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NGI Recipient: Francesca Bester

Session Attended: Folk Arts Center of New England - FAC Weekend (2021)

Although I have attended the FAC weekend several times now, I worry every summer that I won’t be able to make it work. After last year’s unfortunate (but completely necessary) cancelation, I was especially desperate to be back at Pinewoods this summer, despite my better judgment telling me to focus on saving money for grad school. The NGI scholarship was the final push I needed to commit to making pinewoods work around my job and hesitations, and I’m so glad it did!

From the moment I had time to take a breath after arriving on Friday (my first half hour was dedicated to finding freezer space for several gallons of ice cream and toppings) I felt as if I had never left. The stress of living in a pandemic and going a year and a half without dancing melted away. Although I still had a few moments of “mask panic” and often felt quite overwhelmed at the sheer number of people around me, this pinewoods weekend helped me grow in ways I haven’t since the FAC weekend in 2019. From finally feeling like I could almost keep up singing Ladarke to being in charge of an afterparty for the first time to making a new dance friend for the first time in a while, the weekend brought so many lovely moments and interesting challenges. There were also all the classic moments I had dreamed about for the last two years—singing (quietly) on the dock in the middle of the night, raving about the incredible bread, waltzing at the end of the dance party, and so many more.

Even though I didn’t grow up folk dancing like many of my friends, and I sometimes feel intimidated when they say things like, “I’ve been dancing since before I could walk!” over the last few years, I have come to see the folk dance community and the pinewoods community as completely invaluable and a huge part of my identity. As one dance friend once said, “These are my people”. As someone who has often felt like an outsider or a person without community, the care and comfort of the people I’ve met at Pinewoods, FAC, and CDS events is unmatched. I feel so lucky to have had these experiences and opportunities over the last few years, and especially after the year we all just experienced. Thank you.