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NGI Recipient: Nicolas Rockstroh

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - English Dance Week (2016)

Dear CDSS and Pinewoods NGI Committee,

What is there to say about English Week at Pinewoods? I would like to say that there are no words that can really describe it, but that’s a cop-out. Rather, there are simply so many things that I could write about that it’s hard for me to pick out the highlights. From meeting and dancing with people from all generations to shopping in the bookstore, there are many moments that will stick with me forever. Hopefully I can express some fraction of the magic that I experienced there, even if I can’t properly do it justice.

I was brought to English Week 2016 almost by chance. Though I’ve known of Pinewoods for many years, I’ve always said, “Maybe next year.” This year, however, that changed. Louise Siddons, the leader of the “ECD: TNG” (English Country Dance: The Next Generation) workshop, was looking for people to attend her workshop, and she asked one of my friends to suggest possible attendees. He brought me into the conversation, and, with less than a week until the scholarship application deadline, I registered for English Week. Somehow, despite the short notice, I was able to receive the NGI scholarship, without which I would not have been able to attend since my local ECD group lacked the funds to provide for a matching scholarship and I would never have been able to find the money on my own.

Getting to the camp was slightly more difficult than I had originally imagined. Though the plane rides went off without a hitch, I had no idea what the shuttle I was supposed to take to get to camp looked like. It was only because one of my fellow campers decided to call me when I hadn’t showed up that I was able to find it. Once I was on the shuttle, though, things were relatively uneventful (besides a slight detour due to bad directions).

It was once we got to camp that things really began to look up. I had some doubts before I left about whether I actually wanted to go or not since I had made the decision to attend on such short notice. All my doubts were washed away by my first sight of the camp. The beauty of the campground never ceased to amaze me; between the tall trees, the magnificent lake, and the fantastic facilities, I felt completely removed from the real world in the most excellent way possible. This was a place where I could take a break from the trials and tribulations of normal life; instead, I would be spending a whole week doing the thing I love best: dancing.

However, it was, surprisingly, outside of dancing that I found one of my best memories. On Cabaret night, three of my friends, inspired by the late nights and early mornings that defined the week, decided to put on a song skit based on “Good Morning!” from Singing in the Rain. The performance was only about 2.5 minutes, but it captured the spirit of the week perfectly, featuring references ranging from the dance workshops to the auction. If we’re lucky, “Rick the Stick” (a stick that was “auctioned” off in the skit) will become a whole new Pinewoods tradition. Considering he already has his own name badge, I think it’s only a matter of time.

With that said, my most cherished memory is, perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, one formed on the dance floor. I had been dancing with a very experienced dancer and caller, and she told me after we completed the dance that I had been “one of the highlights” of her week at camp. Perhaps it is a bit self-centered that this is the moment that really stuck with me, but I truly cannot put into words the feelings that I have which are wrapped up in that memory. There have been times in my life where I’ve been very uncertain of my own abilities, both as a dancer and a caller. To hear a longtime, respected member of both categories describe me as such fills me with happiness, pride, and, most of all, determination. Determination to keep pushing myself to improve my abilities and expand my community at home. If she sees something in me, then I really must have some potential that’s worth working on.

My plans right now are to focus on unlocking that potential. I know I’m on the right path, but there are things that I need to do to continue my journey. Thanks to the “ECD: TNG” workshop and the discussions that sprung up around it, I already have a few ideas. I intend to encourage my local Contra group to begin sponsoring English Country dances in Louisville, KY, as our local ECD group lacks the resources to encourage significant growth. As part of this, I’m going to seek out musicians within my region who would be willing to learn to play English music, because live music is something the ECD group lacks and it’s a big draw for many people. Additionally, I intend to seek out opportunities to work with the Cincinnati, OH ECD group, which is currently growing at a rapid rate. It will give me a chance to practice my English calling as well as an opportunity to form connections with talented individuals who can come to Louisville to perform. I do not think that these ideas would have been generated without the help of the people I met at the “ECD: TNG” workshop, and for that reason alone I am glad that I attended it, never mind the connections I formed there which I hope will persist for many years to come.

There are so many things that I was not able to mention here. Whether it was dropping a boatload of money in the bookstore or dancing Irish Sets and Ceilidh dances after hours, I experienced so many wonderful things that they cannot be contained in one (relatively) short letter. However, I think there is one way to express how much I loved the week. When I come back next year I know it will feel like coming home after a very long journey. That is the magic of Pinewoods.