ choral class, and I stretched the boundaries of my confidence and listening in Mia’s duets and trios class. And what sweet exhilaration when I successfully held my own part with just two other singers, or learned Bach in just a few days! That confidence has come home with me and will continue to inspire me as I sing in my own communities.

As a dance organizer, I appreciated getting to learn more about the history of blues and think more deeply about — and practice — consent culture and partner communication in Tresne’s blues class. And ceilidh dancing reminded me just how much fun it is to stomp and sashay and whoop your way around the hall, much like the family and community dances I am beginning to call!

None of this fabulously good time would have been possible without the incredible individuals who made up the Harmony Week community. I reveled in spending a whole week with friends close and dear. I deepened my connections with friends just beginning. I found sparks of delight in friends brand new. From sunset canoe rides full of hysterical laughter to singing in the shower only to hear someone else singing in harmony as they walked by, from mealtime conversations to late-night hugs to face-splitting grins after a dance, from impromptu practice sessions between classes to breaking into chorale songs after camp, my highlights and memories are full of the faces, voices, and hearts that surrounded me all week.

One night, I chose to walk to C# from C# Minor, through the dark tall pines with the light and sound of dancing ahead of me. I walked slowly and soaked in the quiet peace of being surrounded by trees and the deep joy of friends just ahead, wishing it would last forever and feeling immensely grateful.

Thank you so much for giving me that moment, and for a whole week of hilarity, exhilaration, and gratitude. I am proud to be a part of the living tradition of music and dance carried on by the kindred spirits at Harmony Week and across the country. Here’s to many more years of shared joy!