Guest Blogger-Deirdre MacDonald

This was originally written for an English magazine– NADA magazine (Northern Arabic Dance Assoc) covering most of the UK. How wonderful to have Deirdre share it here with us! I so enjoy reading about your experiences in my classes and workshops, just to see what it means to you… this was written as a review too.

Deirdre with fellow dancer Eleanor!

One week in May……A Review of Gypsy Caravan’s Collective Soul and Teacher Training Experience

I keep on reminding myself how blessed I was in 2000 when living in Portland, Oregon I came across a haven called the Gypsy Caravan studio. Twelve years on tribal style bellydancing with Paulette Rees-Denis continues to be a BIG part of my life and the journey continues….

In May this year I was flying solo to Portland once again to undertake an intensive week of training.  Yes, my other half thought I was mad when I showed him the schedule but supportive in being ‘mama’ for the week to our daughter.

There are many certifications available now for all the styles of bellydance and  yes, some  may feel that it’s not necessary to undertake and attain  them  if you are teaching but I like having the knowledge, background, technique and external validation of an organization/leading mentor  whose work  and methods I admire and enjoy.  (I had already completed JWAAD in early 2000 so I  had a good experience to draw from.)

What I had gotten into was 6 days of dance, drilling, learning, discussion, journaling, and sisterhood.

Paulette runs two types of programs: Collective Soul (CS) which is in essence a dancer competence program and a Teacher Training Program. Usually these are a minimum of 3 days each but as 5 of us had made our way from corners of the  globe for this specific purpose Paulette worked the timetable for us to achieve the work across morning, noon and night of those 6 days! There is a bit of pre-work and preview before we get there however the real deal can only be experienced in person!

I was undertaking a refresher of Collective Soul Level 3 (having attained it in 2010 so it was great to revise these, connect with the other students, ease into the shared group energy and be drilled on my memory on some of the details of the moves!)  and Teacher Training Three which involves a different skillset obviously to dancing the moves in CS3. I was also moving up a level with another repertoire of moves in Collective Soul Four certification.

There was a multitude of new moves and combinations to learn, many of the moves had been on DVD’s however learning from the teacher (Paulette) in person makes you realize just how far DVDs can take your understanding of the moves and the intention of the style.

The whole philosophy of Paulette’s style was discussed, background influences, business ideas and ethics, professionalism, looking after your physical and mental well-being whether as a dancer and/or as a teacher. Paulette used journaling to take us to a different thought and action place; reflections, streams of consciousness or goals in specific relevant areas. (Difficult for someone like me who only writes to-do lists but a worthwhile pursuit)

We used the Datura Dance Studio in Portland for our days (Rachel Brice’s studio) and Paulette and her husband Jeff were welcoming on some of the evenings for sharing meals, and discussions. We usually met for breakfast in some of the many fantastic Portland diners and cafes for breakfasts before class too. Portland is a fantastic city in itself as a destination.

It was such an energizing experience more than tiring for me. Even an 18 hour journey and 8 hour time difference didn’t hinder my enthusiasm of being part of something so special and receiving personal attention for your dancing such as these experiences bring. It is exciting to be part of the collective soul that Paulette has been working on for twenty years and is now a truly global dance style. Yes there is testing at the end but it’s cumulative over the time spent with Paulette and personal feedback is given. If someone is not ready for a level then she agrees a plan with them to get there. I also appreciate that – it’s not a participation certificate but you feel it’s one you have really earned!

Over the last couple of years Paulette has been working on taking Tribal Global with collective dance souls truly in all parts of the world and a global dance troupe, good communications/blog/newsletter to reflect this and  fabby new DVDs to keep your left and right hips moving. Being part of the intensive trainings made me proud of my fabulousness as a teacher and dancer and part of a global sisterhood.

And my husband….not only was he proud of my achievements, he stated that he would not always remember what happened in a week at work but spending a week solo with our daughter would always be something to cherish , and added  “maybe you should do it every year” !….. TRIBAL ROCKS!

And what is it?

Collective Soul: The Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance Intensive Collective Soul Certification Program, with the various levels of study, means that when you are awarded your certificate for each level, you know and have begun to master the levels and layers in the Gypsy Caravan Tribal Style Bellydance course.  Paulette’s  goal is to help you be the best dancer you can be, and the Gypsy Caravan style format assists with learning the basic dance language, how to best use your body as a dancer, and how to be an ethical and creative artist. Besides being fun, it has also been a proven method in bringing the tribes together from around the world, our Collective Soul!

This program has been in demand for years, by the people who cannot attend weekly classes with Paulette or her trained instructors. Dancers can have a chance to learn by an intensive method, in a wonderful and inspiring environment, with personal attention.

This is a way to have formal recognition for your hard work and dedication in learning this unique and versatile style of dance. This will give you the technique and the tools you need to better your dance. You are tested at the end of the training period, and if you pass, you will be certified in Gypsy Caravan’s Tribal Bellydance Collective Soul Level Certification program
Gypsy Caravan Teacher Training:  An organized and logically structured format, while still bringing the “fun” factor into the dance classes. This intensive teacher-training course will introduce you to Paulette’s concepts of how to teach Gypsy Caravan Style Tribal Bellydance. It will give you the movements, language, structure, and business skills, broken down into sessions pertaining to skill levels, so that you may begin to teach Tribal Bellydance the Gypsy Caravan way.



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