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NGI Recipient: Mike Jastram

Session Attended: CDS Boston Centre - July 4th Weekend (2008)

Pinewoods! This summer was my first time at camp. And what a summer! Although I’ve contra danced for more than five years, I hadn’t even heard of Pinewoods before this spring’s NEFFA festival. I’m so glad I did! I heard Pinewoods described as “the best place in the world,” which frankly seemed at the time like a bit of exaggeration. Clogging had caught my interest a few months earlier, and Pinewoods seemed like a great chance to explore it and other traditional dances. But it was all only wishful thinking until I received one of the NGI scholarships to attend the CDSS July 4th weekend.

Pinewoods itself completely surpasses my ability to describe it. It was so much more amazing than I could have ever imagined! Not only did I get the clogging class I was hoping for, I was also introduced to Morris and many other dances I hadn’t even known existed. And I loved every second of it – the beautiful camp environment, the quality of instructors, and a welcoming community made it an unforgettable experience. I’m still awed that I had the opportunity to attend something so amazing. A huge thank you to everyone in the community who’s made Pinewoods what it is!

The only problem with a weekend at Pinewoods – it’s far too short. So as soon as I was home I called Judy Savage and applied to volunteer on crew. Go to Pinewoods for free in exchange for washing some pots? Sign me up! I was able to volunteer for the last two and a half weeks of the summer – American, Camper’s, and English-American Weeks. I was able to attend class in nearly every session and every dance during that time. I have trouble imagining how a dance experience could be more incredible than those weeks! I learned so much, met so many great dancers and musicians, and really felt like I was whole-heartedly a part of the greater community of traditional culture. (Although it took at least a month for my feet to recover!) I’m absolutely planning on returning next year if I possibly can, and I’d say to anyone thinking about attending – do it! It really is the best place in the world!