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NGI Recipient: Anna Smith

Session Attended: CDS Boston Centre - July 4th Weekend (2018)

I am writing to thank you for giving me the opportunity to attend the July 4th Weekend session at Pinewoods as an NGI scholar. I had a great time at the session and many of the experiences and interactions I had will aid and inform my participation in folk dance in the future.

During the weekend I assisted my partner, Lisa Heywood, in the delivery of her border morris workshops. I have danced and taught Cotswold morris before but have not had much experience with border, so this was very informative. I was able to learn more about the conventions of border morris (and how to play with and subvert them!) and observe the kinds of questions that people ask when learning border. It also encouraged me to think about the type of preparation necessary when teaching a style of dance to dancers who have a wide experience of dance generally but less experience of the form of dance being taught. As I have mainly taught beginners before this was a useful exercise to get me to consider how I might approach a similar challenge in the future.

I also very much enjoyed learning more about dancing Contra, Square and English. I have been dancing Contra for around two years now but the scene is much newer and smaller in the UK and so I rarely get the opportunity to dance with large numbers of people and observe different contra styles. Dancing Contra at July 4th Weekend was an excellent experience, and I feel my technique has improved as a result of doing so much dancing in the presence of people with a great level of experience of and passion for Contra. The weekend also gave me my first experience of ‘singing squares’ which were both challenging and fun! It was also great to do some English dancing which, ironically as I was born and bred in England, I have so far had very little experience of. As there were a lot of medium- to high-difficulty level English dances being called I also had some insight into how it feels to be one of the less experienced dancers in the room. This made me think about how to make newer and less experienced dancers feel welcome at social dances I am involved in organising in the UK.

I am currently a member of a rapper team so I decided to attend Gillian Stewart’s afternoon rapper workshops while at July 4th. These workshops were very interesting, and I enjoyed dancing rapper with new people, in a new position and learning some different figures. Beyond that my favourite thing about these workshops was the emphasis on creativity – once we had learned some figures we were encouraged to think about how to put them together, and then to practice creative or unusual flourishes to add to the figures or the transitions between them in order to make them more entertaining for ourselves and the audience. These workshops have inspired me to think more creatively about rapper dancing.

As well as the programmed workshops I found that the informal socialising at mealtimes and around the camp both very enjoyable and very interesting. Having not met many dancers from America before it was fascinating to discuss the similarities and differences between the US and the UK social and ritual dance scenes, and to share ideas and opinions about how dancing has and will continue to change and evolve in the future. I was touched by the warm welcome I received as a newcomer to Pinewoods and also by how willing people were to be open about their feelings about folk dance.

I would like to thank you again for giving me the opportunity to attend Pinewoods as a scholarship recipient and I would not hesitate to recommend the session to others in the future.