Intertwine & Paulette Rees Denis

Tribal Corner
We look at Ghawazi Caravans exciting project, Intertwine & talk to Paulette Rees Denis

Bellydance Oasis Issue 37.


By Devi Mamak

I hope you have all had a wonderful holiday season and a break from dancing for a few weeks. I know many of us prepare for our end of the year concerts and haflas so it is always nice to catch up on time with family and friends after such a busy time.

In this edition of Oasis we talk once again to Paulette Rees Denis of Gypsy Caravan. She has been visiting us pretty much every year since 2003 but it has been awhile since we last caught up with her. She has a lot of exciting projects up her sleeve so read on to find out more. But first let’s have a quick look at some of the exciting events that have gone on around OZ.

July saw Festival Mystique happening in the lovely Central Coast of N.S.W.,hosted by Anne Dunston. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to be there this year but fellow Ghawazi, Cristie Fuller taught ATS moves as created by Ghawazi Caravan. This was a very well received workshop and sounds like a lot of fun. Other fellow Ghawazi April Erzetich conducted a Khabelia Gypsy workshop. In 2009 April spent 4 months in India studying Khabelia & Classical Odissi dance with Colleena Shakti and has plans to return in 2010. [We will talk more with April in the coming months to hear all about her trips to India]. Both April and Cristie said they had a wonderful time in the wine capitol of N.S.W and thoroughly enjoyed performing, teaching and sharing with the ladies from the coast.

August we had a luxurious time at one of the first Tribal retreats in Australia. “Tribal Mosaic” hosted by Jacqueline Pepperkamp of Tribal Jewels in Wollongong N.S.W. This was personally one of my fav weekends of the year. It was held at the beautiful Govinda Valley Retreat Centre. The setting was divine and from the moment we arrived it really set the mood for a relaxing and fun weekend. The 3 day retreat began with a most glorious meal, tribal jam and hennah evening to welcome ladies that had come from all over the country. Saturday was a full day of workshops in which I taught 2 sold out workshops which was fantastic. There were many other exciting workshops available such as Dayl Workmans “Dance as Art Therapy” as well as Kylie Morrisons “Dance Pilates” Saturday night was a casual blackboard style performance night which was a lot of fun. Jacky and I had put together a Tribal Veil duet which was lovely as it was the first time we had done anything together. I think we are both hopping that this will be the first of much collaboration. As well as your usual dance fare there were also 2 masseuses on site to help ease away any pain caused from too much dance and fun from the weekend! Greg was our yoga instructor who led daily yoga sessions. Sunday was a half day of workshops before another fabulous meal and then pack up and go home. Now did I mention the food!? I could go on for ever about how fabulous the food is at Govinda valley. All vegetarian food & absolutely amazing. So much so I think Jackie is going to have Govinda Valley hold cooking workshops as part of the next Tribal Mosaic in 2011.

October I was off to the Bi annual festival Fire in the Belly held in Albury Wodonga. It is a lovely bunch of ladies that work hard to bring belly dance to their small community. It is a really fantastic little festival and a great opportunity for women in the neighbouring towns to learn with some very special teachers from around the country. This year saw me, Shamira from Adeliade, Fee from Canberra & Andrea from Melbourne as special guests. The 4 of us felt very special & privileged to be able to share with such a special group of ladies.

As soon as I got back from The Fire in the belly Festival I played host this time to Carolena Nericcio & Megha Gavin. This is Carolenas 5th time here and Meghas 3rd visit. They presented The General Skills Certificate together. This particular trip also saw Carolena conduct her Teacher Training certificate for the first time in Australia. It was a sell out. So much so that we had to offer 2 sessions! Dancers came from around the country as well as N.Z, New Caledonia & Japan! Carolena loves Australia and the people that live here and I am sure we will be seeing more of her so keep watching this space and keep checking out our website to find out when she will be visiting us next time.


