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NGI Recipient: Harsh Singh

Session Attended: Folk Arts Center of New England - Hungarian Weekend (2019)

I attended Pinewoods camp for the first time this year for the Hungarian dance weekend. From the moment I lost cell phone signal, I knew I was in for a treat. The hectic pace of the city slowed down as we made our way onto the camp grounds through the countless tall trees and the breathtaking ponds. Adventure began immediately at the greeters corner where I got my camper duties, a schedule, a map and a mysterious marble. It continued as we made our way to our cabins. Soon I had my first mission: take a swim in the long pond. After unpacking my bag and changing into my swimming trunks I encountered the first place to fit my marble. A lamp with a track next to my bed captivated me as I watched the marble strike the pull switch on its way to the base. I looked outside my window and was greeted by nature rather than city lights, asphalt, and buildings.

I took a dip in the pond and I was not alone. Soon Barbara was in the water and then Jane. The water was clear and warm with cold patches here and there. A few feet away was a floating dock. The perfect place to catch the sun while being gently rocked. The perfect place to try handstands. Returning to the shore in time for the tour, I spotted Joel bringing in finely crafted kayaks, wooden masterpieces that I would later discover are an absolute pleasure to ride. Next, the grand tour of pinewoods, full with history, sights and places of interest. Here I encountered the dance gazebos with dance floors that made you want to stomp loud and jump around. Here I studied the blue bell flowers, bugs, and the oscillating plants.

Friday started strong and only got stronger. Next up dinner, a vegetarian meal with local fresh vegetables, freshly made bread, and a lovely desert. After a few announcements we were off to the dance hall where we got a preview of the dance we were going to learn over the weekend, Vajdaszentivanyi. Then as the New Yorker gang arrived, the dancing started with lots of Hungarian dances as well as Balkan dances and couple dances. I really liked the mix of dances, since I didn’t know enough Hungarian dancing. Dancing other styles I did know helped restore my confidence and we danced the night away. The magnificent Fenyes band brought out the A game in dancers and I found myself admiring the rhythm, skill, grace, and macho-ness of Hungarian dancing. The interactions between the band and the dancers were playful and intimate and stand as a bright memory.

The next day, we had breakfast and as I was walking from the dining hall to C sharp minor I was in awe at how beautifully the sunlight trickled through the trees onto the path. The cabins were thoughtfully built, highlighting the natural beauty of the surroundings while remaining accessible. I also admired how fresh and full the air smelt. Feeling thoroughly at ease, I arrived at the C sharp minor dance floor. First up was turning practice. I enjoyed the turning practice as a lead, even though it was advertised for follows. This proved useful when I was leading because it gave me understanding that the lead should add easing to the turns to make them feel good. This was followed by Denes’s class which I thought was well paced, packed with great patterns and stylings, humor, and honesty. There was enough time to practice and review and the breaks were also well placed. Again, I was in awe in dancing to the live music with friendly talented people surrounded by nature and the freshest of air. During the breaks I also got a chance to decompress by making a few water color paintings, eating ice cream and having some great conversations.

Time flies when you’re having fun, that’s for sure, and with a snap of the fingers and a couple of claps the weekend was nearing an end. In a weekend, I experienced the best that life has to offer: music, dance, friendship, nature, food, art, relaxation and a place to fit in. What’s left are the sweet memories of rhubarb pie, cookies and cakes, a pinewoods shirt, and a desire to learn more Hungarian dance.

Living in Boston, there is no shortage of things going on. This weekend, had I stayed at home, I would have performed with Mladost in the World Community Dance Day in Harvard square, gone to a waltz, maybe attended a concert at the New England Conservatory, cooked with my roommates, and probably gone to a rueda dance. However, the NGI scholarship made choosing Pinewoods and the Hungarian dance weekend a no-brainer. The result was an unforgettable memory and the start of a life-long Pinewoods dance camp tradition. I want to really thank the Pinewoods and the Folk Arts Center community for having this scholarship and for helping sway me to come here. Most of all, I want to thank everyone for building something so precious and beautiful! I know I’ll keep coming back.