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NGI Recipient: Cyndal Ellis

Session Attended: Folk Arts Center of New England - Folk Days (2009)

The last night of Folk Days at Pinewoods…

Liz thanks those involved in organizing or contributing to this year’s Weekend and Folk Days, inviting them one by one to join in a final line dance. After going through the list of administrators, teachers, musicians, volunteers, etc.., the campers are also thanked and called in. Essentially, everyone in attendance at the festival, young, old, and everything in between, is invited to share in a final experience. The line of dancers snakes across stage in spirals and waves, at one point doubling back on itself to form two columns, face to face. Every dancer passes by every other dancer, smiling, nodding, and acknowledging one another’s presence, participation, and mutual respect. This is family. This is why I seek out communities of folk dancers.

The family of dancers at Pinewoods embodied everything I love about folk dancing: community and commonality. At Pinewoods, I felt a sense of timelessness that is particular to folk traditions: multiple generations woven together in a common knowledge of and experience of dance and music. In learning and passing on international folk traditions, folk dancers and musicians transcend past, present, and future and cut across national lines. As long as one is involved in folk dancing or folk music, it is impossible to feel lonely or alienated. My Pinewoods experience re-affirmed and re-asserted my commitment to folk dance and music as a kind of community service. I was warmly welcomed into a tight-knit group that extended beyond my small Vermont town, proving the inherent potential of folk dance to build and strengthen community, and I was inspired to contribute my own efforts and energy to keeping folk traditions alive.

See you all again next year!