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NGI Recipient: Alex Blenis

Session Attended: Folk Arts Center of New England - FAC Weekend (2010)

To The Pinewoods Board of Directors,

I wish to thank you for granting me this significant scholarship for the Folk Weekend. Coming to Pinewoods this year was one of the best parts of my summer because not only do I get to reunite with so many great people and spend time in one of the most beautiful parts of Massachusetts, but I was also able to spend time doing what I love: dancing.

The International Folk Dance community has been more than a source of friends and fun, or a stress release from the real world. This community is part of my family and imbedded so many different attributes into my personal characteristics, mannerisms and views of life. Growing up holding hands with people of all different races, with all different types of backgrounds, and from all different generations is something not many people in this world are able to experience growing up. Pinewoods has been one place that has been filled with these gifts in life along with a peaceful, serene atmosphere that makes learning. teaching. and networking even that much more fulfilling.

I have been going to Pinewoods since I was 7 months old. I grew up falling asleep wrapped onto my mothers back as she danced all through the night; then as I grew up, I began falling asleep under the benches, and then finally not being able to quit dancing until the musicians couldn’t play anymore. I used to be able to sleep through the stomping of the Hungarian lines and the shrill calling of the Bulgarian women’s dances. Now, I happily join in on the stomping. calling. prancing. spinning, and wholehearted livelihood that takes place on the dance floor. There was a time when it was a struggle for my mother to get me to dance. I would run off with the other kids who were my age or a little older. I was embarrassed that I was involved in something many kids of my age back in Boston saw as “weird” and “dorky.” What I didn’t see at the time was how much those kids were missing out. I realize and regret what I missed out on, as well, which is why I make it a point to dance as much as possible when I have the time between family, school, work and some kind of a social life.

This past Pinewoods, I came to camp with a recovering injury. I had torn ligaments, cartilage and muscle in my ankle from a lacrosse injury 2 months prior to coming. It was really devastating that I couldn’t get to stomp and jump and keep up with the teenagers, years younger than myself. Pinewoods is only once a year, and dancing in Csharp all through the day and late at night in the camphouse are moments I cherish. I was also really looking forward to the kids, seeing them dance and helping them learn footwork in between their runs to the camp store for ice cream and candy. It was sad not being able to teach the Broomdance this year, which I have taught the past 3 years along with Michaela. Michaela and I, along with several other now teens and young adults, performed the Broomdance at the New England Folk Festival (NEFFA)years before. It has been so great to pass along this dance to the next generation because not only have I made a connection with the next generation in a positive way, but I have also fulfilled a part of the purpose of Pinewoods and the folk dance community: to pass on dances created by different cultures years ago that should not be lost. We make new formations but keep the basic footwork and music the same to keep the dance from being stale and to give it new energy. Seeing the kids look forward to performing again is humbling and makes me feel like I’m making my mark in this community.

I have not touched much upon how involved my family is in this community because I am not my mother, my grandmother, grandfather, or other family members who have put so much into this community. I personally have much more to give to those whom I surround myself with. This community has given me tools to influence everyone around me in positive ways. I have observed and taken away my preferences in teaching and speaking with people from the different instructing styles of teachers from all over the world and used it in how I work with people in classrooms, in clinics, with friends and family, and people I network with. My understanding of movement also roots from dancing and the quick, confusing footwork I have learned over the years. There are so many people my age and older who have no understanding of their body, and I have seen how much a person changes while at Pinewoods when given helpful criticism and direction. Pinewoods is my favorite place to absorb all this love and learning. and I was so very thankful for the scholarship this year. I do wish I could have been a better teacher by example this year. but I know that my involvement will go on for years to come as I look forward to continuing to enjoy and share in this treasure.

Thank you so much for all you have given so I may give back to this community. It was my honor and very grateful to have been given this opportunity.