Tribal fusion dance is more than a set of movements pulled together to make a choreography.
It’s about character, joining personalities to create a self expressive art, and ultimately a performance. My dance teacher, Gala nurtures every dancer, and helps them develop their look, their grace, their style. Ultimately creating a bond so great between the dancers that is hard to ever break. They are tied. Each very different and together they are one.
This is why I’ve developed such a bond with my dance teacher and the dancers that I never thought possible. And now that I have to leave the group from Frankfurt, Germany to return home to Australia, I am more than saddened. I am like a child about to be separated from the sacred womb of a mother.
I never thought possible that any friendship of this kind could exist. Gala places emphasis on every dancer in the group, and treats everyone as special. She spent a lot of time talking to me about my life goals, the way I project my look, and involved me in the choreography.
I’ve studied and continue to study the tribal fusion philosophy and how the concept evolved. This has helped me understand womanhood, and the evolutionary triumphs and struggles placed along side it.
Tribal style bellydance movement began in 1967 in San Francisco. It was founded by Jamila Salimpour who taught Mashor Archer, a feminist visionary to remove sexist stigma on Bellydancing. Through my search for the place of my cultural roots, I was drawn to the tribal style because the more ethnic and folklore look of the dance and costumes fulfilled my identity. My dance classes are a place to find and be my true self, and I feel accepted and free. So far my favorite tribal styles are Tribal Fusion and American Tribal.
American Tribal Style Dance, also abbreviated as ATS is like tribal bellydance, but features a specialized type of group formation and an improvised, lead-and-follow cueing between the dancers. I have just started learning to do this dance, and I find it graceful, flowing and becoming.
Tribal fusion belly dance is a modern form of belly dance, and it is the style I find the most interesting. It evolved from American tribal style belly dance. It blends elements of ATS with any other style of dance such as hip-hop, breakdance, cabaret bellydance, and more traditional forms, flamenco, kathak, bhangra and other folklore dance styles.
This makes me wonder about the possibilities of mixing the styles of dance that make up my cultural roots and those of which I’ve experienced, such as Greek dance styles, Serbian and Manchegas from Albacete.
The costuming is very similar to other styles of tribal dance. Though tribal fusion mixes authentic belly dance movements with elements from other dance genres. In addition, the music for tribal fusion is often very modern or eclectic. I can only imagine the possibilities that can be created, and this makes for a very interesting process of discovery, creativity and ultimately a performance.
I adore the layered look of tribal bellydancing. The beautiful, often quite covered up look, with heavy fabrics and extensive yardage in the skirts, harem-pants and tops, for me create the romantic look that goes with my personality.
Fabrics tend to be opaque and natural, such as cottons and rayons. Choli tops and other blouse/vest combinations are worn alone or layered with decorated bra tops. Ethnic jewelry, tassels, turbans, and tattoos can also be used extensively.
As a girl I didn’t learn a lot about make up and I’m not sure why. I tried to apply it, but I managed it all wrong. Growing up, I lacked a lot of confidence applying make up because I was worried of what others thought. I loved to put make up on, and abundantly so, but I had the courage to do it only when I went out dancing.
I lacked consistency in my application to makeup and my insecurity showed in my face. Tribal bellydance make-up may be heavy and exotic with facial tattoos and ethnic hairstyles created with braids and hair extensions. I love this because the look is very liberating and celebrates womanhood and femininity, creating a look of authentic ‘woman power’.
It gives me confidence that I can also use in my daily life. It is through dance that I’ve found a voice, and a way to express my thoughts, and ultimately defining them to find and develop who I am.
Are you a member of a tribal dance group? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comment box below.
Thank you for reading.
Maria Grujicic (Malena)
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