Archive for tribal

spending summer dancing

We’ve been dancing all summer, what could be better!

In mid-summer we enjoyed participating with many beautiful guest dancers in a show all about VEIL DANCING, called “Reflections on the Veil“. It was amazing to witness each dancer’s gift of vision. Of course we offered our own group veil improv as well.

group improv with veils

Tribal Veil trio onstage at Reflections

I’ve also been incorporating Tribal Veil into class and the results are good – even for beginning dancers. It gives new dancers something to hold on to, and they love watching themselves in the mirror, swooping these large pieces of fabric through the air. Who doesn’t love veil dancing? Veils are iconic for bellydancers, and they’re a great workout too.

At Pennsic this year my student Siyala and I danced with Rajni and Jackie from Georgia, our dance sisters whom we see so rarely. We all were more than thrilled to have live drumming for our spot at the Middle Eastern Dance Expo; a sweet percussion band made up of our wonderful Orluk mates and guests. They were able to give us a dynamic range of tempos for our group improv set. Hooray Orluk!

dancers in garb at pennsic

backstage at the Expo!

Immediately after getting back from Pennsic, we were excited to dance at Tribal Cafe in Richmond, sponsored by the Bandit Queens. We did another tempo-dynamic set that was extra fun for me because the song begins with karkabas! I’m talking about “Sahara Caravan” by the Desert Knights. Very cool! Tribal Cafe was a lot of fun for so early in the morning! I hope to do it again sometime, we met great folks.

dancers onstage

Nandana, Lisa from NC, Shari Apple, and us after the show; lovely photo courtesy of Providence & Sterling

Then we were absolutely thrilled to be invited to “Tummy Tuesday”, a monthly hafla in Richmond. I LOVE Richmond dancers, they’re so friendly! The space was challenging but my dancers did amazingly well, I’m very pleased with their aplomb! We had a great time doing veil again, and of course finger cymbals. Good times!

dancers in beledi dresses

yes, we’re beledi tribal!

We have a few things coming up right here in town that should be fun too; what a great way to spend a summer – dancing!

Tribal on, dancers!
by Anthea (Kawakib)

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return to the World of DANCE!

I’m back!

Last month I began bellydancing again after my second hip replacement! Not “full steam ahead”, of course, but more and more each week.

Now after a month of dancing, I’m extremely happy to be both dancing, and able to KEEP UP with my students! The skills came back really fast, though my left leg muscles do get tired quickly. It’s getting better though.

Side-steps are the hardest – who knew what a good exercise the “grapevines” were!? My dancers have learned to make their steps a little smaller when I’m dancing with them so I don’t get overwhelmed during the TOBD Circle grapevines. Previously, they’d be absolutely FLYING around the circle – and I couldn’t keep up! I don’t think they realize how very energizing it is to dance in a circle!

In mid-October I performed a little bit of our tribal improv at a camping event in North Carolina, with several other dancers who were there. That was my first time dancing in public since my surgery, and it was such a blessing. It was an amazing experience. I posted about it here: Camping at War of the Wings.

This past weekend, I danced my little butt off at our Warm Hearts Hafla (a food drive for the local food bank). My students and I did a tribal set of several songs, in a low-key party mode. It was so much fun! Then we had open dancing to funky Arabic pop music, and I just danced myself silly and had a great time.

photo of dancers at a hafla

Anthea surrounded by dancers

Tribal Odyssey has been a godsend for me as I come back to bellydance. The moves and steps are challenging but I can manage if I’m careful, and I know it will only get better. It gives me a pathway to dance, and to dance with my friends, where I don’t have to worry about doing the same repetitive routine over and over. The variety we have really works for me because I’m able to do the steps that suit me best at the moment. I’m just loving this dance journey right now!

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tribal gives us music freedom!

One of the BEST things about Tribal Improv belly dancing is you can change the music whenever you want! Sometimes my students bring me songs to check out so we get a wide variety of styles that way. And I often ask my students what songs they want to use in a show. Not possible with choreography! If you perform a choreographed piece, you’re obviously “stuck” using that music.
So I’m enjoying picking the music for our upcoming show. We’re bringing back “Love Signs” by DJ Dimi, a really lovely song that’s going to be perfect for Tribal Veil and Arm Patterns because it’s a medium tempo:  Love Signs on (Ai-De-Xin-Hao), from the Zen Lounge cd.

This song has a good beat, and the melody flows like a river… so pretty! I’m looking forward to dancing to it again.

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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!

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not like we planned it, but just as good!

