What exactly is Tribal Belly Dance?
Is this a question you've heard before or perhaps thought of yourself? In a nutshell, tribal belly dance is a dance form created in America, but influenced by Middle Eastern dance. The form continues to grow and change and many variations of the style exist. The dance is performed in groups as well as by solo artists.
Some would say it is not an authentic ethnic dance, but a blending of old and new--a blend of traditional belly dance movements with modern, or other ethnic dance moves, such as Indian or Polynesian.
Breaking open the shell reveals a much richer and varied dance form that is difficult to put into a tiny box of descriptive words:
American Tribal Style (ATS) is a form of dance created by Carolena Nericcio, the director of FatChanceBellyDance. It began as a group dance of synchronized improvisation, cued with hand and arm signals. The costuming consists of full skirts, choli-style tops, turbans, heavy jewelry, and fringed hip scarfs.
Improvisational Tribal Style (ITS) took ATS a step further, emulating the ATS style, but adding different movements, different costuming, or different music. These 'tribes', an offshoot of ATS, still retain the feel of the group dance without being carbon copies.
Luma from Southwest Florida says, "I also dance ITS in the Gypsy Caravan format - which Paulette (Gypsy Caravan creator) calls tribal style. She doesn't address it with a specific name, but it is similar to ATS with the combos, improv... Nothing beats the group dynamic. ATS/Group improv is almost spiritual."
Although tribal style began in the US, its popularity has extended internationally. Meissoun from Switzerland performs "Old school ATS all the way - been doing it for 10 years and still love the group improvisation, the zilling, the turbans and all."
Some dancers are drawn to tribal belly dance because they want to try something new. Some want the artistic freedom that tribal fusion offers.
Aleksie (http://aleksiedancer.wordpress.com) "began to take tribal when I wanted to try something completely new with belly dance. I really like that her style helped teach me about fusion; my teacher explained her train of thought why she combined certain things."
Rachel Brice, one of the most well known tribal fusion dancers performs as a solo artist as well as with The Indigo, a tribal fusion troupe in San Francisco, California. She has a unique style which incorporates snake-like sinuous movements and hip hop style pops and locks, and her influence can be seen in the many tribal soloists who have broken out of the 'tribe' mold and perform solo tribal fusion.
Some dancers, both troupe and soloist, define their styles even further with names such as alternative tribal, urban tribal, gothic (or dark) tribal. There are as many names as there are variations; however, there are no hard and fast rules that differentiate one from another, although Gothic tribal dance style typically incorporates the black clothing, makeup, and hair of Goth culture. Beneath all the labels, some commonalities exist: a preference to use modern music, cutting edge costuming, and a high prevalence of body piercings and tattoos.
The word tribal unfortunately has become a catch-all term for anyone dancing in non-traditional costuming to non-traditional music, but tribal is much more than fishnets and dark atmosphere, and some of the most skilled tribal dancers have a background in more traditional forms of belly dance.
Kendra Ray from 7 North says "I teach traditional to beginner students before we even explore modern twists... I feel it's the most important part. Understand the culture and the art from which the new methods have derived. After that, then you can incorporate fusion if you chose to do so."
Ruta Kidolis from Baltimore is of the opinion that "Good fusion is a wonderful eclectic soup of similar rhythms and musical styles from diverse ethnic disciplines, and movement styles that meld and mesh, and create new patterns, and a global understanding of art and music and movement. It's more than just wearing funky ethnic garments to non-traditional music, which is what some bad fusion has become...that and using ethnic dance poses in dance forms that haven't been formally studied."
Anyone can don an edgy outfit and pop in an industrial CD. True fusion is the blending of two or more dance forms. True artistry comes when the dancer blending those forms has a knowledge and mastery of the forms being fused together.