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NGI Recipient: Niccolo Seligmann

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - Early Music Week (2019)

In true Early Music fashion, I’ll begin with a Hildegard quote that sums up my Pinewoods experience: “Nunc aperuit nobis clausa porta…” (Now a door is opened to us…) The door that was opened was not the one I expected. I’ve been performing early music professionally for almost a decade, but had only experienced English Country Dancing once, in an environment geared towards expert dancers. Thus, going into this week, I assumed that I’d be avoiding dancing in favor of late-night viol consort playing.

That assumption went out the window by the end of Jan Elliott’s first beginner’s class. Jan’s class gave me enough of a choreographic lexicon to fully participate in the evening dances, and from that first dance, I was hooked. Now that I’m back home in Maryland, I fully intend to continue English Country Dancing, and to drag my husband along with me to dances. The NGI Scholarship has added to my life a whole new kind of artistic expression and community bonding, and for that and so many other reasons, my gratitude abounds.

The faculty at CDSS Early Music Week went above and beyond, and I would like to extend personal gratitude to them. Lisa Terry and Sarah Mead created an environment of genuine love within the Accademia consort. They achieved the tricky pedagogical goal of teaching a broad range of skill levels, uplifting the abilities of all the students in ways that brought us all closer together as a consort. Michael Barrett’s kindness and generosity as a teacher blew me away. Various experiences in my life have taught me to hate my voice, so signing up for Chorus in the first place felt like a big risk. It meant so much to me to have Michael go out of his way to take me under his wing as a singer. Bit by bit, I am coming to terms with my voice and how it relates to my queer identity.

Speaking of queer identity, there wasn’t a single moment throughout the week when I felt threatened or otherized by my sexual orientation and gender presentation. This is not a fact I take for granted. I enjoyed dancing both “Lark” and “Raven” roles, with partners of various genders, and doing so didn’t feel like “making a statement,” it just felt like being myself. Opening up a dance form with historically baked-in gender roles to include people who don’t fit those roles makes Pinewoods and the CDSS programs there a truly safe space for people like me.

The generational gap in Early Music is a fact of life for young professionals in the field. Early Music Week created an environment based on mutual learning across this gap, rather than an environment where each generation retreats to their own corners. Not every Early Music event accomplishes that feat so organically, and here, dancing was the key. Dancing with my elders made mutual empathy effortless, and I have made dear friendships across generations that uplift us all together. No experience can match the joy of looking into the eyes of a new friend, sneaking that sly smile of “here we go!” before a complex hey. Great thanks to CDSS and PCI for providing the NGI Scholarship to make possible this simple yet rewarding bond.

The NGI Scholarship that enabled me to attend Early Music Week at Pinewoods has added a level of richness and joy to my life that I didn’t know was possible. To those behind this scholarship, I give my earnest gratitude. I look forward to dancing with you next time!