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NGI Recipient: Gabrielle Lanza

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

My feet crunched on the path back to my cabin, feeling contentedly exhausted after a glorious night of contra and English dancing. As I walked away from the warm light of the dance pavilion, an image from that evening’s dinner popped into my head: many hands stacking plates together. I was suddenly struck by a surge of overwhelming hope. Though I was ambling on my own, I felt surrounded by community. Harmony Week, I thought, how fitting. This entire week had been a testament to harmony, not just in singing and dancing, but in living alongside one another. On the dance floor or in the dining hall we found ways to work together and consider the health of the group at large. Watching all of us intentionally work toward interpersonal harmony was the most magical part of this week.

My first visit to Pinewoods was beyond any of my expectations. Shared meals, lake swimming, singing with new friends, and improving dance skills all added up to a challenging and wildly fun time. Maybe it’s the gorgeous grounds or the playfulness of the other campers, but there is a hum of possibility at Pinewoods. Fittingly, the highlights of my week were in fleeting, unexpected moments like hearing the ever-changing soundscape of instruments and chatter as I walked the paths, spontaneous singing and jamming, and chatting with folks between class sessions. Seeing a crew of campers and staff (best house band that’s ever existed!) make the blues dance night such a success was really special as well.

Though I struggled the first few days to transition to the full schedule and high levels of extroversion, these growing pains ended up transforming into something beautiful. My chronic health issues often leave me feeling exhausted and mentally overwhelmed, but when I shared my discomfort with others I felt completely safe and understood. (Honoring each of our differences: a pillar of making harmony.) While I didn’t attend as many class sessions as I would have liked, I stilI learned so much. I developed my leading skills in contra, waltz, and blues and I can sing more confidently with others — which is typically out of my comfort zone!

As a dance organizer and musician, my mind was a sponge most of the time. I felt thankful to witness the functionality and values of this camp, to be near folks of such diverse ages and hometowns, and have conversations about things like preferred pronouns. And being in close proximity to such high caliber musicians (both staff and campers) has kept me inspired long after Harmony Week ended. I’m definitely bringing some new tricks back to my dance band.

There are multiple more pages of excellent memories I could write here. (But it would get far too sappy.) Receiving this scholarship allowed me to fully immerse myself in this invigorating experience. Thank you to everyone connected to the New Generation Initiative Scholarship Program, the Country Dance and Song Society, and Pinewoods Camp. Making events like this accessible to more young people enriches our entire dance community. My week at Pinewoods is sticking with me and is certainly permeating throughout my creative and personal life.