Gypsy Caravan Teachers Australia Part 2

Meet our beautiful teachers from around Australia! These women bring you an amazing class every week, teach from the heart, to share their passion and joy of Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance. I am so proud to call these women my friends, my dance sisters, to share their stories and journies.

TribalZest Cairns

Hi I am Sienna from Cairns, Tropical Far North Queensland where the “Rainforest Meets the Reef”. Cairns is a tropical oasis that’s primary industry is tourism & agriculture and our city is well known to run at a comfortably slower pace than metropolitan areas.

Tribal Bellydancing, for me, ignites my young dancer at heart. The dance, and its lifestyle as a teacher and student, is so multidimensional that it is hard to succinctly describe what it brings to my life (under 1000 words!).

Dancing nurtures my creative soul with expression through dance, and costuming or simply selecting dance wear that matches my mood for class, or hearing a piece of music that speaks to my soul and calls my body to move.

In those moments I connect to self. I get to be creative, to invest time in being a student, teacher and dancer. All other facets of my life as wife, lover, mother, sister, daughter & nurse are temporarily suspended and I get to nurture the unique and creative parts of me.

It’s a moving meditation that helps to quieten and focus my busy mind from everyday demands. Over the years, dancing has therapeutically helped me get through life’s typical milestones and it’s inevitable ups and downs.

The feminine energy of this modern interpretive dance allows me to be elegant, powerful, sensual and mesmerising. It provides an avenue to feel and radiate happiness.

It’s also about community. Our community of dance sisters is forever expanding from our local groups, to nearby sister groups to those further away in other Australian States, Portland Oregon – the home of the Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance format founder Paulette Rees-Denis and globally in areas like Germany, UK, Spain and Italy. Through our shared interest in dance, instant connections are forged based on our common passion, devotion, knowledge and individual dance experiences. While our community is growing, it is never static, with dancers coming into our community, and at times, also moving on to other adventures, locations, dance or sport formats.

It’s the push, or challenge, so many to mention. Like preparing for every stage performance, wrestling to master zills, learning musicality, trying to calm the nerves, learning to be in the moment, striving to be the best version of yourself, patient, open minded, open hearted and nurture your body with healthy living.

It is the lure of all of this that keeps me wanting more.

I first happened upon Tribal Bellydance in Innisfail 2002 when I became a student with Nina Martinez of Gypsy Rain. Initially it was an evening class to get me out of the house to allow others to care for my 8-month-old son. During these early years of dance I was part of the discovery of varying Eastern and Tribal Bellydance formats and the intentional movement towards Paulette Rees-Denis’s GCTB format.

Life took me in a different direction and, in late 2005, I moved to Cairns. I tried to stay connected to the Gypsy Rain troupe, but the distance made it hard. Nina and her mother Buschki encouraged me to get something started in Cairns and I finally got to a cross roads where I had to ‘use it or loose it’. So with their mentorship and encouragement on International Women’s day, March 2007, Tribal Zest was launched. Since that time it has been an amazing journey both personally and with dancing, with so many high’s and low’s and dancers coming and going. I regularly have the privilege to dance and connect with Nina and revel in the close and continued mentorship, inspiration and motivation that she provides.

Together I get to be a part of a local, state, Australia wide and global community connected through our shared passion for bellydance and the GCTB format. Over time I have attained several GCTB certifications being Collective Soul Level’s One through to Six, Tribal Technique Teacher Training Level’s One and Two, Tribal Grooves Teacher Training Level’s One and Two. My highlight was travelling to Florida for the dance summit in 2017 and more recently joining Nina Martinez for stage performances in Townsville’s Carnivale of Curiosity and Freemantle’s WA Middle Eastern Dance Festival (2018). What an honour it is to be part of this dance community, from the simple moments of just hanging out, to the extremes of stage performance and the joy of every class, dance, soiree and throw down in between!

When I am not dancing I am usually thinking of dance, planning classes or my next trip and getting creative. I love to make things but am not particularly good at it. I love scouring op shops and have a vision to re purpose items, but ultimately I have a room full of oddments with their full potential unrealised. I am a clinical nurse, mother and step mother to 3 children and general busy woman forever balancing life, prioritising and considering what it is fair for all of the other components of my life and those within them. I happen to be blessed with a partner who is very patient and not so demanding who has given me emotional space to further explore my dance passion, and I am forever grateful to have this freedom within a relationship.

Happiness to me is love, deep connection, support, loyalty, personal growth and achievements, whether in my personal life, professional career or life as a dancer. In my life I am blessed and grateful to both have, and perpetuate this.

“You have heard the call of the wild, something beyond your usual horizons is calling you. Belly Dance doesn’t call every woman, so if it knocks on your door I believe it is trying to give you a gift uniquely suitable to you” Shemiram Ibrahim

Irissa Hobart
Born on Nyungar Boodjah, Kristie Lee has been joyfully putting down roots in beautiful nipaluna/Hobart Tasmania.
That’s the home of Irissa (Inc) – a close-knit collective, led by Kristie that practices and performs GCTB®.

Named for the Greek goddess of the Rainbow, Irissa is a vibrant and eclectic group of women, United in Dance. Kristie Lee believes dance is every body’s birth right.

She started ballet lessons aged three, and arrived at bellydance via contemporary, jazz, butoh, flamenco and more. Kristie Lee first encountered Richelle & the Free Spirit Gypsies in February 2010 and has been dancing, learning, playing & sharing GCTB® ever since, including training, Collective Soul 1 and 2, and workshops with Nina & Paulette.

