Most people have heard of bellydancing (and have their own perceptions and prejudices about it!) but not everyone knows that there are a variety of styles of bellydance from cabaret style , to folkloric, to tribal style.
I came across bellydance when travelling through Egypt in 1989 and did not realise then what a long lasting impact it would have on my life, and also how it impacts so many women in such a positive way. There are thousands of women bellydancing for fitness and pleasure throughout the UK and there is strong core of women including myself who get hooked and it truly becomes a lifestyle choice!
Now as a dancer and a teacher my desires are always to make my students the best dancers they can be, by providing tools, ideas, and information. In tribal bellydancing the key is the feeling of tribal and focus on the community aspect, through supporting each other. In a world today where ego takes central stage, tribal bellydancing helps to reinforce the power of having a supportive group and community to work with.
It is an exciting contemporary representation of ancient dance forms, drawn from many roots – Egypt, India, Asia, Africa and Spain. It is a group dance, Gypsy-like in feeling, whether in duets or many more dancers and based on a common language of moves that allows improvised dancing. It energises the group primarily and then the audience.
Tribal, interpretive dance was performed by Jamila Salimpour’s troupe Bal-Anat in California in 1968. One of Jamila’s students. Masha Archer, expanded the folkloric/interpretive style, teaching it to her own students, one of whom was Carolena Nericcio, now director of the famous Fat Chance Belly Dance troupe (FCBD).
Carolena further developed the genre through further research into folkloric, oriental and flamenco dance. She is credited today with developing the specific vocabulary of movement, base choreography and group improvisation style that, cornerstone of American Tribal Style.
Tribal style does not pretend to be authentic to any one region. It proudly fuses different styles and regional influences, taking dancer and audience on a wonderful journey.
It is different than traditional bellydancing as it is synchronised and spontaneous, (rather than a solo focus or choreographed), however other differences are posture, costuming and musical choices. It favours a celebration of the strength, mystery and power of women.
This dance is for everyone of all ages shapes and sizes, and to dance tribal with your sisters is powerful stuff. The fun, the adrenalin rush, the changes to your body as you work all those different muscles, the laughter with others, the adornment of fabulous costume pieces, and really feeling your body and being in your body are all parts of learning tribal bellydance!
Improvisation can be intimidating at first, but it allows you to feel the magic of the moment. You also find that it can help you improve through life and adapt to the changes that come at you more confidently! This style of dance teaches “cues” and steps that allow you to dance with your fellow dancers in a specific dance language that can be picked up with tribal sisters throughout the world.
Its philosophy is based on the unique strength of the tribe as a collective as well as the individual strengths of its members.
Competitiveness between dancers has no place.
Tribal style has many lessons to take away and apply to life in general – and what a great way to keep fit too.
The photograph is of Deirdre’s troupe Urban Shimmy performing at Theatre Royal, Glasgow and includes Deidre at 7 months pregnant!
Article by Deirdre Macdonald