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NGI Recipient: Dragan Gill

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - English & American Week (2012)

Dear Country Dance and Song Society and Pinewoods Camp,

Thank you so much for an opportunity to return to Pinewoods as a camper this year. I had a wonderful time at English & American Week. I wanted to attend E&A for the English Caller’s Seminar, to get my toe in the water for calling, and got more out of it than I imagined I would. Joanna Reiner’s thoughts into not only what she does as a caller, but why she does it, were helpful in translating the ideas into my own style. Julie Vallimont’s perspective as a musician was an invaluable addition I would have struggled to find on my own. I plan on practicing calling dances at my local series and hope to plan an evening that encourages younger dancers in the near future.

In addition to the caller’s seminar I also attended the Beginning Appalachian Clog class, my first real foray into percussive dance. Leela Grace’s teaching style was encouraging, and broke down the elements of the dance style into manageable chunks. The camaraderie in the class was also very helpful in staying motivated in what proved to be the hardest class I took this year at camp. Everyone’s determination to “get it” by the end of the week, and our rally to perform together during the show and tell on Friday, made the class all the better. I find myself absent-mindedly practicing the steps I learned while waiting in lines or for crosswalks.

Jim Morrison’s Morris class, in which we learned four Addlebury dances, challenged my Morris skills with odd sticking patterns and needing to remember lyrics while sticking said odd sticking patterns, but was incredibly fun and amazingly productive for one week. Classes like this leave me in awe of how much we can learn at camp. It was a great opportunity to learn a tradition that few outside of Addlebury perform. I don’t know when or where but I would love to spread this tradition with others if the opportunity arises.

I ended classes again with Leela in her Harmony Singing by Ear class. I enjoyed the opportunity to branch out by singing parts I do not usually sing, and frequently got goosebumps when everyone sang together while walking around the circle – an exercise in hearing how different parts interact. I do not have enough opportunities to sing at home, and this week-long infusion of singing daily was something I didn’t realize I missed until it was in front of me.

There are no words I can use to explain the joy of being at camp in addition to classes. Silly games at gatherings and on the raft, evening activities, the incredible food, meeting kindred spirits from around the country and internationally all make up the moments from day to day that are hardest to recover from when returning to the real world. I leave camp mentally and physically exhausted but somehow energized from the show and tell and the new skills I have picked up along the way. I am always amazed by the talent, curiosity and warmth of my fellow campers; that is what I carry home with me, even when I forget the steps or the verses to the songs when the chorus remains embedded in my brain for eternity.

Without the NGI scholarship I would not have been able to return to camp this year. I am incredibly grateful to Jan Elliot and Sarah Pilzer, who fielded my initial requests; Linda Henry for organizing everything; Carol Ansel for writing very nice things about me as my sponsor; and Mies Boet-Whitaker for being my camp mentor, even when I was late to dinner. Every time I have gone to camp it has been with enormous support from the dance community. That generosity means so much to me and keeps me dancing. I strive to return that generosity into the community as much as I can through volunteering for my local contra dance, helping teach new members of my morris team, starting up my ECD calling career and volunteering at as many Pinewoods work weekends as I can.

See you around the dance floor