As promised in the last edition of Tribal Corner I wanted to tell you all about an exciting project that I am working on with Ghawazi Caravan along with some very special guests. We aptly named the project “Intertwine”. The idea was to draw together dancers, musicians and artists of varied disciplines and styles, braiding their talents together into a compelling and cohesive whole, intertwining cultural traditions and an ebullient creative spirit… and to present the result in a theatre style environment.

The percussion side of things was easy. I am very fortunate to have Tarek Sawires live in my suburb. Many of you may know him from being present at many of the festivals in particular the Sydney Middle Easter dance Festival. For those of you that do not know Tarek he is darabuka master but also extends himself to just about any percussion instrument you can think of, many of which we did use in Intertwine. Tarek is a Rhythm genius. Not formally trained but being Egyptian himself he has an enate feel & sensibility for the music of his culture but working with Tarek on Intertwine I was constantly amazed at how he was able to work with and find the rhythms of music from other cultures so easily. Supporting Tarek was Jamie Bohm & Kalon Captain. Jamie is an amazing all round great percussionist, friend, neighbour [lives across the road] and partner to fellow Ghawazi, Cristie Fuller. He works hand in hand with Tarek playing a variety of different percussion instruments including the Cajon [basically a box used in many Flamenco pieces]. Kalon is my 13 year old son and is an amazing percussionist being proficient in Arabic, African and Samba styles as well as funk, jazz & metal [o.k so I am a proud mum!] Kalon has also been working closely with Tarek and Jamie with Tarek being Kalons Arabic drumming teacher.

But it was not enough to just have percussion. I wanted beautiful melodies in there as well. What sort of instrumentation? I had no idea. I just knew that when and if I ever heard the right person playing I would know it.

Some years back now my partner Anthony decided to take up playing the Shakuhachi which is a Japanese flute. For those of you that have never heard a shakuhachi before I suppose you could compare it to the Ney with its beautiful ethereal like quality. He managed to find a local teacher Bronwyn Kirkpatrick who is recognised as a master in Japan which is highly unusual for a woman. It was a few years before I would hear Bronwyn play but when I did I knew that she would be one of the musicians. But it was still not complete enough to start.

In 2007/2008 I was lucky enough to be a part a great funded project called The Firebird. This incorporated dancers and musicians of many different genres and sensibilities. It was here that I found the final people I needed to make Intertwine happen. The Firebird was also one of the most exciting things I had ever done. Hard work, but worth every moment. It was what I needed to get me off my butt and make something happen.

The last musician we needed to make Intertwine complete was Colin Berryman, Sitar master. Colin and I had worked quite closely together on the Firebird as the Sitar was my characters sound. I have always loved the Sitar & Colin’s playing is to die for.

After much thought I decided on the 2 things that I would need to make the show work. Everyone involved had to be very good at whatever it was that they would bring to the show and the 2nd thing was that we all had to like each other and get along. Giving each other space to create, but also welcoming new challenges presented and therefore learning from each other.

As far as I was concerned I had found the combination I was looking for and never gave it a second thought as to how we were going to fuse musicians from an Arabic tradition, Indian tradition and Japanese tradition? In hindsight I think it was good that I did not ask myself this question as Intertwine may not have happened! I just knew that these musicians were all top in their field and that it would work beautifully. I am pleased to say that I was correct!

As far as dancers go I wanted to present some of our most loved choreographies over the years but also wanted to challenge ourselves as dancers and work with other artists who would bring their own brand of talent to the show. We invited Jrisi Jusakos and Emily Cooper. Now if you are a belly dancer in Australia and don’t know who Jrisi Jusakos is then you have been living under a rock!

