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NGI Recipient: Liz Faiella

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - English & American Week (2014)

Dear friends at Pinewoods and the Country Dance and Song Society,

As I write to you, I’m sitting by the fire on a chilly fall evening, dreaming of the sandy paths, shimmering ponds, and sunny days of English and American Dance Week. Without your help, I wouldn’t have these blissful memories of dancing the days and nights away. Many thanks for giving me this week of music, dance, and friendship!

When I first pulled into camp and glimpsed the Pinewoods sign, I felt that sense of eager anticipation contra dancers get when they arrive at a contra dance, hear the music, and feel their spirits rise. Determined to enjoy E & A Week with all my might, I dropped my luggage in my room at Hunsdon House, paused to admire the glorious screened porch with a view of the pond, and ran off to my first Pinewoods dinner and evening dance.

Before long I was dancing, dancing, dancing to my heart’s content (a rare experience for me—dances never seem quite long enough). And to such music and calling! We danced in the morning to a mesmerizing blend of fiddle, piano, and accordion in “English for All.” We danced in the afternoon to David Boulanger’s spirited fiddle tunes, each prefaced with “This one is going to be a good one!” We danced in the evening to the ever-evolving evening dance band. And we danced all day long to impeccable calling, the kind that comes just at the right moment, so you almost think you came up with the next figure yourself. I discovered anew the delight of creating this communal artwork with masterful callers, musicians, and dancers.

When I wasn’t dancing, I had my fiddle in my hands, jamming with new friends. Playing tunes out on the porch of the camphouse during swim time… playing tunes in the camper band… playing tunes by the path up to the dining hall as campers wandered towards lunch… playing tunes at the camper contra dance, trying to make them “slinky” or “dorky,” at the various callers’ requests… playing tunes into the wee hours of the last night of camp.

The week went by too fast, but Pinewoods didn’t let me leave empty-handed. I had gained a network of friends and colleagues well versed in the music and dance tradition I love. I’d learned a great deal about the musician-dancer-caller connection—about how the three work together, in a sort of alchemy that makes the contra dance experience greater than the sum of its parts. And I came back with the renewed enthusiasm that comes from a beautiful dance experience.

These gifts I received are meant to be shared, and I look forward to bringing a slice of Pinewoods back to my home dance and music community. I’m very grateful to my sponsor David Millstone, my mentor Pat Petersen, PCI, and CDSS for making my first Pinewoods experience (of many, I hope) possible!