River Spirit Gypsies Albury

Where do you live and teach Gypsy Caravan TB?
I live in Myrtleford, a small town in NE Victoria, an hour’s drive south of Albury/Wodonga on the border with NSW. I mainly teach GCTB in Albury, with my tribe the River Spirit Gypsies. Then occasionally I run a beginner course in Albury, Wangaratta or Myrtleford.
What inspires you as a teacher and dancer?
Watching other dancers always inspires me, whether they be experienced or not. It’s the joy of dancing together, and with GCTB it is the sense of connection with each other. Music inspires me too. And I love doing workshops with Nina and Paulette – I always come away bursting with ideas.
What is your GCTB history?
I can’t remember the first time I saw tribal performed – it was before 2006 and the Underbelly dancers came up to our local Fire in the Belly Festival. It blew me away, and so I took myself to the first Tribal & Trance Festival, held in the Blue Mountains, where I bought my first DVD’s. Then Paulette came out to Albany in WA in January 2011 to run CS1 and workshops with Becky. What an amazing experience! I quickly realised that I had taught myself incorrectly from the DVD’s, but Paulette is so generous with her time and I had a private lesson with her to correct bad habits (and I still constantly work on these). My first attempt at CS1 at that time was a lesson in the need to drill, drill, drill!!!
Since then I have headed up to Innisfail and Cairns for Tribal in the Tropics and Collective Soul intensive training. I am now working towards CS4. I completed Teacher Training Level 1 online with Paulette, and I believe it’s important to do revisions of the CS courses just in case bad habits have developed and also to maintain connection with the GC community.
I fell into teaching GCTB almost accidentally. A friend ran a bellydance school in Albury and wanted to start a tribal class in 2016. At the time I had begun working on my TT1, and before I knew it I was in charge of the tribal group.
How does being connected through dance make you feel?
The connectedness of GCTB is one of the things I love about it. We learn to watch each other, and to empathise. Leaders learn to do moves that the followers know, and followers learn to do exactly as the leader does, even if it’s not quite the correct move. We don’t have “soloists” or tricky choreographies to learn, and everyone gets a chance to lead (or not if they don’t want to!). Dancers gain confidence in themselves from the support of their tribe. We learn to appreciate the differences in each tribe member – it might be her laugh, or the way she listens, or her fabulous colour sense, or her athletic training that she shares with us.
The connectedness of GCTB is so important because we are very much dancing “in the moment” – then a few songs later we realise we’ve been totally present, and whatever concerns and worries we might have had, have faded into the background.
What do you do when you aren’t dancing?
I’m now retired from full-time work, but have some volunteer roles, such as Alpine Shire Relay for Life organising committee; Myrtleford Ukulele Club unofficial secretary; CFA volunteer; and sewing for “Days for Girls” sanitary kits for East Timor schoolgirls. I play ukulele, and am part of the Myrtleford “Commedia dell’Arte” theatre troupe. I do yoga, and am in two local book groups. I’ve always got some art or craft project happening.
What makes you happy?
Being with friends, enjoying a coffee or a good meal and some vino together; curled up with a good book and a cat; dancing with my tribe; being involved in a fulfilling project; singing (badly) at ukulele night; and being with my husband Jon.

BirdWing Tribal Cairns

Hello! My name is Caroline and I live and dance in the beautiful, tropical city of Cairns in Far North Queensland. I first fell in love with Tribal Bellydance after seeing a wonderful troupe performing at a music festival in 2008. Where and with whom could I learn and experience this amazing dance? Shortly after I discovered Sienna of Tribal Zest who was Cairns’ only Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance teacher at the time and so my Tribal journey began…
Along with being captivated by the dance moves, music and costuming, I also made amazing connections and friendships with fellow dancers both in class and beyond. Delving deeper into my dance, my sense of ‘belonging’ grew as I connected with other GC dancers near and far. Workshops, ‘Collective Soul’ certification and consistent dance practice allowed me to broaden and fine tune my dance repertoire and technique while strengthening my connection with others.
Dancing made me feel so happy as a child and through GCTB it continues to do so every day. When I am dancing I feel alive and free and am ‘in the moment’. The moves seem almost primal or part of an ancestral memory and I feel a deep sense of fulfilment, being able to tap into my dancers’ yearnings irrespective of age or stage in life! I love sharing these moments with others who feel the same. This is such an essential reason why I dance and was a natural motivation for me to make the transition into teaching GCTB
I began teaching my first classes at Tribal Zest in 2015 and also completed my first level of GC teacher Training with Paulette Rees-Denis. This followed with Level 2 in 2016. In early 2017 I began to teach classes from my home studio and BirdWing Tribal was created. I now teach several classes a week from beginners through to intermediate and also hold small group workshops and engage in private and community performances and events. My home studio is a dedicated dance space where students are welcomed to explore their dance in a supportive and inspiring circle. Helping to facilitate others’ dance journeys is a true gift and I absolutely cherish it!
When I am not dancing I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, being amongst nature- whether hiking, biking, camping or pottering in the garden! I love reading and listening to lots of music with a special appreciation for live music performances. I am currently studying for a Diploma of Comprehensive Pilates Practise which is very inspiring to me. I have always had a keen interest in health, fitness and wellbeing, particularly those practises that embrace a holistic approach. I aim to complete my Diploma next year and from there wish to add Pilates classes to my current dance schedule… All beneficial in keeping our dancing bodies and souls supple and strong!