«Back to all NGI Letters

NGI Recipient: Noah Hoffman

Session Attended: Folk Arts Center of New England - FAC Weekend (2014)

Thank You from a New Folk

Reflection on the NGI scholarship and the FAC International Folk Dance and Music Weekend at Pinewoods Camp

I met Marcie Van Cleave at the Woods Hole Contra Dance two weekends before the FAC International Folk Dance and Music Weekend at Pinewoods Camp. I’ve been contra dancing for five years (a mere second in folk dance time) and I was amazed by the ability of the caller to deal with the constant influx of new-to-contra dancers entering the dance throughout the night. After the dance I thanked Marcie, the caller, and it came up that I contra dance at Oberlin College. ‘Oberlin??’ Marcie responded. ‘Have you ever heard of Pinewoods?’ Two weekends later, Marcie and Roberto picked me up from all the way in Falmouth before the International Folk Dance and Music Weekend’s first dinner.

Before June 19, 2014, I had never done international folk dancing in the FAC sense. My folk dancing experience was limited to contra, with evenly timed steps and a caller, so on that first night I learned that international folk dance is folded with a different kind of intricacy. Elements of this intricacy, steps of variable speed and intimacy with a whole body of dancers instead of one or two at a time, correspond to my experience at Pinewoods. Throughout the weekend I met incredibly kind and intelligent people day in and day out, danced beautiful new dances, breathed in a whirlwind of experiences, and breathed out a sigh of relief.

When I got to Pinewoods, I knew two people, both of whom I’d met only once before. However, every experience I had told me that it was okay to be a newcomer and that Pinewoods, and the folk arts community, is a beautiful place to be active. As I left camp two days later I told Marcie that I didn’t have words to express my thanks for bringing me to Pinewoods. While I’m not sure my words are much advanced now, I’ve had a chance to reflect and understand how much it means to me that she, Pinewoods Camp Inc., and FAC invited me to participate in the future of folk dance. Though I’ve been tangentially connected to folk dancing since I was small, this weekend taught me that I am an autonomous member of the folk dance community.

So thank you to the folks who organize the NGI scholarship who enabled me to participate in this weekend and who have encouraged me to become a member of the folk dance community. Thank you to the Pinewoods Camp crew and organizers for making a beautiful space to dance in. Thank you to every camp participant, from the kind souls who told me where to put my feet, to the friends I made through conversations lasting anywhere from a couple minutes to a whole afternoon. And finally, thank you to FAC; I am awe inspired by your work.