You don’t get to pick your family, but you can pick your teachers and you can pick your friends and you can pick the music you listen to and you can pick the books you read and you can pick the movies you see. You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influences. The German writer Goethe said, ‘We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.’ ― Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
While many belly dancers strive to perfect the traditional dances of their predecessors, the creators of American Tribal Style (ATS) belly dance fearlessly combined their favorite dance traditions of the Middle East, North Africa and Spain and spirited costumes to create a new style of dance that reflect their authentic selves. They created a sisterhood of strong women that don’t try to outperform one another, but instead use discrete cues that create stunning group improvisation.
The dancers that inspired ATS include the acrobatic dancer, Jamila Salimpour, the artist and fashion designer, Masha Archer, and of course the woman who refined the ATS style and made it an international name, Carolena Nericcio. They had no desire to represent any particular dance genre, and instead used belly dance as a medium to express their passion for textiles, jewelry, and music. These fearless women inspired other belly dancers to create original belly fusion styles that reflect their unique personalities and passions.
Over the last few decades American Tribal Style belly dance has grown into a worldwide movement with many different branches. Here is a list of the most popular types of belly dance stemming from ATS:
1- Improvisational Tribal Style (ITS)
Similar to ATS, ITS uses arm and hand cues for effortless group improvisation. It is strongly associated with Amy Sigil, who has been expanding her distinctive improv vocabulary for over a decade.
2- Tribal Fusion
Tribal Fusion is the wild child of ITS. While keeping to it’s roots, Tribal Fusion takes inspiration from around the world, fusing together elements from cabaret belly dance, Indian fusion, flamenco, contemporary, and other dance traditions. While Tribal Fusion is often a solo dance, it can also be performed as a duo or group dance.
3- Urban Tribal
Urban Tribal dance, created by San Diego based Heather Stants, integrates traditional belly dance with contemporary, modern, club, funk, and hip hop dance stylisations. In contrast to ATS, costumes are minimalist without gaudy ornamentation, emphasising body movements.
Tribaret is a theatrical mélange of both tribal and the cabaret belly dance style of the 1970s. Dancers wear glitzy costumes, and use minimal improvisation.
5- East Coast Tribal
Inspired by hip hop, modern dance, and martial arts, East Coast Tribal belly dance uses multi-layer hip work and bold full-body movements to reflect the world and tell a story.
6- Combo-Based Tribal
Combo-Based Tribal is an energetic dance style, anchored in long combinations of ATS-inspired movements. Discrete cues are used to indicate the next choreographed combo.
7- Gothic Tribal
Gothic bellydance, also known as Raks Gothique, combines the gothic culture with cabaret and tribal style belly dance. Dancers add drama to their performances with trance-like movements and costumes adorned with lace, fishnet, and gothic jewellery.
What’s your favorite type of Tribal belly dance? Share with us in the comments!