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Tribal Belly Dance

Tribal style bellydance started in the San Francisco area in the 1960s. It was developed by American bellydancers who preferred a more ethnic and folkloric look to their dance and costumes. Originating primarily at local renaissance fairs, street festivals, and informal jam sessions, tribal style is recognized for its unique costuming elements borrowed from ethnic cultures around the world, particularly India, Central Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. It is usually performed by a troupe. This style quickly spread from California to every part of the U.S. and is now performed in many countries around the globe.

tribal belly dance

Troupe Mélangées - Gloria, Luna, Barbara, and Robin

The Moves: Tribal bellydance uses the core belly dance moves and vocabulary of classic American and Eastern bellydance (Oriental dance). Tribal style bellydance is usually performed by a group of dancers who mimic each other, therefore the movements tend to be larger, slower, deeper, and less intricate than other styles. Even soloists in tribal bellydance tend toward this earthy interpretation of the core moves and music. Finger cymbals are sometimes used, as are props such as swords. Veil work is not used in the same manner or as extensively as in classic American bellydance.

Music: Tribal bellydancers often use music with traditional or modern Middle Eastern rhythms and melodies. There's often a blend of traditional and modern Middle Eastern musical elements, with some Western instrumentation and interpretations. To convey a more village or country feel, there's normally less instrumentation and orchestration than in nightclub styles of bellydance music.

Costume: Tribal bellydancers generally wear a layered look, and are often quite covered up, with heavy fabrics and extensive yardage in their skirts, harem-pants and tops. 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 may used extensively. Make-up may be heavy and exotic with facial tattoos and ethnic hairstyles created with braids and hair extensions.

Watch a video to see an example of early California style tribal costuming, click on Ninah's dance.

American Tribal Bellydance

In the 1980s an offshoot developed called American tribal bellydance. Its origin is credited to Carolena Nericcio and the troupe she formed, FatChanceBellydance. This style is like tribal bellydance, but features a specialized type of group formation and an improvised, lead-and-follow cueing between the dancers.

Tribal Fusion

Tribal fusion bellydance has been evolving along with the original tribal belly dance genre. The costuming is very similar to other styles of tribal bellydance. However, as its name implies, 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.

Gothic Belly dance

Gothic Bellydance emerged in the U.S around the 1990s. Because it is similar to it costume and make-up, Gothic style is considered to be more of an offshoot of tribal bellydance, rather than classic American bellydance. However, Gothic is a more somber and theatrical version of tribal bellydance, with dancers exploring darker themes of self-expression. The make-up is heavy and dark, and facial expressions are often intense and dramatic. Hairstyles are cutting-edge and exaggerated, with uncommon colors and cuts and extensive use of fake hair. Dark colors (mainly black) predominate in costuming, often with lace and fishnet fabrics; spiky metal jewelry, body piercing and many tattoos are typical. The music is often more modern and diverse than tribal style. Sometimes there's a strong sexual undertone to this dance, and in those cases, it's not appropriate for family audiences.

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