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NGI Recipient: Katarina Dutton

Session Attended: Royal Scottish Country Dance Society - Scottish Session II (2011)

I would just like to send thanks for granting me the NGI scholarship for Scottish Session II this year. It allowed me to visit Pinewoods for the first of what I hope is many times, and gave me the chance to spend time in a beautiful location, doing things I love with the people I love. I had a wonderful time, and am quite grateful for the opportunity.

One of the most exciting things, going into the session, was the opportunity for me to learn dance styles and technique not normally accessible to me. I took the Highland class every day, excited to get a beginner-friendly introduction to a dance form that’s fascinated me for some time. I was able to learn several different basic steps, which were strung together into a simple routine for the class to present at the final ball. Highland was especially fun as I could work bits of it into the various dances as well, performing more elaborate setting steps and getting a chance to show off and refine my new skills.

I was also able to make it to one of the high-impact advanced classes, where I received instruction in some of the less-common Scottish figures, ones I had learned briefly or not at all in my regular mixed-level class. The teachers were fascinating and thorough, and I certainly learned things which I can take and use in my future dance experience.

I was not expecting the amount of time I spent in leisurely “outdoor” pursuits. I had a wonderful time though, canoeing with a friend and exploring the local flora and fauna, or spending hours splashing in the lake, playing boisterous games of ‘keep-away’ and ‘king of the hill’ with fellow young dancers and crew. Pinewoods is a beautiful camp, and getting to explore it was an unexpected bonus to the dancing.

Unexpected too was the casual down-time spent just socializing with the other campers. The camphouse porch was my favourite place to spend my afternoons, especially when the weather got colder. Groups of people would be playing games –happy to let me join– or reading books or just quietly socializing and cooing over Sophie-the-dog or Ian and Gwen’s adorable baby. While many of my fellow campers were from my local dance class, just as many weren’t, and it was wonderful to make new friends with people from all over the country and world. I left the camp with several blossoming friendships, which I hope will continue over the next several years as we encounter each other again at Pinewoods, or other dance events.

Of course, dancing with those same people did even more to cement our friendships. I loved going to the balls every night, and getting to dance with the multitude of talented and friendly dancers. The best part was in knowing that, even if I missed getting to dance with a particular friend, there would be another ball the very next night, and the night after that, and the night after that! My whole body ached from how much physical work I was doing, but I wouldn’t trade that opportunity for constant dancing for anything. The last ball was particularly bittersweet, but even then I knew there would be a thorough party at Pinecones, to celebrate our last night together.

Pinewoods was one of the best vacations I’ve had in years, and I was reluctant to drive away on Saturday. I eagerly look forward to coming back in the years to come (starting with the September work weekend if I can!), and returning to the place and people that feel so much like home.