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NGI Recipient: Sarah Yakir

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

I find it somewhat difficult to sum up my first experience at Pinewoods in words. Perhaps some kind of exuberant interpretive dance would do a better job! It was a truly magical time at the CDSS American Week 2019, and it would not have been at all possible without an NGI scholarship. Thank you.

I had heard incredible things about Pinewoods from my home dance communities so I had quite high expectations. I expected the electric dance highs that one gets at the various dance weekends I had attended, and I expected the incredibly familial friendships that one finds in the folk and dance communities. But I really had no way of knowing the growth, both dance and personal, that I would experience while at American Week.

Every morning I spent the first hour learning about how to be a better dance partner in the ‘Synched up Contras’ class. We had discussions about giving weight and timing and consent and communication and interaction. The caller was so kind and gentle and nurturing. It was a lovely way to start the day, and I walked away feeling that every aspect of myself that I use to dance was lit up and ready to learn and grow.

In the Waltz hour, I forced myself to dance the role I am least comfortable with. What an opportunity to get to practice this every day for a week with an instructor right there and an open community that I felt completely safe messing up in front of! It was so great to see every level of dancer in these classes. I learned just as much from my partners as I did from our wonderful teacher.

Gathering was a particular high point of my day. We sang songs and there were skits and amazing community moments. I had a particularly emotional response to a beautiful performance in the second day in gathering and found myself crying (not something I tend to do). After the second day, this became a daily occurrence. I found myself crying at least once a day at American Week. These were tears of happiness and sadness and understanding and community and experiences in my life that I had not given myself space to process. I am so grateful for the openness and care that I felt. It allowed me to have such an emotional response and experience such personal growth.

The evening dance parties were unlike any other dances I have ever attended. So much energy and amazing music and amazing callers and all that was there, however, the connectivity was on a whole different level. It seemed that we all had the common goal of being as open and as free and as communicative as humanly possible, and that meant the world to me. I met so many beautiful people and am so happy to have shared this experience with all these new dance family members. Pinewoods and the CDSS programs there are truly a gem and a gift, and I am so thankful that they exist in the world and that NGI made it possible for me to experience it.