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Napier Receives Lifetime Contribution Award for Dancing

The 69th annual Christmas Country Dance School, hosted by the college since 1938, honored the Rev. Dr. Pat Napier, ’49, with the Lifetime Contribution Award from the national Country Dance and Song Society. Napier, whom the society called “a living legend,” has taught and attended the dance school for the past 57 years.

Pat Napier takes a break during the Christmas Country Dance School. (Photo courtesy Sean Perry/ Fra

In the company of hundreds of friends and fellow country dance enthusiasts, Napier was presented the award by Brad Foster, Country Dance and Song Society Executive and Artistic Director. The award recognizes Napier “for his long service and inspirational teaching to his local community.”

Napier has been teaching dancing and stories since the 1930s. After returning to Berea, during his senior year Napier wrote “Kentucky Mountain Square Dance” for an assignment in his recreational leadership class. This paper became a booklet that, according to the Country Dance and Song Society, became “the gold standard for folk dance teachers and instructors” and is still in use today.

An eastern Kentucky native born in 1925, Napier began going to dances with his parents as a young boy and grew up learning to love square dancing. After serving in the Merchant Marines, Napier enrolled at Berea, where he was a member of the Berea College Country Dancers. He went on to earn a doctorate in educational administration and spent 32 years in school teaching and administration in Kentucky schools, serving as a classroom teacher, school principal and as superintendent in several districts. In 1988 he became an ordained Presbyterian minister and began a second career as pastor in number of rural Kentucky churches.

Now 82 years old and officially retired, Napier still preaches, substitute teaches and calls dancing wherever he is needed. For the past two years he has let others do the teaching at the Christmas Country Dance School, enjoying it as a participant. He plans never to give up dancing, having said in a recent interview “When you stop dancing, you stop living.”

Since 1938, Berea College has hosted Christmas Country Dance School annually Dec. 26-Jan. 1. The dance week includes classes during the day in many kinds of dance, music, storytelling, and crafts, and evenings filled with dancing and song.

Originated to train teachers at mountain schools to teach folk dance to their students, Christmas School now welcomes more than three hundred people each year. The staff are all internationally known musicians, dance leaders, craftspeople, and storytellers. Among them are Madison County residents and Kentucky Folk Heritage Award Winners Donna and Lewis Lamb, who will be playing for the Dec. 28 dance. Participants range from complete beginners to leaders in their own communities who come to hone their skills.

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