Mixed levels! Always a challenge, and only more so in a performance, when “stuff happens” and everyone’s excitement level is already high. We had the unexpected happen onstage recently, but my students rocked it anyway!

For our annual Recital, I planned to have all the students onstage dancing during our four-song Tribal Odyssey set (all music from Tribal Soup); this included levels 1 – 4, because there were only about a dozen dancers performing in the show.

The “plan” – and we know how antithetical “planning” is for group improv: it always proves true that the more a set is “planned”, the harder it is to dance in the moment. But anyway, the plan was that we’d have two Tribal Veil trios begin our set, with the rest of the crew coming out into a Chorus Line, ready for the next song. However, the best laid plans…!

I first noticed something awry from my post at the sound system when only a couple of Veil dancers came out – and no one else. I went backstage since I was joining them anyway, and found out what was happening: one of the first Trio dancers couldn’t get changed quickly enough, and was still in the dressing room.

So now we had a Tribal Veil duet dancing onstage all by their lonesome. This unexpected glitch (what other kind is there?) was casting some students into a frazzle, since it upset “the plan”. Oh well, what is it they say about the best-laid plans? Oh yeah – they don’t work so well with Tribal Improv!!

I quickly shooed everyone else out onstage to quiet them and continue the set; our struggling dancer came out of the dressing room and joined the next Veil trio. We resumed our Tribal set after this little hiccup and from the audience side I’m sure it looked fine – even if the entrance of the rest us was a bit out of place in the middle of the song. Whatever! Let’s just get onstage and get it on!

So it turns out we had a lovely Veil Duet, then an awesome Veil Quartet – it was great! I had a good time because I always enjoy dancing with the others, and it’ll be interesting to see the video! But meanwhile, the photos are looking gorgeous so far! Here are a couple:

tribal veil dancer

Galiyah leads the duet onstage

tribal dancers

…and the Veil quartet dances too

Have you had Tribal Improv plans go awry? Tell me in the Comments!

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Tribal Veils in action!

You would not believe (unless you’re a bellydancer!) what a workout you get by dancing with a veil! Especially in a group, doing follow-the-leader! Not only is it challenging to keep up with the leader, but when YOU are the leader you better be on your toes, so to speak… those veils are always moving.

Unlike other types of tribal improv combinations, veil dancing has practically no “resting” combos. It’s go, go, go, all the time to keep those veils flowing. Maybe I should’ve added some “veil pose” combinations where we could catch our breath! Well, that’s something to think about for the future. For now, we’re all getting our arms toned by practising the veil combos for our annual recital at the end of the month. The advanced dancers will be leading the whole group onstage during our Tribal Veil song, to dance with veils downstage while the rest of the group is in a Chorus Line upstage. It’s fun having a large mixed-level group onstage together!

Meanwhile anyone who wants a challenge can add these Tribal Veil moves to their troupe repertoire by following this Playlist on my YouTube channel.

Here are some photos from past shows with Tribal Veil dancing:


Dancing with purple veil!

veil dancer

Veil Toss!


Tribal at First Night!

veil dancers

Street Tribal!

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six Veil Combos for Tribal Improv

Yes I was hot, yes I was sweaty, but I did it anyway! The Veil Combinations are on video ready for viewing on my YouTube channel Dance Eternal.

Veil dancing is harder than it looks, as anyone who’s ever done it knows! I have a very particular technique for holding and handling the veil, and anyone who follows my method achieves success, while those who stray from the path soon find themselves fighting with their veil! I’m just sayin’…

tribal veil dancing

Anthea’s veil magic in action!

That photo’s a great shot of my “veil hold”, with finger cymbals at the ready. I’m using a large two-tone veil, slightly rounded at the bottom edges and trimmed with gold ribbon.

What type of veil to use really makes a difference. In Oriental dancing we use all different shapes, sizes, and fabrics for veil dancing; and the type of fabric, the size and shape, and any decorations like trim or sequins, all change how the veil moves.

For these group improv combos though, we needed a veil sturdy enough for constant use. I’ve also always loved the way circular or half-circle veils move. I finally found the perfect veil, and it even works well in a light breeze! The Tribal Veil combos are developed especially for this particular fabric weight, shape, and style of veil. Some of my students have made their own veil complete with the trimmed edges, but most of us get our tribal veils from Ganesha Bazaar. Both the large and small size works and we’ve used both. Usually we use the larger size, and save the smaller ones for tight performance spaces.

I’m sure the Veil Combos can be done just fine with other types of veils, I’ve just never tried it. With all the costume layers of skirts, sleeves, tassels, plus big flowery hairdids and whatnot that us tribal dancers like to use in our costumes, I want to stick with what works!

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