tribal, plus one!

During a recent show at an assisted-living community here in Fredericksburg, my performing group broke out another new TOBD feature. Well, it’s not really “new”… we just haven’t gotten around to doing it much even though it’s been listed for years on the syllabus as planned for Level Four: Solos! Yes, Soloists as Center Dancers – not duets, trios, but just one lone dancer. And because I love irony, I, of course, encouraged my dancers to approach their solo in the “tribal fusion” style. I’ll explain in a moment.

Now, my students all learn “regular” bellydancing of the Raks Sharki variety, which includes solos, either choreographed or improvisational. However, the music we dance to ALWAYS dictates how we will dance – at least, it does in my book. So in other words, if we are doing TOBD to Arabic Pop songs we can dance as Center Dancer Soloists in our standard Egyptian beledi home-style – we’ve done this before.

What made this time different was our music. This particular number just sounds more like Tribal Fusion to me: “Through the Rings of Saturn” by Tribal Soup (it’s on Amazon here). So I saw it as a great opportunity for my “beledi babes” to get tribalicious for a change!

Since we don’t do this style, here’s how I approached this: I picked a couple of good tribal fusion dancers so we could study their performances on YouTube, and I helped my soloists analyze and break down what made their “Tribal Fusion” style look different than ours.

Compared to our usual style, we saw that these differences

  • they use a lot MORE, as well as BIGGER isolations than we usually do (isolations of the hands, arms, shoulders, ribs, hips);
  • their dance “sentences” seem discrete and even disjointed, instead of flowing together smoothly as ours do; that is, their dance looks like it’s in “bits and pieces”;
  • their staging changes (i.e. which direction they are facing) are more abrupt than ours;
  • their torso positions are not always “upright” like in Egyptian dancing, but often go sideways and even forward and back;
  • the dancers use more drastic level changes, and they often do them very quickly.

I felt these key elements were plenty to work with in a short 30 – 45 second solo, since four of us were sharing the one song.

So in approaching this other style of Tribal Solo, I wanted to give my dancers IDEAS – not steps and combinations – and let them explore this style on their own. And of course get their feet wet immediately in a show – because there’s nothing like a deadline to get things moving, is there?

Here’s a shot of Pixie exploring Tribal Fusion style in her solo:

tribal group dancing

Pixie gets her tribal on in front of the group

What’s the ironic part I mentioned? It’s no secret that I’m no fan of Tribal Fusion! I especially dislike the T-Rex arms I see in almost every Tribal Fusion dancer as well as the ubiquitous hip-lift-and-arm-waving combo from a well known tribal troupe. Bless their hearts, but if I never see that move again it will be too soon! Of course there are some beautiful dancers I DO enjoy watching; but to tell you the truth, I have to grit my teeth to get through most run-of-the-mill Tribal Fusion performances. So that’s why this endeavor kind of tickled me – the fact that we were channeling tribal fusion dancers for even one song.

Just for the record, have I studied “tribal fusion”? Outside of a workshop with Sharon Kihara, and one of Sera Solstice’s DVDs, no.

But just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean I exclude it – as a matter of fact, as I wrote in the TOBD backstory, I originally didn’t like Group Improv style either. But I took Kajira’s workshop anyway, and the rest is history!

(End of Post)

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