She is for me without a doubt my all time favourite oriental dancer HOWEVER I have seen her dance proficiently Indian & Flamenco fusion styles, contemporary, African & gum booting, AND she did them all beautifully. Jrisi & I have worked together on a number of occasions fusing what she and I do best. We always work well and hard together and I always come away feeling that I have grown as a dancer. It made sense to have her in Intertwine. Unfortunately she was not able to be present at all of the shows due to the birth of her little boy Javier but it was nice that she was able to make her debut comeback performance [after little Javier was born] at one of out intertwine shows. We even named one of the pieces Javier as he too felt like a part of the show in some way.

Emily Cooper is an old friend of mine and runs a hugely popular African dance school with her husband John May, Hands, heart & Feet in the Blue Mountains where I live. Emily was the Artistic Director of The Firebird which gave us the opportunity to work closely together. She is an amazing performer and I have seen her jump from one style to the next with no problems at all…oh & did I mention that she is also an amazing percussionist as well. Emily brought a raw and bright energy to Intertwine which was lovely. We have enjoyed working with Emily so much on intertwine and she with us that she has since joined Ghawazi Caravan!

Of course we had all the fabulous Ghawazi talent. Cristie Fuller, Kate O’Brien, Catherine O’Brien, April Erzetich, Rachelle Bryden & Alex Wright.

All of these talented ladies worked hard on their own speciality. Cristie with her sword, Katie with her Hip Hop & Funk background, Catherine with her eye for detail and wings, April with her Indian dance background, Rachelle with her innovative body percussion ideas and Alex working on fire.

Over months of collaboration, creativity and rehearsal, the show eventually became a visual and auditory feast of dances and music from around the world. From current re-workings of the ancient Middle East, through to the ‘gypsy’ dances of India, the raw energy of African dance, passionate Flamenco, right through to contemporary dance and back again. Old ‘Ghawazi favourites’ presented alongside entirely new work. No one was precious about their work. If it worked for the show it stayed and if it didn’t the idea got scrapped. We were all on the same page and this was the most beautiful thing about the whole project.

It didn’t take any of us long to realise that this was going to work really beautifully. Our local annual Winter Magic Festival quickly snapped us up as one of their top bills for the festival and we performed to an incredibly excited sell out show. After being called back on for an encore we realised that we simply cannot stop at just one performance so we did 2 more sell out shows also in The Mountains. This time we received funding from our local council which was great to get recognition from our local council for all our hard work.

Once this was all over we all agreed that this was far too special and that we had worked too hard just to let it all go.The project will continue using the collaborations already in place from ‘Intertwine’ as well as expanding the network of talented people that I and Ghawazi Caravan work with. The goal is to create beautiful theatre shows combining the talents of our friends in ways that may never have happened before, changing and developing over time. We have already started on the next installment of Intertwine and are hoping to take the show to other cities besides our own. If you are interested in having Intertwine in a city near you please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.




Where do I start? So many wonderful opportunities have come up for me. Along with my farm life out in the country with Jeff and my goats, chickens, dogs, and cat, life is full of dance and traveling, mostly teaching and not quite as much performing as before. It’s hard to take all the gypsies on the road with me because of the expense, so I usually travel alone. It is great when all my dancers, or even just another can accompany me when I go to teach, because it really helps to show the true spirit of tribal when we dance together, as opposed to me solo, but most sponsors can only bring me. I love teaching and I am blessed to have so many dedicated dancer friends around the globe. So besides my classes and troupes at home in Portland, OR, I have been developing different dance and writing workshop ideas, along with my certification dance intensives (Collective Soul and Teacher Training), to help spread the love of tribal! Plus with my writing, I am blogging a lot now, Tribal Bellydance Blog, and love that ( Of course I still have my monthly enewsletter, Caravan Trails/Tribal Travels, going on it’s thirteenth year I think! (about seven years of being online, and six of being a paper e-zine) And there are always new ideas in the mix!

