Monday, April 20, 2009

Tribal v other types of belly dancing

Following is a question a former student asked me and my answer:

> Hi, Fayme, I know it's been a long time.
> Yesterday I did some belly dancing with some
> women who are in the SCA. They do tribal belly
> dancing and I didn't know how to that. Which
> leads me to this question. What is the
> difference between tribal style of dancing
> compared to what we did when I took lessons from
> you?

Ah yes, time marches on.
What I teach is a combination of Egyptian, Arabic, Cabaret and Tribal belly dancing.
Up until about 1987, belly dancers at Renaissance Faires were doing cabaret belly dancing and dressing in that same style.

It didn't fit in too well. So a group in the SF area called Fat Chance belly dance came up with a 'look' they called tribal. It was an eclectic blend put together in the way only Americans could have done, blending together costuming from India, Egypt, Afghanistan, Africa, and wherever else seemed appropriate. Then they started dancing in a synchronized way, all doing the same moves. The closest thing I can think of is the Rockets. Tribal is the chorus line of belly dancing.

Then as the years went on, things evolved even further. More tribal groups sprung up and evolved in different directions. Some of it may barely resemble the tribal style that is credited to Fat Chance Belly Dance. Since I can't see the style you are watching in your SCA group, I can't pin it down exactly. But the background you have should not be too far away from picking up the local style. Just remember tribal is a fabrication, and not historical at all, so don't let them bully you. They'd never document it in a pentathalon for example. Tribal evolved from the steps you already know.

Lately dancing has been evolving in the direction of 'fusion' and including more and more robotics. Some of the new trends can be found on youtube by googling up 'steampunk belly dance', 'fushion belly dance', 'gothic bellydance' and 'raks gothique'.

Hopefully the SCA dancers are teaching you their choreography. If they are then you'll soon see you have a foundation for it.