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NGI Recipient: Katrina Gerhard

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - American Week (2013)

Dear PCI and CDSS,

This summer I received an NGI scholarship. I attended American Dance and Music Week. The experience was really eye opening for me. I realized that dance is not a single thing, but a web of many people and experiences woven together to create this fabulous community. I came to Pinewoods expecting to not dance because I use a wheelchair. I was wrong in that assumption, and by the end of the first night I had already done three contras. It felt too good to be true that I was getting to dance again with my favorite people, but the experience did not end there. I got to play my concertina in music jam sessions and classes. I was able to memorize some new tunes and improve my music-making skills. I am excited to use these skills to help me in the future as I play for morris and rapper sword.

Of course, I still ran into some challenges while I was there. I had to first figure out how to get myself around the camp, which is not completely wheelchair accessible. The roots and woodchips make for a difficult time getting up hills and some of the buildings require a large detour to be taken to avoid the stairs. Despite these setbacks, I pushed myself everywhere without assistance. I was able to get from class to class, slowly but surely. I did appreciate how many people were willing to help if I had asked for it, and the cabin I was given that did not have steps to get inside. As I previously said, I contra danced in my wheelchair. It was really fun, but not the same as dancing standing up. Another challenge I faced was not feeling as graceful as I used to while dancing. I knew that I wanted to get more out of dancing than I can while using the wheelchair. So I took a calling course.

This brings me to the best part of camp: calling! I took a class with Sue Rosen on calling contra dances. By Tuesday I had participated in an open mic. By Wednesday, I was calling for three full contra sets at Camper’s Night. I felt closer to the community at that point, even though physically I was up on the stage and not down with the dancers. The band consisted of Michael (my mentor) and Eva (another scholarship recipient). The dance went perfectly! I did not call any wrong figures, and my calls were on time. I even remembered to say the name of the dance and who wrote it. After the dance, many people told me to keep trying to find calling opportunities. I even had some offers to call dances in the spring all by myself. Without the scholarship, I would never have had the opportunity I did and I would not have realized how much I love calling. Pinewoods gave me a safe place to practice since the people there are not critical and they realize that I am just starting out. I now have the confidence to try calling elsewhere.

I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity. It has given me new and rare experiences. I have found other niches for myself in the folk community. It is easy to see now that all those different aspects of the community can provide just as much satisfaction as dancing. The dancers, the callers, the musicians, they all need each other. Without one, the web would be broken. My week at Pinewoods opened my eyes to that. With that knowledge, I hope to go and help enlarge the folk community. I want to spread the joy that can be found by dancing or by participating in other ways.