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NGI Recipient: Max Williams

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - American Dance & Music Week (2021)

Pinewoods is the most incredible thing I’ve been part of since I started dancing. Given the context of having not danced like this for almost two years, it was the powerful message I needed in my heart telling me that I am loved and my community is still there for me. I was surrounded by talented musicians jamming here and there. I would hear beautiful music from powerful folk melodies and moving solo piano pieces, while just walking around camp.

The culture among contra dancers was refreshing and kind. We were forgiving to each other as everyone was a bit rusty. I was also very happy to waltz with lots of people I hadn’t met and in both roles, as I learned a lot and got to practice and feel good about my old skills. The musicians were incredible, and I learned that “the dancing is actually just to entertain the musicians while they play,” which I think is a wonderful turn of perspective.

The traditions of gathering were strange to me as a new camper but the cheerful songs and games quickly became a staple of my day, something that tied it together even after napping through a few periods of classes catching up on sleep after dancing all night. Gathering and harmony singing let me gain confidence in my own musical abilities, which I haven’t practiced in public since I’ve started learning.

Pinewoods was a wonderful experience, and thanks to the NGI scholarship I was able to afford to make it to camp. My gratitude goes to all of the donors, and all of the staff and musicians (and dancers!) that made camp a reality. Thank you Pinewoods!