I think that one of the most heart-bursting, overwhelming realisations that I brought away with me from the whole incredible experience has to be the power, strength and love embodied within this beautiful Gypsy Caravan community of ours. From the bonds forged between those of us who trained, shared, laughed and cried together to the dance and music sister and brotherhood in general, the sense of inclusion, of being a real and valued part of it all, was just so strong it was almost tangible.
As visitors to Portland I'm sure I speak for everyone else when I say we were hugged into it all with open arms. Being welcomed off my plane (tired, bedraggled but happy) by Paulette and Christine, similarly welcomed into Paulette and Jeff's home, dancing and chilling with the Caravan Project musicians and the Amulet Moon ladies, shared meals out and about with Gypsy Caravan and my CS girls, late night visits to ice cream parlours ( which included the dogs - mustn't forget those! And a special thanks goes to them for their company during meditation at Paulette's - good times!), hitting the Jamballah showcase together, intensive shopping trips, a fabulous trip out to the Gorge and falls, talking rock and blues with Jeff, smudging from Carol at class ..... So many amazing memories. This is a dance of love, joy, belonging; of being valued for who you are, right now - and having spent that time with all of these warm, wonderful people I see exactly where it comes from. I loved Portland the first time I visited four years ago and yearned to return; now it is very much my 'home from home', one of those true 'soul places'. And this is not because it is just such a beautiful, cool and funky place to be (and believe me, it is!). It is because of the people there - the community of like-minded souls and gorgeous spirits that Paulette has built up around her. Oh how I love, love LOVE this dance - and oh how I love, love LOVE this community!!
Anyone who has done Collective Soul will know too about the bond that develops there between you and your dance sisters. Yes, it comes through the dancing, journaling and sharing that are integral parts of the whole thing, but it comes too through that out of class stuff that you do together. I still have wonderful memories of CS1 in Portland - heading out to Astoria and the coast together one evening, driving down to Portland from Clatskanie for extra classes (practising our ME rhythms on the way!), limoncellos in the Noble Rot! (And it was particularly fabulous to meet up with Kat, from my CS1 class, this year too' Mwah!) Then of course there was TT1 and CS2 in Milan ... more meals out (of course!), hitting the local Lidl with great glee, rampaging around Milan sorting out poor Wendy's passport (who would have thought CS included trips to the local police station?!), chilling and drilling at our lovely apartment .... And now I have a whole new batch of memories and new friendships to add. So many of these bonds are so real and so lasting .... you experience so much together, supporting one another throughout a whole gamut of emotions as you dig deeper and discover so much more, not just about the dance itself but about yourself. I am just so, so grateful for all of the beautiful people that Gypsy Caravan has brought into my life - love you all!
I came home a couple of weeks ago carrying so much love and joy with me that I'm surprised I wasn't charged for extra baggage. And yes, I came home re- inspired, not just to become the very best dancer that I can be, but also to really do my bit in helping to develop this Gypsy Caravan community right here in my little part of the world. And guess what? A couple of days after my return I taught my regular weekly class. As I watched those ladies - watched how they greeted me and one another, asked after each other, supported one another both then and as they danced together with smiles, laughter and yips, as we joined one another for a celebratory meal after class with so much laughter and happiness - as I watched and talked to those ladies, I felt it! Those WildHearts are such beautiful souls and together they have built that community - a little piece of Portland right here in Wigan! THIS is the power of this dance, THIS is what it's all about!
Of course none of this would have ever been possible without one woman! Paulette, your love, generosity and care for your dancers is what has made all this happen! Your excitement when someone (usually me !) finally 'gets' something they have been working on, your true commitment to helping everyone become the best that they can be (not just in dance but in life), the way in which you I make everyone feel included, the fact that you are not above cleaning blood off poorly feet (me again!) from yoga mats or running out in your break to try to find wrap for said poorly feet ..... You are just amazing and a real inspiration! Thank you so much for all that you have done and continue to do for me, for this dance and for this beautiful, fabulous community!
Until next time - happy dancing!