In this interview we get to know two very vibrant and passionate women and dancers, Melita and Richelle. I just love the theme photo for this interview – the colours, the connection and the joy is contagious and that comes through in everything they share in the interview as well.
Richelle teaches Global Caravan Tribal Belly Dance from her studio near Fremantle in Western Australia. A force of nature, she brings Tribal Dance to women of all ages, sizes and backgrounds.
Melita is dear and very precious friend of mine. She is the kindred spirit I mention in a previous blog post, A Sacred Steppingstone. Apart from being the most amazing and accurate Psychic and psychic coach I have ever met and an author of the book Blissfully Dead, Melita has been a dance student of Richelle for some years now. I asked Melita if we could do an interview about her passion – being a Tribal Dancer.
It became obvious that the interview would not be complete without including her teacher Richelle, the master teacher of this dance.
So this interview is a fusion of two women’s passion and their beautiful and generous hearts. The interview is longer than usual – break it up, savor short pieces or read it in one go – however you do it, give yourself the treat of this interview!
Devi Living – Melita, before we begin, how would you describe Fremantle to someone who has never been here? From an alternative scene and expanding consciousness angle, where would you say it is at?
Melita – When I first arrived in (Western) Australia, I only knew one person. She took me to Fremantle on my second day here. According to her, Fremantle would help me with homesickness because it was a bit like Europe. And here I am, almost 20 years later and still loving it.
Fremantle has a very alternative and progressive community. There are many genuine hippies in Fremantle, which makes ‘Freo’ vibrant and colourful. There is ALWAYS something going on in Fremantle, from workshops to courses to festivals…. And most things are reasonably priced.
The downside of Fremantle is that real estate prices have gone crazy. Shop rents have become so high that most of the original Fremantle shops have been forced out. Fremantle shops are now either empty, pop-up thrift shops or the predictable franchise ones. Such a loss!
Devi Living – Your dance journey with Tribal Dancing began 2 years ago. With so many dance forms available, what drew you to Tribal Dance?
Melita – I have always liked belly dancing. Having lived in Greece and Turkey for well over a decade, I missed the more eastern influenced music and dancing. I started belly-dance classes with the beautiful Eva at the Free Spirit Dance Community in July 2018 and I loved it.
One of her classes was preceded by a class called Tribal Grooves with the teacher Richelle.
Richelle is the master teacher of Tribal Grooves (TG) in Australia. Tribal Grooves is a workout class, based on Tribal Dance moves. The classes are almost always themed. When going for my belly-dance class, I would walk into a group of dressed-up women, dancing their hearts out with big smiles on their faces.
The music list is always created for the occasion by the unstoppable Richelle.
I didn’t stand a chance! It would have been impossible to watch women having that much fun without participating.
When my belly dance teacher Eva went on a long trip, I decided to do Global Caravan Tribal Belly-dance classes with Richelle on Thursday nights. We do 4-week courses focusing on a particular theme each month. We have dress-up nights and rehearse for performances. I have done them for 2 years now and I love it.
Richelle creates a space of oneness and sisterhood that makes the dancing magical. The classes are so much fun! Richelle has a talent for making everything fun and magic and loving.
In February 2020 I started dancing with another teacher, Cat. Cat used to be a student of Richelle and is now a teacher herself. Her classes have the same set up as Richelle’s minus the dress up. Cat is an awesome teacher; she is very precise and patient, and she helps me a lot with the musical side of dancing.
Devi Living – What are your absolute highlights and joys of the dance itself?
Melita – The fact that we dance together. It forms such a bond! We often partner up or do formation dancing. This way we all get a chance to lead and to follow. Tribal belly-dancing is improvised dancing, so we do a lot of circle dancing in which we all take turns to lead a few moves. So much fun!
I also love the fact that it has so many different props and styles. We can have a month of dancing with baskets, or swords, or skirts. We could be doing Turkish, Egyptian, or slow moves. The list is very long.
We do a lot of performing. It is the best fun ever because we do it together.
I love the dressing up, but it is hard for me to be with such talented women who just jump behind a sewing machine and bang out a specific garment where and when needed. Fortunately, there is always someone who creates something magical for me too, with love and kindness.
Dancing dressed up is definitely one of the highlights of Tribal Belly-dance!
Devi Living – If you look back at the woman you were when you began this journey, who do you see and what challenges and rewards is she in for?
Melita – I feel more open. We, the women who dance Tribal Dance, are women who do not look at size, age, race or status. In an image oriented society this is precious. This is not just something we say, this is who we are. We encourage each other to express ourselves as we are, we support and cheer for each other.
