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NGI Recipient: Lizzy Hazeltine

Session Attended: CDS Boston Centre - First Weekend (Swing into Summer) (2014)

NGI Follow Up Reflection on Swing into Summer

I sensed that last weekend would be important. I rolled up to camp with high hopes, but few concrete expectations about what my first brush with a northern dance weekend and Pinewoods would entail. It was a “First Weekend” in the truest sense.

With the mandate of the NGI rattling in the back of my head, I flung myself heart-first into the opportunity, determined to say “yes” and soak it all in. I tried new things – rapper, English country dancing, zwiefacher – and built layers of muscle memory around not-so-new but still intimidating things – singing in pub night, plucking an alto line out of the air in community chorus, plugging in with close-knit groups of frighteningly talented people – and reveling in the joy of sharing things I love with others who love them too – late-night porch sits, early morning swimming, waltzing everywhere. Being new to the place freed me up to dive into all of these things without talking myself out of anything except calling, but that’s another story.

The warmth of the welcome caught me up in invitations to dance, swim, walk, talk, eat, and share. No question: the people made the event. Invigorating conversations about the big questions around dancing and the people who love it cropped up while passing around plates of cookies just as easily as exchanges about which bands make us swoon or the value of sunscreen while lounging on the dock. As easily as I felt I fit with the group, having Max Newman as my backstop for logistics and support steadied me in a subtle way, even if we didn’t spend the bulk of the weekend together. The long conversations begun that weekend will continue as I deepen the connections I was lucky enough to make with fellow campers and staff. Some of my best conversations came while waltzing with older women – moments of candor and sharing that I didn’t expect, but will stick with me. I’ve tucked away other moments – muddling my way, laughing, through a particularly thorny English dance with a playful partner or plopping a green plastic beehive wig on my head for the parade or diving into Long Pond at midnight.

I came to this weekend looking to learn about framing happy, inclusive, successful dance events. One organizational element of Pinewoods, and Swing into Summer, that struck me as notably successful was the schedule. There was always a choice of what to do, but I never felt that the structure forced me into angst about where I would be. I know I didn’t check all the boxes (missed Marjoléne’s clogging and Jan’s longsword, for example), but even after the weekend bliss has burned off, I know my weekend wasn’t anything other than exactly what it was meant to be.

I’m grateful for the support and freedom to join this extraordinary group of people for a too-brief immersion in a community that is dedicated to inclusion, kindness, and growth, from the young folks to seasoned dancers and staff. The time there was a rare moment when I could unplug from my usual context and associated distractions, assumptions, and insecurities, to focus on people, place, and purpose. I know I’m only beginning to unpack my experience and my gratitude.