“Life is so about living and experiencing what the world has to offer, and I love to try new things. Jeff and I moved to the country two years before we closed the studio. It had been a long-time dream of ours to own some land and be away from the city. The farm life is grand, I love being out on our land, and am trying to live a more sustainable life, being conscious of the planet and the economy, by growing much of our own food, raising fiber goats (not for meat as we are vegetarians), chickens for eggs. We wanted to simplify and slow down and keep some tradition in our lives, and it is absolutely delightful.” – Paulette Rees-Denis


Collective Soul is a certification program in six levels, which is about getting into the nuances and the details of Tribal Style Bellydance. We include talks about dance history, ethics, art, rhythms, zil playing, and of course we dance and drill for hours, starting at the beginning level. It is so important to get the basics to tribal down first, because that is what the rest of your dance is built on, besides proper posture and body alignment and how to become a stronger and fitter dancer. My job is to make you the best dancer you can be, and help guide you along your path as a dancer and artist. It is a three-day intensive and started percolating about ten years ago when I started my Teacher Training program and realized the dancers need more dancing instruction before embarking on their teaching journey. Collective Soul is a prerequisite for my Teacher Training Certification course, but of course, not everyone wants to teach, so the CS series is an invaluable tool along your path as a dancer.


The first edition of A Tribal Dancer’s Anthology, a PDF download, was released in November 2009 from my publishing company, Cultivator Press, and I am very exited about it. It is the last year’s collection of words—stories and poetry—along with photos, art, and bios from dancers around the world that have been part of the monthly D-Quad column in my monthly enewsletter, Caravan Trails/Tribal Travels. Every month I raise a different topic and ask dancers to write in and share their experiences. I have gotten long stories about the first time someone saw tribal, short snippets about a dance moment, to a poem about dance as a gemstone. It is a place for dancers who want to share their stories and is for every one. Being a writer, I love to get dancers to write because I think it is important to read about other dancer’s experiences, and this dance brings about lots of stories!

The other difference is that the Anthology is a paperless publication, so I am trying my part at paper-conservation, and it is up to the reader if they want to view it online as a PDF, or print it for themselves. This helps keeps the cost down, instead of having booklets printed, and the choice is yours!


Delicious Divas Dancing Dreams, is a play on the words around the Anthology writing project. It could also be Dancing Divas Delicious Dreams, or mix it up, to be called D-Quad!


I have had a few publishing companies, starting in the early Gypsy Caravan days, with Caravan Productions, and our first musical cassettes turned CDs, and all my videos turned DVDs (I have eight instructional DVDs, an award-winning documentary called Tribal Travels-A Collage, and other out-or-print productions). Yes, I’ve been doing this dance for 22 years!

A dream of mine was to go back to school to get my Master’s Degree by the time I was 50 years old, and I did it, with a Master’s in Writing and Publishing. I had been working on my book, Tribal Vision: A Celebration of Life Through Tribal Belly Dance (Cultivator Press, 2008) for so many years, and with the culmination of all that work and my degree, I started Cultivator Media Group, to combine the loves and publish works of music, dance, words, and multimedia. Out came Tribal Vision, the Caravan CD Remarkably Remixed, my Teacher Training manual, a college journal, and now the A Tribal Dancer’s Anthology.

Tribal Vision is my baby, and is such a big accomplishment for me. I am so proud. I am also thrilled to have the opportunity to share, not only my story of tribal, but many other dancers’ stories along the path. I hope you all get a chance to read it.

And there are other books in my head, just need a bit more time to write them!


The Gypsy Caravan and the Caravan Dance Collective continue to be busy dancing, teaching, performing. As dance is about evolution, we are all changing, yet, most importantly, dance is a constant in our lives, which feels great and is continually grounding. The Gypsy musicians have disbanded for now, and Jeff (my husband and horn player extraordinaire) is working on different musical projects. He sometimes gets to travel with me, teaching his melody workshops and performing with other musician friends. I think part of the power and magic in what we do is the ability to play and dance with others, no matter what style or level of exptertise, to enjoy that collaboration and the beauty of the moment. And it brings us together with so many talented and delightful artists. Improvisation at its finest!


