Ginny Watts grew up dancing. One of her parents’ favorite ways of celebrating their relationship was through ballroom dance. Ginny took various tap, ballet, modern, and jazz classes, beginning at the age of seven. In high school, Ginny discovered belly dancing and began a life-long exploration of this ancient and complex dance. While completing a Bachelor’s degree in Child Development at California State University, Fullerton, Ginny studied folk dances of Eastern Europe with members of the world-renowned Aman Folk Ensemble.
She turned down an invitation for an audition to become a member of Aman, and moved back to her native Montana after graduation in 1980. Shortly after arriving in Bozeman, Ginny joined Cindy Malo, Janet Sylvain, and Marsha Stablein to form the original Caravan of Dreams. Over the next five years, Ginny taught and performed belly dance, choreographing many of the Caravan’s signature dances.
Caravan membership ebbed and flowed until Ginny became the only remaining founding member still in the troupe. Over the years, Ginny has taught and performed in venues from Hawaii to Boston, Seattle to Los Angeles. She also has a counseling practice in Belgrade. Ginny lives with her husband, Ron Chase. Her sons, Garrett and Corey, have drummed with the Caravan of Dreams World Dance Ensemble since 1999, but have since moved on to college and beyond. Ginny is currently completing a manuscript on world dance as a medium for spiritual practice.
Have you been dancing since childhood and just never stopped?
My parents loved to dance. When we would go out to dinner, if there was music they would get up and dance and people at neighboring tables would ask us kids if they were professional ballroom dancers. They took me to ballets and other dance performances and introduced me to Hollywood musicals. I have danced and watched dance since I can remember.
In three words how does belly dancing make you feel?
Joyous, transcendent, grounded.
Did you ever have an “oops” moment dancing solo?
I was doing a performance at the Karst Kamp restaurant. I slid up onto the pool table to do some slow serpentine moves. I caught my bracelet in my belt and couldn’t raise my hand above my hips. I did the rest of the performance with only one hand free to dance.
How do you feel before a public performance?
Ideally, somewhat nervous. When I perform frequently, I sometimes lose that burst of nerves. I miss the boost of energy it gives me. I am always much more nervous when I’m on the sidelines and my students or my fellow performers are up there. There is no way to channel that energy.
Has dancing influenced your counseling?
I used to keep my counseling and dance separate. In the last few years I’ve come to realize how therapeutic dance is and how spiritual both my avocations are. I am working on a book and DVD that explores world dance as spiritual practice.
Where do your ideas for Caravan of Dreams dances come from?
I have studied dances from all over the world. Often, it’s the music that gets the juices flowing, but sometimes a prop (like a veil or a sword or finger cymbals or candles) will call to me and I then look for the music that will best complement the prop.
Sometimes a story needs to be told or an emotion or experience embodied in dance. It’s also not unusual for the universe to present one or more of the elements simultaneously — a new veil comes to me just when a friend sends me a piece of music that’s just right for this particular veil.
Who is your favorite dancer or who has been your greatest inspiration?
Delilah Flynn from Seattle. She is an American Belly Dancer and is very interested in creating performance art and blending philosophy and spirituality into her dance. In West African dance, my two major teachers are Youssouf Koumbassa and Djeneba Sako.
Ginny Watts, M.Ed., LCPC, 129 Village Dr. Suite 303, P.O. Box 1377, Belgrade, 406-388-7174
GW, Director, The Caravan of Dreams World Dance Troupe, P.O. Box 1308, Belgrade, 406-920-2151, www.thecaravanofdreams.com