Especially in the picture where I wear pink, I can see on my face how easy it has become to show myself as a dancer. I walk towards the front of the stage owning who I am, because my dance sisters are behind me. Always. They have my back. All the way. Knowing that has given me confidence to be me.
From the start my challenge has been to function in a big group of women without having thoughts of insecurity around being liked and being accepted. I have made lots of progress over the years, and the reward is that I am much more at ease with people in general.
Devi Living – The Tribal Dance group that you are part of is led by an amazing woman and teacher, Richelle Spencer. Tell us about her!
Melita – Richelle embraces every woman into her circle. She sees and hears us with her heart. She often shares a poem or something beautiful she has read somewhere. We start and finish our classes with a prayer, always standing in a circle. We often dance slowly in a circle, holding hands, embracing each other. She does stuff that is a total heart opening, even writing about it brings tears to my eyes. This place has turned me a public crier!
What amazes me most is that Richelle always finds new things for us to do. She can always surprise me, even after more than 2 years!
She also does Goddess Sanctuaries once a month. To me they embody everything that Richelle and her dancing represents: the Divine, Feminine, dance, sisterhood, creativity and generosity.
The experience that Richelle brings has given me permission to not care about a woman’s size. Yay! We have reverse discrimination, because curves are so bloody sexy with any form of belly dancing that I get envious…
It has also given me permission to accept myself and every other woman. I never knew that liking or disliking someone could be completely irrelevant if you choose to. Richelle chooses to. I do too now!
(More around this issue can be found in a previous interview – The Feminine Body with performer Verena Schmitt)
Devi Living – If the spirit of Tribal Dancing could send out a message to the world, how would it look and sound like and what would the essence of that message be?
Melita – It would look vibrant, joyful, and extremely colourful! The sound would be tribal, it would definitely be the sound of zills, drums (daruka’s) and zhagareets. This would be a message and an invitation for women to unite – to be strong, colourful, and proud. And above all, to be together.
Devi Living – Imagine women bonding together in real sisterhood in all walks of life. How do you feel it would positively affect the world?
Melita – We would not have all these useless inferiority complexes. After all, we do get those from our (grand)mothers, aunties, sisters, friends, and peers. If we would be able to just enjoy and encourage each other, we would all be strong, loved and supported. Together we would be strong enough to include mother earth as one of us and we would support her back to health.
We would create unity instead of separation, and harmony instead of disharmony.
Devi Living – What would you say to a woman who longs to express herself more through her body but holds herself back because of her age or her weight or any other personal barrier?
Melita Come to a class!’ It won’t take you more than a couple of weeks before you forget the critical voices in your head. We will each mirror you some kind of ‘imperfection’. Witnessing how we all don’t care will give you the bug too!
Yes, that is the sort of bug that we can pass on!
Lets welcome Richelle and get to hear her story.
Devi Living – Richelle, it seems you were born to be a tribal dancer. What lead you to become a Tribal Dance Teacher?
Richelle – From when I was a baby I, was always active. I walked before I was 9 months old. In fact, I ran! I have always been a little bundle of energy and my mum put me into dance classes at the age of 3. I loved it, except for performing on stage. I used to bawl my eyes out when I had to! So funny… as now I thrive on it!
So dance has always been with me.
We moved to the country and unfortunately the dance classes there did not suit my needs. Apparently, I did not rate the teacher well (my mum’s words), and instead I began to play sport.
It was fun, competitive, powerful and I was pretty good at it. It took a great toll on my physical body though. I had many injuries. Some of them really made me ‘sit still’ for a while.
So, in my mid 30’s I decided to give my body a change from this hard-core sport and exercise regime. I enrolled in belly dance.
As I child I was particularly interested in the ‘Mysteries of the Unknown’, especially the pyramids of Giza. I became quite enthralled by all things Egyptian, the call had always been there.
I began dancing with Ayesha, a belly dance teacher at Sheik to Sheik in Fremantle. I really embraced the folkloric; hip centred , grounded earthy Egyptian Beledi style.
One evening she invited a quirky US teacher to join our class.
This gorgeous exotic flower of a woman came in covered in tattoos, cute fluffy bun-bun pigtails, wearing really hip clothes and smeared in essential oils. A pure delight for the senses.
She had us up and dancing in circles and in spirals. All to fabulous music with a heartbeat of rhythms from all sorts of instruments that I had never heard before. It was a breath of fresh air. It was magick!
This is how I met Paulette, the creator of Global Caravan Tribal Belly Dance. She became my first teacher, my mentor, my friend. What a gift!
The class totally embraced the language of this dance as we moved as one. Our hips swaying, shoulders shimmying, brows a glow, bellies laughing.
Watching, interacting with each of the dancers in the circle, totally and utterly in the moment, simply following the leader and feeling connected and alive.