Life is so about living and experiencing what the world has to offer, and I love to try new things. Jeff and I moved to the country two years before we closed the studio. It had been a long-time dream of ours to own some land and be away from the city. The farm life is grand, I love being out on our land, and am trying to live a more sustainable life, being conscious of the planet and the economy, by growing much of our own food, raising fiber goats (not for meat as we are vegetarians), chickens for eggs. We wanted to simplify and slow down and keep some tradition in our lives, and it is absolutely delightful. Of course, the farm work is harder and I’m not sure that I have slowed down! But I am trying to take time off for myself, and my family and friends now, which is very important.

It was an extremely difficult choice to make to close the studio, and it was hard on the students as well as me. But I had to close up for many reasons, the economy was the biggest. Running the studio was draining me, which is not a good place to be when you are trying to do good work, and be a creative artist, as well as try to make a living. There comes a time when you just can’t make everyone else happy, but have to look inward, and reevaluate your life. And of course, you do not need a permanent roof over your head to dance, and my classes still continue, the dancers are busy as ever performing, and all is good!

“Evolution of art and dance is exciting. Tribal is expanding around the world. More and more dancers are meeting up, studying and dancing together. More dance festivals are popping up everywhere along with variations on the theme of Tribal. Many dancers are now coming full circle and want to learn the roots of tribal, as this is important in the big picture of being a dancer, to really know the basics before splitting off into creative mode!” – Paulette Rees-Denis


It is a networking idea which is to bring dancer’s together, to dance and enjoy the love of tribal, to be inspired by each other and learn from each other, while they continue their studies with me. It is about being connected globally through this dance, and because of computer technology, we can all communicate together. These women have studied with me and are learning how to perform with me, usually with only a short time to prepare. But because of Tribal and how I teach, they can all come together with the common language, no matter what dialect, and share each other’s dance. So it is not necessarily about performing but just dancing together. Sometimes too much emphasis is put on performing. Some dancers just don’t want to go there, but they want to dance. Performing is another subject altogether!


Evolution of art and dance is exciting. Tribal is expanding around the world. More and more dancers are meeting up, studying and dancing together. More dance festivals are popping up everywhere along with variations on the theme of tribal Many dancers are now coming full circle and want to learn the roots of tribal, as this is important in the big picture of being a dancer, to really know the basics before splitting off into creative mode! At the same time, there does seem to be some separation in the tribal worlds, which is incredibly sad to me. That is so not my philosophy, and you can see in dancers who study with me, that they can dance with anyone and any style because they know how to move their body, use their eyes, and love what someone else has to offer. As the true spirit of tribal is about dancing together, no matter what background. It is not about dancing with exactly the same moves or only doing one format. But it is about falling in together to dance and be in that magical moment. Learning tribal is about opening up your eyes to each other’s dance and women are being empowered because of the dance.


I travel around the states quite a bit, and have taught in your beautiful country almost yearly for about seven years, first thanks to Alaine, and you Devi! Tribal has taken me to Taiwan, Italy, Spain, England and Scotland, Germany, Holland. This year I also travel to Mexico and South Africa for the first time, which I am thrilled to experience.


I love teaching in Australia! The dancers that I have had the pleasure to work with are strong and dedicated dancers, who love the philosophy of tribal, and dance in general. On this tour I will be starting on the west coast, teaching in Albany for the first time, with Rebecca as sponsor. Then off to Brisbane to teach for Dee of Tribal Blossosms, for twelve days—Collective Soul Level One, Level Two, and Teacher Training Level Two, as well as a weekend of workshops. Then back to Wollongong with Jackie for a weekend of classes. It always seems to go so quick, but it is hard to be away from home for so long too.


Oh I have dance dreams, writing dreams, farm dreams. We’ll see….

Thanks so much and hope to see you dancing on the road!