Coming Home to Myself through Roma (Gypsy) Dance


The word “Gypsy” in the class description for a Balkan Roma (Gypsy) Dance class spoke to a longing I couldn’t articulate. I dropped into a class and with the first soulful song and basic steps I was hooked.

The dance with hands clasped in a “W,” the steps and the body movements — expressive, passionate — wake me up. The patterns and rhythms challenge my brain. Attuning to the musicians awakens my creativity. I realize I have been longing for an embodied sense of home that until now I hadn’t noticed was missing. It is fun and joyful, energizing all of my life.

Emily Jarrett Hughes is my teacher and she radiates joy as she patiently and wisely leads us through warm-ups, challenging us with new movement, anchoring it to the simple step, step of walking. We also have time for freestyle improv, as many of the dances evolved from improvisation. Her knowledge of songs, the bands and where the dances originated is a living history and geography lesson.

How does Gypsy dancing enhance my life? At first, I slowly put on the movements of the dance, counting the rhythm and speaking the steps. I take one step and another, until the steps take me. I put on the dance in my body and feel so much at home and present in my body.

The spirit of the Roma (Gypsy) people seem to fill me up. The resilience of these people robbed of their home resides in their song and dance. They have survived through the vitality of their culture. In our classes, I experience dance as a way to draw up the power of the earth, share it in community, and release it through our universe.

I so casually dropped in to Gypsy dance a year ago and then made it my weekly habit. The steps I have made my own, feeling confident to dance through a song with hardly a slip. I own myself as I dance. I own some CDs of the music, too. The fun of dancing does not diminish; the feeling of the dance supports me through my own life challenges.

“Joining these classes,” a fellow dancer shared with me, “and learning this practice of dancing has been one of the best gifts of my whole life. I am so grateful for Emily, and that I followed my heart to this.”

Come join the dance.

Learn more about opportunities to dance at Emily Jarrett Hughes’ blog at

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Collette Cumella
Collette Cumella is a dancer, artist and writer, and a graduate of St. Cloud State University and the St Catherine University's Holistic Health Services program.


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