tribal fusion belly dance

Tribal & Fusion Belly Dance

The Indigo

Mardi Love, Rachel Brice and Zoe Jakes as The Indigo

Tribal Fusion Belly Dance is a modern form of belly dance that emerged by fusing American Tribal Style® Belly Dance (ATS) with American Cabaret Belly Dance.

Characteristically, Belly Dance movements are combined with elements of Western dance styles like Modern, Hip Hop, Pop & Lock or Ballet but also with more traditional forms such as Flamenco, Kathak, Odissi and other folkloric and classic dance styles. This fusion of a variety of styles also shows itself in the selection of music which can range from Dubstep to Jazz to Balkan Beats.

The beginnings of Tribal Fusion Belly Dance reach back to the early 1990 in San Francisco Bay Area, California. This groundbreaking dance style went beyond traditional boundaries of the given Belly Dance scene by drawing inspiration from all kinds of sources, Jill Parker being a significant pioneer. Eventually in 2001, the dance company Bellydance Superstars, featuring Tribal Fusion dancers like Rachel Brice, Mardi Love and Zoe Jakes (the three of them later with their own legendary troupe The Indigo), Kami Liddle or Sharon Kihara initiated the worldwide Tribal Fusion Belly Dance boom that has continued ever since.

Today, thanks to its continuous metamorphosis all over the world there are numberous branches, sub-categories and sub-sub-categories depending on their distinct focus. Moving beyond its original root of ATS® and finding new sources, this young and evolving dance can be more generally referred to as Fusion Belly Dance. The influences that can be brought into fusion are endless: absorbing from African or Indian dances, any combination of Middle Eastern, Flamenco, Burlesque or Gothic Belly Dance, Salsa, Bollywood, Tahitian/Polynesian Fusion, incorporating Hula Hoop, Modern Dance or Hip Hop Fusion…




FatChanceBellyDance with Carolena Nericcio in the front

American Tribal Style® Belly Dance (ATS) or Tribal Style as a general category covers everything from folkloric inspired dances to a fusion of ancient dance techniques from North India, the Middle East, Spain and Africa. It roots back to the late 1960s in San Fracisco Bay Area, California.

Dancer Jamila Salimpour and her dance troup Bal-Anat shifted the focus away from Cabaret Belly Dance (that was largely pure show dance in night clubs) and returned to more traditional, folkloric dance styles, their movements, costuming and music instead. Though this, too, was a modern form of Belly Dance it was inspired by different dances from Northern Africa, to Eastern Europe and Middle East, separately represented these regional art forms and tried to recollect a more traditional sense.

Jamila’s former student Masha Archer picked up this idea but blended the different regional dances into one cohesive dance style, introduced unified group costuming and a strong team or tribe spirit. More and more dance troupes (tribes) followed this concept.

Carolena Nericcio, one of Masha’s former students and founder of the famous ATS® tribe FatChanceBellyDance (FCBD), significantly influenced the dance and shaped today’s American Tribal Style® by adding the characteristic elements of group improvisation (based on a set movement repertoire and specific cues for non-verbal communication) and cymbal play.

From the early 1990s on, with Jill Parker (Carolena’s former student and member of FCBD) leading the way, this dance evolved into various directions, drawing from all kinds of inspirational sources like Western dance styles and music, refocusing on the solo dancer and therefore refining technique and stage presence. Multifaceted but with an evident lineage, Tribal Fusion Belly Dance was born.



Little Egypt

Ashea Wabe as “Little Egypt” around 1900

American Cabaret Belly Dance is the kind of Oriental Dance that the Western world generally refers to as Belly Dance.

There has always been a strong fascination in the Western world for the exotic and oriental, partly due to colonialism and the possibilities of travel. Crucial for the arrival of Eastern dances and music was then the World’s Columbian Exposition or Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. It featured the notorious Cairo Street as a kind of entertainment hub displaying the scandalous and yet so luscious “dance du ventre” (hip movements only, nothing revealing in today’s sense) by Eastern dancers and musicians. Victorian society was affronted but still it was The Cairo Street that led to the World’s Fair’s huge success.

From then on the orient boom was further nourished by ongoing myths, such as dancer “Little Egypt”, the film industry and commercials. Thematic clubs, cabarets and restaurants followed. Some films got cencored, dancers were sometimes arrested and fined but still the “Hootchie Cootchie” or “Shimmy and Shake” (as it was nicknamed) spawned more and more imitators and admirers.

Immigrants and travelling artists from Eastern Europe, North Africa or the Middle East brought their different traditional dances and their music along. Constantly fighting for a platform and for recognition of their art, these different cultures, rhythms and movements mingled and formed what now in general is simply called Belly Dance.



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