NGI Recipient: Zachary Kaplan
Session Attended: CDS Boston Centre - ESCape (English-Scottish-Contra) (2019)
Thank you so much for providing me with the NGI scholarship. The NGI scholarship allowed me
to visit Pinewoods for the first time, and it was really excellent; there was tons of dancing and
plenty of other activities, all in a wonderful location surrounded by lovely people.
When I got to Pinewoods, I was new to English and Scottish dancing. Each morning, I went to
the English Dancing for All sessions, and over the week I got much more comfortable with the
calls and fitting the dance to the music. I also greatly improved my Scottish dancing by going to
a number of sessions, including the Scottish Dancing for All and SCD Basic Techniques classes. I
learned a lot about the steps in Scottish dancing and the overview of what the dance looks like.
I was already fairly experienced at Contra Dancing, but when I did go to a Contra dancing
session I still learned lots. The caller very cleverly chose dances that specifically incorporated
moves from Scottish and English dances, and did a great job of explaining how they did that.
For example, he called the first Contra dance that used the Mad Robin figure from English
Dancing. All of this really increased how much I knew about English and Scottish dancing.
The evening dances were another highlight of Pinewoods; everyone was able to have fun at
their skill level, and everyone was there earnestly helping each other have fun. Even on the
first night, when I was inexperienced at English and Scottish dancing, the walkthroughs and
everyone else’s help and good spirits made those dances really fun! No one judged anyone else;
we were all just there, dancing together and smiling.
When I did get tired of dancing, there were plenty of other great things to do too. I went to
some of the song sessions, and a camper- led session on change ringing, and spent some time
at the camp house hanging out and playing Hanabi.
The atmosphere was also great. The buildings strewn about the woods with humble little paths
connecting them set a lovely mood for the camp. The meals were all excellent, and everyone at
camp- the workers, the musicians and callers, and the other campers- were all so nice and
friendly. It was a joy to spend time with all of these people; I went to Pinewoods not expecting
any friends there, and left with too many to count.
The most impressive part of the week was probably how on the second night, there was a
power outage. This interfered with our evening dance, but Pinewoods had plans for this.
Everything was lit by lantern light and there was no amplification, so calmer and simpler
dances were chosen, and while dancing people were quieter so they could hear the music. This
created a wonderful, ethereal, almost sacred aura. After the evening dance, in utter contrast,
we had the celiah in the camp house; upbeat, almost raucous dancing, lit by everyone’s
flashlight pointing at the ceiling. The ability for Pinewoods to create such amazing, contrasting
spaces, even with fewer resources than normal, really shows how incredible it is.
Thank you again for the NGI scholarship- it was as wonderful of a time as I could imagine, and I
hope that the scholarship continues so that more people can experience its awesomeness!