Certifications: The Collective Soul Experience

In November of 2014, I just happened to see a post on Facebook announcing an online certification course in Gypsy Caravan Tribal style. Maybe it was providence or just luck, but it’d been a while since I’d truly been able to dance and I decided that, since my life had been missing the sparkle dance brought it, I would give it a go. I didn’t know too much about it but I realized I really wanted to get back into Tribal and figured that this would be the perfect opportunity. Well, it certainly was that…and much more. Never in a million years could I have imagined what this experience would bring to me!

Collective Soul (CS) courses are more than just a certification where you learn a bunch of movements. That’s in there, of course – in each level you’ll come away with so many new movements and combos you’ll find yourself bubbling over with new dance inspiration. But Paulette also brings a magic to the entire process that encourages each dancer to look beyond the dance itself and consider her or himself on a larger level. As a busy career-focused woman who had long since put herself pretty far back in priority, I found this magic to be exactly what I needed to help me rearrange my life and I’m now feeling great about that! The emphasis on journaling, setting goals and identifying desires and dreams, and on making time for self care was absolutely valuable. I also found myself with instant family! Through the CS process, I’ve gotten to know and meet dancers from all over the world. Last March, I traveled to Portland and met a dancer I’d only known through the CS process and overcame my usual shyness (yes really) and jumped in a car with her to head to training with Paulette. We were instant sisters, fast friends together on the tribal road, and she’s since become a friend and mentor to me. How cool is that? (That’s her in the picture, beautiful Angie, with me and Paulette!).

I’m especially grateful that I didn’t let things like price or timing stop me. If you do the online
course, Paulette is just great about working with you to help you finish and set a schedule. She walks you through doing that and emphasizes it throughout the class. In person, of course, you have an exact date to meet. And in either case the price is on par for certifications/workshops in general. The online class is especially reasonable considering you’re getting 4 weeks of material and personal critiquing and guidance from Paulette of the dance videos you send her.

So, is it right for you? Well, I’d recommend saving up your pennies and participating in at least CS 1. I found that preparing for the test challenged me to get serious and do my best. And I also found that working to do the assignments and dancing brought a refreshing to my practice and deeper connection to my dance. Regardless of where you are at in your practice, there’s something for everyone in these trainings. And once you do one, trust me, you’ll be hooked!

Tidy Up Your Technique In 5 Simple Steps

We are super lucky to have a format in Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance® that has so many beautiful moves and combos. Sometimes though it can be tough to remember them during practice and drilling, much less be able to really get them ingrained into our body. It’s important to practice outside of class, and in past issues we have talked about how to set up a practice schedule. Now let’s look at some effective techniques for really learning each move and making sure that you are understanding and executing it properly.

1. Learn & Say the Names – Words have power…and can help you better understand a movement! Many of the movements, such as Ghawazee, Arabic, and Hip Bump, have entire families of variations so it is important to have a solid understanding of the movement names in order to keep each one clear in your mind. Knowing the nomenclature can help give clues, too, in how a specific movement or combo is executed.

2. Break it Down – Some of our movements, such as Egyptian Basic, have multiple elements happening at once. In this move, for instance, hips, arms, and feet are all moving. This is a great example of a move that can be broken down to be able to better understand and execute it. Try just the feet. Or just the feet with the hips. Try just the arms. Or just arms with feet, no hips. Sometimes, I will even break the hips down (in this case I would practice both lifting as well as twisting). By separating out the movements into their basic elements you will clean up your technique and reinforce the muscle memory of your body too.

3. Start Slow – Time and again I find students moving through movements as fast as they can, just to get a bit of practice in. SLOW DOWN. Breathe. Give your body time to learn the movement. It’s totally ok to practice slowly as you will really be able to check and make sure you are doing the movement properly.

4. Watch Your Weight…shifts – Sometimes the answer to a “sticky” movement that you’re having trouble with is all in your feet! Pay attention to your weight and really hone in on how you are standing. Is your weight more in the ball of your foot, or toward your heels? This can often influence how a move looks and feels in the body.

