«Back to all NGI Letters

NGI Recipient: Miranda Elliott-Rader

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - Harmony of Song & Dance (2017)

Thank you so very much for providing scholarship funding for me to attend the Harmony of Song and Dance camp this year.

I loved the atmosphere of magic and merriment at Pinewoods, and I felt like I was able to find a community here of people that I have much in common with. I had this impression from the very first night when I got ready to jump in the pond in the dark after dancing, and I wasn’t sure what to do with my glasses. “Oh, there’s a special bucket for glasses right here,” a fellow camper told me. “Don’t worry, this is camp for nerds.” I knew I’d be just fine.

The teachers and staff of Harmony Week were amazing and it was difficult to choose between many excellent classes. I got to enrich my dance skills by taking English dancing and Blues dancing classes, neither of which I’d done before. I learned swing harmonies and social songs, got a peek into several singing communities I hadn’t known about, and got to share some of my own knowledge areas in an impromptu shape note class.

And Pinewoods camp, it was such a joy to get to be in your beautiful space! The food was both nourishing and delicious (really, this was very, very important to me as I have been known to become quickly miserable at camps with crummy food). The forest paths lined with blueberries and the cozy cabins tucked between trees charmed and relaxed. I swam every day, even in the rain, and ate dessert every day as instructed in the kitchen commandments.

As wonderful as these experiences were, I felt that the most long-term benefit from camp came from the opportunity to have discussions with other folks who are doing singing and dancing in their home communities all across the country. Who are we, as musicians, dancers, callers, as people walking in the old ways and singing the old songs? At Pinewoods, it felt really possible to begin to have that conversation on a national level. I got to swap ideas about how dances are run and how dance communities are made vibrant. I had many great conversations about how contra can, and how it should, become more gender inclusive: why do we have this activity that constantly reminds people about whether they appear societally gender normative? Should callers keep using “gents and ladies”, and if not, what should they use instead? How can we make dances welcoming to all? I’ve been working on these conversations with friends as they arise, but the cross-pollination possibilities at Pinewoods seem like they will make a healthier and stronger dance community on a national, even international, level.

Again, I thank you for the wonderful space and wonderful programming at Harmony of Song and Dance. I look forward to participating in CDSS and/or Pinewoods camps in future years and continuing to build community with those I met this summer.