Carol Vance, Director
Throughout my life I have always participated energetically in some kind of dance/ movement; from ballet starting at age 5, Modern, Jazz, African and Flamenco, Aikido, Tai Chi and Soaring Crane qigong certification, to name a few. Dance, in particular, is what has brought me to my senses and makes me know for certain that I am alive!
Tribal style belly dance came along for me in 1993, just as I was going through major life changes, and has been with me ever since. Gypsy Caravan was just getting started, and its offering was unique and compelling. The other dancers felt like kindred spirits.
Since 1996 I have had the honor to perform, teach and then direct; all the while delighted and amazed by the phenomenal evolution and progression of this dance – so many fusions, styles and interpretations!!
I love it all; the improv, the connection between dancers, the collaboration. Maybe best of all is being a part of women’s empowerment through finding their inner strength, their inner goddess.
I am so grateful.
As a young child I was always known as being very creative, expressive and musical. I took many music classes, but the closest thing to dance that I did was synchronized swimming and gymnastics. I didn’t start dancing until college. But as I started taking classes I immediately fell in love with dance. I took classes in swing, lindy hop, blues, salsa, cha-cha & tango. Later I performed with a swing group called “The Patootie Pies” and a salsa group called “Rumba Caliente.” I also started a band called “The Swing Sisters” where three of us gals sang and danced to songs from the 30s and 40s. One night as I was thinking what the next step for me in dance would be, I impulsively decided to take a belly dance class. I was thinking that this would help me work on my body isolation for my other dances. As I started taking Belly Dance classes through Gypsy Caravan and watching the dancers perform around town I began to love the dance. The dance, the costumes, and the women were all artistic and creative. And I loved that. And after taking many classes I was thrilled to be asked to be a part of Gypsy Heart Tribal in 2010.
As a young girl growing up in New York City, my grandmother would take me to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. I secretly dreamed of being one, and knew that dance would be a part of my life. My own personal dance history has taken me through modern dance, sacred dance forms, Authentic Movement, Gabrielle Roth’s 5 Rhythms, and Soul Motion.
Seeing Gypsy Caravan for the first time at a performance I was mesmerized, in a state of awe, because I knew in that moment that this was the dance form that I had been looking for. Drawn by a desire to discover the hidden messages within the dance, I found healing and strength within as my sensuality expressed in the sway of hips. At times it was like touching into a vein that ran deep through women and unveiled our ancient roots.
I have been a part of this amazing community of women dancers for a number of years. I have performed in various incarnations as Caravan Daughters, Urban Berbers and now Gypsyheart. I also have been privileged to teach this dance and welcome many women into this enriching dance form. When I am not dancing I work as a Manager of a conference/retreat center in Damascus, Oregon.
I took my first Bellydance class at 47 years old and loved it! My dance history includes three years of cabaret style, several years studying with Gypsy Caravan, and then ten years dancing, teaching and performing with Jane Archer at Euphoria Studios while co-directing the troup Mandala. I loved every minute of it. Only my faith in God and the love of my children and grandchildren come before my passion for tribal belly dance. What a fantastic, global sisterhood of all shapes, sizes and ages! I love being with women who are dedicated, focused, and committed to their dance and each other.
I am blessed and thrilled to be part of Gypsy Heart Tribal as of 2013, dancing, studying, building up and encouraging each other to present our very best and hopefully inspire others. My deepest thanks to our truly inspiring and gifted director and friend Carol, and to the tremendous visionary Paulette Rees-Denis.
I have been dancing for as long as I can remember. I took classes in ballet, jazz, and modern dance but I didn’t take my first bellydance class until 2000. My first introduction to Tribal style was by watching a video (Andrea, Blue Dragon) in class, and I was mesmerized.
The first bellydance workshop I took was in Phoenix, AZ with Paulette and Dulcinea of Gypsy Caravan. Although I was way out of my element at the time, I studied their moves and memorized as much as I could. And then I practiced… and practiced….and practiced….
After a few years of taking classes and workshops, I started teaching bellydance classes in our small Arizona town, and eventually started a Tribal Troupe (Raks Matana). My husband, Ruben, also started drumming and we were in a group together with some live music. When we moved to Portland, we were so excited to be in the hub of bellydance and in the same town as Gypsy Caravan.
I took several classes at Caravan Studio but then also took classes from several local teachers at various studios in Portland and Vancouver. I was also in the cabaret troupe, Tiger Lilies directed by Cassiopeia, and was a member of PURE from 2013 to 2014. When I started taking Gypsy Caravan style classes with Gypsy Heart, it felt like coming home to me. I am so happy to be a part of this wonderful group and to dance with such beautiful women. It has been my dream for a long time to be in Gypsy Heart!
I have always had a love for the arts, but being a dancer is something I never thought I’d do, particularly because of my history as a klutzy tomboy. If you told me in 2010 that I was going to be a bellydancer one day, I would have laughed skeptically and told you I was more likely to get back into competitive swimming. I took an introductory class with my mother as a way of spending more time with her, and the story is pretty self explanatory from there: I fell in love with the feminine empowerment and group dynamic of tribal style.
I love that there are no restrictions to who can do this dance. You don’t have to look a particular way, be a certain age, or come from a specific background. This group of women is endlessly welcoming of everyone. Tribal style itself is a melding of many cultures and influences. The strong sense of community and acceptance is what I appreciate most about my dancing sisters.
By profession, I am a digital 2D animator, working on everything from web advertisements to TV shows and movies. I am constantly amazed how much dance has cross influenced my work, improving my powers of observation, timing, and gesture drawing. Dance has become my creative outlet and has brought me an unexpected deeper love of my body and my career path.
I’m so thrilled to be performing with my dance sisters in Gypsy Heart Tribal! My love affair with Belly Dance began at a young age, but my studies didn’t begin until 1999. In 2002, I began performing. This fun, inspiring, glittery hobby soon became a second career, and I began performing professionally in 2004 in restaurants and venues around the US. My early focus was as a solo “American Cabaret” or Raks Sharki dancer. Over the years I’ve taught classes, competed in contests and then judged contests. I’ve become an award winning dancer, most recently named 2014 Belly Dancer USA Goddess.
My dance style incorporates finger cymbals, shimmies, captivating veil work, and an ’emotive and joyful stage presence’. In my solo dancing, I combine ballet, tribal, Egyptian, and American Cabaret to make my dancing style truly my own. I’ve been inspired by my many belly dance friends and supporters, and this spurs me to strive to become the best dancer that I can be. The need to improve and grow has lead to a renewed interest in Tribal Belly Dance. As an original member of Mandala, Jane Archer’s neb-tribal troupe, the foundation was laid many years ago. I am so very happy to be dancing with such a wonderful group of women, who have welcomed me with open arms. I look forward to many years with the troupe.
Previous troupe dancers:
Karen Hunt, 2010-2015
Gina Lee, 2010-2015
Pamela Smith-Hill, 2010-2014
Melissa Sandoz, 2010-2013
Hannah Fulop, 2011-2013
Jamie Lyle, 2014-2017
Peggy Hewitt, 2011-2017