5. Chunk It Up – A very successful practice/memory recall tool is “chunking.” In this type of practice, you can take a variety of information and chunk them together for practice. An example would be instead of just practicing one move over and over, string a few together and practice it as a chunk. You’ll still be practicing the movement, but will have the benefit of also practicing several more and even working them in a flow with transitions. Find out more about chunking here.

Belly Dance Costume Resources: Links List

As belly dance incorporates a variety of different styles, cultures, and traditions there are a number of different costuming options. The links below are a basic introduction to bellydance costuming and will lead you to different patterns and articles about costuming resources. Half the fun of dancing is the dress up, so enjoy!

General Costume Information

Shira’s wonderful work on types of costumes

Great listing of types of costumes and costuming options…click side links for patterns for most of them

Dawn Devine Brown’s fabulous Hints and Tips booklet

Oriental Costumes: Their Designs and Colors (online version of historic text)


Shira’s Circle Skirt

Circle Skirts

Misha’s Tutorial: How to create a circle skirt from another skirt


Bras, Tops, Dresses and Coats

Harem Pants

Hip Belt Pattern with history

Misha’s Tutorial: How to cover a costume bra


Misha’s Tutorial: How to make a Ghawazee Coat out of a dress


Multiple Patterns

Bra decoration, hip scarf, circle skirt

Shira’s patterns, sewing tips and links

DVD Review: Bellydance for Core Fitness

DVD Title: Bellydance for Core Fitness
Instructor: Ayshe
Production: World Dance New York
Review by MISHA


Over the years, I’ve reviewed a wide variety of bellydance DVD’s. I was a regular reviewer for World Dance New York and Cheeky Girl Productions, and will now be sharing my reviews, previously posted only on Amazon and in a dance publications, here. 

Bellydance videos seem to fit into one of two genres: instructional or performance. The instructional types can be further broken down into those videos that are fitness oriented and those that tend to focus more on bellydance technique. Generally, I prefer the latter as many of the fitness videos are simply routines that implore viewers to do their best to follow along. Often these fitness videos contain little, if any, information on how to do the movements. There is usually very little time spent on actual technique and movement breakdown. Instead, the instructors tend to err more on the side of producing a video that will have their watchers up and moving, even if they are not necessarily moving safely or with proper bellydance form.

Finally there’s a bellydance “fitness” video that corrects this issue, providing a fun, sassy “follow along and dance” format while also including enough technical information to make the best instructional videos fear being sent to the bellydance swap pages. Ayshe, seeking to provide dancers with a way to improve their core abdominal strength, has created a DVD that offers viewers three distinct sections. The first includes all aspects of the typical fitness video (warm up, combinations, a dance section featuring the combos, and a cool down) combined with Ayshe’s detailed voice-over description. This part of the video is a great bellydance workout as it is designed to specifically target key muscle groups important for technique such as the psoas and glutes. Each section of this “workout” portion could serve as a stand-alone exercise plan on its own, allowing viewers a nice variety of options all wrapped up into one DVD. For those seeking to simply follow along, the second section provides the same format without the narration. This part is in the standard fitness video style, allowing viewers to work at their own pace along with the video.

The third part of Ayshe’ creation is, on its own, easily worth the price of the video. Here the instructor reveals her special talent of analyzing and clearly explaining the technical details of each movement. Ayshe spends a lot of time discussing the muscles that drive each move, presenting her information clearly and concisely. I was pleased that, although Ayshe certainly knows her human anatomy, I did not need a medical degree to understand her descriptions. And, in addition to all of this technical stuff, Ayshe shows several short drills with each movement and muscle group, a nice bonus for those of us who desire less to practice combinations to improve our dance and more to simply drill, drill, drill!

A particularly interesting aspect of this video was Ayshe’s choice of movements. Rather than include the “standards” that many dancers know and love, Ayshe instead chose to highlight those moves that would improve core strength. Ayshe provides an interesting, diverse selection of movements, many of which are rare to find on instructional video. She even includes several folkloric steps, a nice and unexpected touch for a fitness offering.

I confess that I normally steer clear of bellydance fitness videos, but I can honestly say that I not only enjoyed Ayshe’s work but will also actually use it regularly. This video is definitely worth a look and one I’d recommend for everyone’s collection.