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NGI Recipient: Darienne DeWalt

Session Attended: CDS Boston Centre - July 4th Weekend (2016)

Thank you so much for the scholarship that enabled me to attend Pinewoods for the first time this year! I had an amazing time meeting tons of nice people, dancing, playing my fiddle, singing, and just being in such a beautiful place!

When I first arrived, bumping across the dirt road, into camp I was struck by how beautiful and peaceful the grounds of Pinewoods were. After wandering down paths, I eventually saw some welcoming lights through the trees and walked over to a large pavilion filled with people. I knew a few of them, and I recognized many more from morris and contra dances. I snuck in and sat at the edge to listen to the rules. When that was over, Natty showed me around the camp and helped my find my cabin. We went back to the pavilion for the evening dance, where I discovered English Country Dance! I danced with and learned from people with decades more experience. Despite the fact that Fourth of July weekend is a session mostly composed of people who know each other well and have been dancing most of their lives, everyone was really welcoming and friendly and always seemed to be willing to show me how to improve. I danced every dance that evening, and I couldn’t stop smiling, even after I went to bed.

The next day was the first day of classes, and there were so many that I wanted to take! It was really hard to choose only one per period. I started with Cotswold Morris, which was led by Ben Moss. I’ve been dancing Cotswold Morris since I was 7, but there was still so much to learn. We started learning a dance in a triangle-shaped set, with a bunch of new figures. It took so much energy, and was also a ton of fun. The second class I went to was Rapper Sword, taught by Sarah Henry. It used a different stepping pattern than I am used to and changed some of the figures. It also had a lot of pauses between figures and more rhythm. It was rapper but it felt almost like longsword.

After a break where I met new people and lunch, I went to North-West. It was interesting to learn a new style of morris dancing. Then I headed off to Band class to learn about how to play for folk dancing. A little too excited for another great class at Pinewoods, I ran over to the room where the class was, slipped on pine needles, and fell on a rock. Just wanting to play my fiddle and continue enjoying Pinewoods, I ignored my bloody knee and limped into the building. I played my fiddle and learned some new tunes and harmonies from Kate Barnes.

The last class I went to was Dance Style, taught by Rich Jackson, where I learned some new figures as well as how to dance with the music better and how to improve various figures. Unfortunately that evening, while I was dancing my knee started hurting a lot and I thought that I had tore my meniscus (as I had twice before) I decided to stay off it for the rest of the weekend so I wouldn’t hurt it more. I was able to go back to the camphouse and learn a new tune from Natty. That evening, at pub night, I led a song for the first time. It was somewhat nerve wracking but it was also amazing!

The rest of the weekend, I went to most of the same workshops, and Michael Gorin let me play with him for the dancing, teaching me when they were learning the dance and then playing for them. Karen Axelrod also let me play with her for North-West. I learned so much from them and it helped a ton with learning by ear! Everyone was so nice and helpful and I had an amazing time even though I was on crutches for most of the weekend.

Later, I went to a knee specialist and had an MRI. It turns out that I did not tear my meniscus, I just bruised the bone and staying off it was enough to make it heal. It would not have harmed it even if I had danced some. Better safe then sorry? I guess I’ll just have to go back!

Overall, I had an amazing time at Pinewoods, despite getting hurt. Everyone there was so nice, I had the opportunity to play with and learn from some amazing musicians, and I got to do some dancing as well. Thank you so much for this scholarship!