women write: the unraveling of beauty

Wendy Hughes, from Wales, and Eleanor Shirkie, from Scotland, have both been studying with me for the past several years, around the globe in person and online. Wendy is our first Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance certified instructor (now Level Three) in Wales and has a troupe called Topaz Tribal! Eleanor teaches and dances in Scotland with one of my GCTB Master Teacher’s, Deirdre MacDonald, and both fabulous gals are dancers in the Caravan Project UK ( also directed by Deirdre!).

Eleanor, Deirdre, Amanda Jowett, and Wendy


As you may know, I love to get you thinking and writing… finding true gems in your words as you try to put your thoughts down on paper, taking time for yourself to dive in deeper, to find out how you truly feel… the unraveling of beauty…that’s what I call it!

I posed the simple, yet not so simple question, Why do you dance?  to all my dancing friends awhile back, and responses keep coming my way (if you are inspired, please write to me your reasons for dancing! I love sharing your words with our tribes.)

Why Do You Dance?

Wendy Hughes

Wendy Hughes

Wendy writes in….

Good question – why do I dance?  I have deliberately taken my time to answer this biggie.  I am not a writer usually and I probably haven’t included everything I would like to say but here goes:

It’s an obsession, a passion, a need, something, like an urge, I can’t control, something inside me makes me dance. I have never felt such an underlying compulsion, to continue with this dance, that I have with any other form of activity I have done in my life.

I was never a dancer, although as I child I did long to be able to go to ballet class. I was too much of a tomboy and never sat still long enough to work out what I wanted to do. My mother said no to dance, and I accepted that, so I climbed trees, I played cowboys and indians, made dens, rode my bike, spent hours of fun on my roller skates, taught myself to swim – but never danced.

As I grew older, I discovered disco’s and loved them. I was always first up on the dancefloor and last one to sit down, I would dance on my own, I didn’t care. I met my then husband, had 3 children and basically never went out. I felt surpressed, stifled and imprisoned. Then I met my now husband and my life changed dramatically. I am so eternally grateful to him for the love, support and encouragement he has given me to follow my dreams, 

I tried a bellydance class in my hometown, really for a laugh and because I was curious.  Well what a shock!!  I walked through the door and was hooked immediately. From the welcome from the teacher, the clothes she was wearing, the music that was playing, to the relaxed and informal atmosphere she created, and the bellydance belts we were loaned to wear during the class. I went home absolutely buzzing and full of it. I made myself a flowy skirt and had purchased a coin belt by the next class. I spent the next 7 or 8 years deliriously happy, learning all about this wonderful lifestyle change, the culture, the history and of course exploring the dance itself, and training to be a teacher. I count myself very, very lucky to have been able to go to festivals in the UK and learn from master teachers from around the world.

So whilst I was busying myself learning about Egyptian, Turkish styles etc, I was becoming more and more aware of a different style, and it was mesmerising. The costumes were different, the music was deeper with more solid beats, the dancer’s movements were like watching liquid mercury slide, slithering and blending with itself in an unending continuum ripple of movement. This was Tribal Bellydance.  I loved this; it was fascinating and I wanted more.

So, I found a teacher and joined an ATS (American Tribal Style®) tribal class, but it didn’t  ‘do it’ for me. (t still wasn’t right. It took the next six months to finally decide this, but I knew I had to find what I was ultimately seeking – complete and utter satisfaction in my dance. In hindsight, I can now say, that had I had a different teacher, one that encompassed and nurtured all of her students, instead of her favorites, then I may have seen things in another light. I was disillusioned with her teaching and her method of exclusion, and I almost gave up dancing altogether. However, in a strange way, I have to be thankful, if it hadn’t been for her, I may not have gone on to seek my goal.

At the Majma Festival in Glastonbury, England, in 2010, I had my first proper encounter with the Gypsy Caravan TrIbal Bellydance® styling, and with Paulette Rees-Denis. I absolutely lost myself in those workshops! Here it was, it was GCTB I had been subconsciously looking for. 

The fog cleared, the mist lifted and for the first time, I knew what it was I needed. 

I also met another GC teacher who became my friend and mentor. She guided me through some difficult and dark dancing days during the summer of 2010. Steffi helped me reach the only decision I needed to make – to devote myself to Gypsy Caravan.

