"It is the darkness that is the light, and the stillness that is the dancing"

TS Elliot


Tribal dance

There are many styles of tribal dance...

  • American Tribal Style
  • Tribal Fusion
  • Gothic Fusion

...and others.

From this ancient dance which has morphed in the west into a new style now commonly labelled, 'belly dance', we are now witnessing what I believe to be a return to a more authentic representation of Middle Eastern dance in styles that have emerged recently, in the past twenty years or so, under the umbrella term 'Tribal Dance'.

I say this because the intention and feeling behind tribal dance movements, and the movements themselves are earth bound, grounded and appear folkloric, especially in American Tribal Style. These qualities, the earth bound, sensual, snakelike and folky feeling of the dance is I believe a true representation of the ancient dance, which has its roots in folk dances, based on accounts and evidence and the similar ancient dance styles that cover the globe.

The costumes too, feel and appear more authentic, drawing inspiration from the Middle East, and the jewellery used is, in most cases made from authentic and possibly even antique, silver and glass pieces.

The appearance of tribal dance performers feels and looks closer to an authentic representation of Middle Eastern women, with the exception of revealing the belly and cleavage, as well as gypsy's from India and Spain.

In this genre you will find, 'American tribal style', 'Tribal fusion', 'Gothic Fusion', and a few more sub-genres that are still defining themselves.

American Tribal Style, founded by Carolena Nericcio of the Fat Chance Belly Dance troupe, holds for me a folkloric feel of the dance in modern times. It has the most 'folky' feel out of all the Tribal Styles.

All movements are performed with minimal change in level, no bouncing up and down with the steps. The arms are held in such a way as to create a strong frame to the body, the elbows, bent at right angles, are held above the shoulder level, this is the default arm position. 'ATS', as it is referred to, is performed in a troupe where each member holds equal power in leading and following.

This tribal dance is generally improvised to a piece of music known well by each troupe member and the choreography emerges seamlessly based on a pre-defined set of signals that each member in the troupe knows intimately.

The signals are given through the placement and manipulation of the hands and arms. With each member knowing what a particular signal is, they are prepared to execute the corresponding movement, or combination of movements. The person who gives the signal, the leader, changes from one troupe member to the next through the dance, depending on the group formation changes.

This tribal dance is extremely grounded, by this I mean that in performing or watching a performance you really feel your base, the ground. The core of America Tribal Style is the community, the unity, the seamless coexistence and symbiotic relationship between the sisters of the dance.

Tribal Fusion draws inspiration from many dance forms, including: Classical Oriental dance 'Raqs Shar'qi'; ATS; Flamenco; classical Indian dance and Hip-hop. The Tribal Fusion dance is performed to a wide range of music, from traditional Middle Eastern to Drum 'n Base, and has given rise to a new form in music , where middle eastern instruments and rhythms are fused with western synthesisers and melodies, creating dynamic, surreal, rich and interesting sound-scapes.

Tribal Fusion can be performed in a troupe or solo. The choreography can be pre-designed and practiced, and or partly improvised through signals, as in ATS. The movements range from folky turns and classical, level-headed spins, to sharp articulations and sinuous snake-like, watery, flowing movement. There is an intense focus on isolated movements of the different body muscles and joints, and a combination of contrasting movements, levels and formations creates one of the most inspiring, captivating, interesting and beautiful dances one could see or experience.

Gothic Fusion Belly Dance, is a newly developed and evolving dance style, fashioned around the knowledge and wisdom of the Gothic culture. A moving expression of the mysteries of the unknown, the darkness of the unknown given light through the unspoken communication of dance.

As with Tribal Fusion, Gothic Fusion Belly Dance finds a perfect foundation language for its outlet in the Middle Eastern dance style, modified and added to, remoulded so to say, to give breath to a new expression of the human mind and soul.

Gothic fusion is dramatic, passionate, romantic, sensual and macabre, reflecting its culture. It is a branch of the Tribal Fusion style, so the dance appears similar to it in that the movement vocabulary is the same, though costume, music and the use of props may differ.

To find out about tribal dance costumes please click here.

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