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NGI Recipient: Margaret Pigman

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

No one will be surprised to hear that I had a blast at Pinewoods English and American week. I can’t think of a way I’d rather spend my time than dancing, singing, and listening to music all day, and there was so much of all of these to love at camp. Soaring music for English. Musicians teaching each other tunes during walk-throughs and then playing explosively without a hint that they hadn’t known the tune five minutes ago. Dancing after the music was over because even a whole day wasn’t enough. Spontaneous full harmony on any song that someone started. Step dancing to crooked tunes. Precise timing from English bleeding over into contra. Energy and enthusiasm from contra bleeding over into English. Smooth swings and nice weight from neighbor after neighbor. Unexpected talents from people I’ve known for few years or a few days. Intergenerational jamming.

A weeklong camp like this gives you time to talk to people instead of just dancing with them. I love hearing about other dance communities, their organization, their demographics, their local talent. It feeds my curiosity and gives me ideas for my own organizing, so it’s great to be able to draw from communities from all over. I’m happy to see the list of contra dances across the country where I know at least one person expand. And I hope that this network will help me make touring, traveling, and transplanted callers, musicians, and dancers feel more welcome in my own community.

But it was the little things that made Pinewoods stand out from other weekends and festivals I’ve been to. Bathrooms named after dances called “trip to ____”. A large wooden fork, spoon, and hand to indicate the appropriate implement for dessert. The crew dancing with the campers. People coming out of their way to welcome me when they saw my new-to-Pinewoods corsage. Marble mazes in some bathrooms for your entertainment. Two kinds of homemade bread every day. Beautiful, warm swimming ponds. Stories of collaborations and relationships built up over many years at camp. Lots of “famous” people. Enthusiastic bidding on bagel seeds (cheerio lookalikes). Mysterious dancers in the forest at night skirting around the main dance hall. All these things speak eloquently about established traditions and deep love for Pinewoods.

So thank you for the opportunity to attend this wonderful week. I hope to continue to contribute to these traditions and to be able to help others have similar chances some day.