I released one of my ‘oriental’ classes to another student to take over – that was a good feeling. I changed my regular ‘troupe’ class over to GC once I received my Level One Teacher Certification. A risk, as I knew some students would stay and some would go. But I did it. I reinvented myself at that time and have now established myself as a Gypsy Caravan dancer and teacher. I love it!

This dance is not merely a dance. It’s a life change, it’s a life choice. I am constantly seeking perfection, I am constantly seeking to learn and to better myself, as a dancer and as a person. I have grown and developed through my dance. I love that I have this passion inside me that drives me on. I am constantly amazed by the powerful feelings, that awaken my femininity, the reminder that I am indeed a woman. I can create these wonderful movements, shapes and patterns with my body. I love that. I revel in the discovery of what my body can do, of what I can do to help my body create these wonderful things.

This dance is not merely a dance. It’s a chance to rebuild, refocus, remind me and refurbish my soul. I feel such a deep satisfaction when I am dancing, when I am planning my dancing, when I have danced.  It feels so good inside, like a glowing ember with a lovely warm and contented feel to it. 

Each day I wake, I give thanks that my body works, that I am able to dance, that I am able to get up and get it on with some groovy tunes, be they mellow and resonant or upbeat and funky. I really don’t want to see into the future and see a time when I cannot dance or I am unable to dance. I focus on the time, the here and now that I have discovered this fabulous format, I intend to dance more, find more, learn more and train more. This dance is so cleverly woven & intricate, I marvel at each new step or combination I learn, and how it flows into another step or combination with ease. Yet it’s powerful, earthy, feminine but bold and ‘in yer face’.

One of the most amazing things about this dance is the friendships developed across the globe. Despite the fact we have never met, or even speak the same language, we can dance with each other using an unspoken vocabulary of dance moves. Wow, how fab is that?  The connections with each other go deep, & for all the other women who share this passion, we are, in the great scheme of things, a tiny portion of the universe, but what a huge blessing it is that we are here, to love, support and cherish one another. We celebrate in dance, the fact that we are women, that we can express our femininity and that we can take comfort and refuge in this dance, when there is so much unrest and discomfort worldwide.

That is why I dance.

eleanor-shirkie-cp-ukEleanor writes:

I could say the usual things— that I love the connection and it’s a sisterhood of one big happy family. Yes these statements are true and I do genuinely love this beautiful dance community. For me as someone who can be insecure at times, it’s also about that special moment when you’re dancing and you catch your tribal sisters eye and there it is…all the love and support surrounding you with no judgements. You just know they are willing you to dance your heart out. If you have an off day they don’t make you feel unworthy.

That’s the true tribal spirit. It’s that genuine feeling of love and support no matter who you’re dancing with. It’s being with people who fully understand this connection.

I was introduced into this awesome world 12 years ago and I have never lost the love for this wonderful, ever evolving dance. Paulette and the Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance® philosophy reinforces who I am and the kind of person I have always aspired to be…I’m in my element being a part of this awesome community around beautiful, nurturing, happy, smiling dancing friends.

Now, wow… blow my mind ladies… that is what I crave, to hear you express yourself and your passions, and the “WHY”, when  you dive in a little deeper for the quest… I’ve talked about the WHY a lot lately…knowing why you want something, or desire to do something…because when you understand the WHY, clarity sets in!

I love reading these essays, thank you so much Wendy and Eleanor, we have had a great journey together so far, and I am so proud of you for carrying on the legacy, for stepping up yourselves, your dance, and your business, and for following your dreams!

Here is to the good life!

with so much love and gratitude,


What’s coming up?

Coming up in Portland next week:thumb_img_6124_1024

Portland Local Author’s presents:

Desires and Dares, with Gerri Ravyn Stanfield & Paulette Rees-Denis

Join us for a night of reading and ritual, movement and healing, music and dance….

Tuesday, December 13, 7:00pm – 9:00pm, $10-$20 at door, at SomaSpace





Dance and Desire: From the Body to the Page,

8 week ecourse, now available to you anytime! Get ready for the new year with your Desires!

This course takes you through many ideas, using body, heart, and soul to get you moving and grooving… dreaming and desiring, warm ups and dance workouts, making changes and acknowledging your beauty and your being. Go here to learn more and purchase this course…

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