This is what I wanted, this is what my heart, my mind, my body craved for!
This dance is so much more than the steps…. it is a lifestyle. It is about the journey……destination unknown….
Devi Living – Tribal Dance is not just something that happens in a small studio near Fremantle, it is a global happening thing. Tell us about it!
Richelle – GCTB (Global Caravan Tribal Belly Dance) is danced all over the globe – the US, UK, Mexico, Russia, Japan, NZ, Australia. Sometimes we may not speak the verbal language of our dance sistas but our bodies talk the language of the dance.
Its stylings are steeped in the modern but with ancient roots. It is heavily influenced by dances of North Africa, Egypt, India, Spain, Rom Gypsy, modern contemporary dance, trance, zaar and healing modalities.
It evokes the romantic notion of the wandering nomadic gypsy bohemian lifestyle, gathering tribe and travelling together in the caravans. Living life to its fullest potential and seeking joy in the ordinary.
Paulette’s dream was to connect women all over the world together ‘hand to hand, hip to hip, heart to heart’. Sharing the glory of the dance with the stomping feet, swaying hips and shimmying body moves that totally fill and fuel our bodies, minds, and spirits.
This is why I teach GCTB style. This is why I followed my heart, followed my dreams, studied hard, always researching, have an insatiable hunger for new information and now have a dance family that spans the globe.
Devi Living – You weave the divine feminine aspect into the dance – how does that look like and how does bringing the feminine to the dance affect the women who dance?
Richelle – Its more than just being attracted and inspired to collect the accouterments of the dance – the gorgeous colourful costuming, jewellery, artifacts and ethnic textiles (which is so much fun and a huge part of it!)
We become beautiful bower birds collecting treasures that make our hearts happy and our bodies gorgeously adorned.
It is about sharing sisterhood and making music and magic. It is about co-creating art and uniting woman of all cultures, races, shapes, and sizes.
Sharing and weaving together the phases of the divine feminine – The dreamy, bold Maiden. The nurturing, patient Mother. The powerful, transitioning Enchantress and the wise, sacred Crone. Transitioning, accepting, and standing in our power.
When we gather and dance these earthy moves that our ancestors did before us and which have such beautiful sacred geometry crafted into them, we can feel the sense of connection…. of community… of tribe….
We begin and we end each dance class in circle – a safe, supportive place of equality. This is so uplifting. It brings joy, encouragement and creates positive energy.
We dance together sharing a common vocabulary of moves that can be danced in an improvised way by following the cues of the leader. We give in to the ego, being immersed in the moment, allowing flow, synchronicity, and joy to shine through. We dance for each other, showing support, holding space, and feeling beautiful.
When women hold each other with respect, with love and with support, it opens doorways and pathways. It surprises us with glorious creative possibilities.
Women have been suppressed by the masculine for too long and I acknowledge that we all need to maintain a healthy balance within our masculine & feminine energy… so I ask these gorgeous women to search deep into their hearts and find what they truly desire.
I ask them to step into their power, into their hearts and do what makes them feel happy.
Dress in what makes you feel beautiful – wear the red lipstick, wear the gorgeous ethnic jewellery.
Layer up all the colourful mish-mashed patterned clothes to cover your curvaceous bodies.
Adorn yourself with scarves, bindi’s, flowers, feathers – whatever makes you feel amazing.
Show us your passionate, determined soul and mostly – shine your light bright.
Devi Living – As a Tribal dancer, what would your loudest and most inspiring message be to women who don’t yet dance?
Richelle – I ask you – have you ever been curious and wished to try something way outside your comfort zone? Have you wanted to move your body in deliciously feminine ways? Do you want to learn to love the skin you are in?
Yes, you may be shy, a little reserved, even a bit apprehensive. But hey – you may just love it!!
So, I dare you…. come try Global Caravan Tribal Belly Dance. What have you got to lose? I believe you will find you have way more to gain! Every beautiful exotic bird has glorious wings, lets spread them and fly!
Wow, what an inspiring interview! Thank you so much Melita and Richelle!
Are you inspired to move, dance and express yourself after reading this? When I was working on the interview I could feel all my juices going and even felt a tinge of envy (the nice kind of envy) of the sisterhood these women share.
If not through dance, we can create both movement and sisterhood in any way we feel called to! Imagine a world where women are sisters and always have each other’s back!
Share in the comments below how this interview got your blood and inspiration moving!
If you live in the Fremantle area, why not try a class with Richelle? I did and I loved it! Below you have a smorgosboard of choice of dance classes and women’s gatherings that Richelle hold in her studio. You can contact Richelle via email – email@example.com or mobile – 0416 547 906.
Here is the link to Melita’s website and her book Blissfully Dead. You can contact Melita via email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
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