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we take care of each other

Tribal wisdom is gained by experience

We help others create good memories when we dance together

Each performance is a chance to create good memories, and build trusted connections between each other.

In Improv Tribal Style each performance is different – anything can happen; often we have a brand new experience with a certain turn, or move, or transition between moves – you never know! That’s one of the reasons I love tribal improv so much. It’s fresh and different every time.

A group choreography works with any dancer, interchangeably – as long as she knows it and performs it correctly; whereas each particular dancer impacts the entire group in “follow the leader” dancing. Each dancer can express her personality freely. She can lead gently, wildly, do the same moves and transitions each time, or put odd combinations together; always include turns, or lead-changes, circles, etc.

So I love the feel of different energies in tribal bellydance, the various looks, faces, bodies, personalities that make up a tribe. We’re recognizable as a group yet each person has their own unique way of going.
In tribal society the older care for the younger, guiding them and showing them how to handle the world – or the performance; protecting them until the younger are strong enough to pull their weight as a leader.

“Elder” is not just a term of age, but signifies someone who “knows much” in a tradition; someone who can answer questions because of their earned knowledge.

This performance trio of widely differing experience levels tickles me because I see Galiyah calmly carrying on and gently leading the other two, who are still “young” in terms of performing. In fact, neither of them are playing cymbals during this performance, yet they’re dancing to ONLY finger cymbals. Only Galiyah and I are playing – this is something new for the others and they seem quite comfortable because they trust the leader.

When I watch these dancers, one very experienced and comfortable in Tribal Odyssey, having danced it for over a decade, with the two others with much less experience, I see an elder taking care of the tribe.

It’s natural, comfortable, and ageless.

I also love the family feel of hearing the kids (and dad) during filming!
Is this like your tribal experience?
by Anthea Kawakib
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new playlist for the next show…

Finding the right mix of music

At our upcoming show “Sequins and Shimmies” we only have time for a short group improv set. 

We’re using a mix of traditional, American, and Egyptian pop music. With our mixed group all onstage together, we’ve planned to use each song a certain way:

  1. Chorus and Center Dancers, to “Lilith’s Groove Garden” (Dolphina’s Goddess Workout Music). This is a song we haven’t used before, but it has a good tempo and since John Bilezikjian is playing, it’s automatically awesome.
  2. Slow Combos and Sword, to “Isis” (Desert Wind). This is a short song so the plan is not to repeat anything. Good luck, gals!
  3. Chorus and CD, to Habibi Ya Albi (Ehab Tawfiq). But this time when the advanced dancers go out to dance together as Center Dancers, all of them will go as a group. I told them to take the lead playing finger cymbals since only two dancers will be left in the Chorus Line to “bookend” the Center Dancers. We like LOUD cymbals!

Do you think it’s weird to use such a song for Tribal? We love the feeling and it makes a good finale: Habibi Ya Albi

When you only have a short time segment for Tribal, what criteria do you use when putting a music playlist together?

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Birds of a feather… are dancing together

separated by design

By their costume you shall know them

At our Tribal Hafla (Food Drive) in Fredericksburg VA this past weekend, all the dancers danced together in one large group.

Now sometimes, we’ll separate the levels by songs, and have one level dance at a time. At this event though, I just wanted to flow to go on and on, and not worry about which song was on.

The upper level dancers did “take over” a few songs for our specialty prop numbers though: the dancers using Veil, Sword, or Candles did use the entire song, leaving the others to stay in the Chorus Line, but overall, most of the set list was Mixed. Just the way I like it!

It just so happened that the upper level dancers all recently acquired a particular costume style, and we used that to help everyone remember “who to dance with”. Since the event was a “Hafla” – meaning Party – the basics level students were allowed to wear whatever costume they wished, because wearing what they want is part of their fun. So we all were able to tell right away, when anyone went out front to dance, whether to go out with them or not. This way the levels stayed separated, and no newbies were nonplussed.

I don’t know if we’ll have another chance to use this “separated by costume” criteria, but it worked just fine this time, so we’ll keep it in mind.

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I like this game!

Games that help students learn

Last night in Basics class we focused on Duets because we’ll be dancing at our Tribal Hafla Food Drive tomorrow, with other dancers who have a wide range of skill levels. So of course, Chorus Line and Center Dancers is the way to go. This way dancers can stick with others who have the same repertoire, and feel more comfortable when they’re out onstage.

And at this particular performance it’ll be even easier for dancers to know who to dance with because the Advanced dancers will be wearing a particular costume; the Basics students will be wearing whatever they like. That also provides better photo opportunities!

So anyway, last night I was staying in the Chorus Line to let the students keep rotating in and out as Center Dancers, and we used all the songs we’ll be playing at the Hafla. They all did really well: they kept switching leaders, changing the staging, using different moves, and were really fun to watch.

In class I often like to take a few minutes after each song, drill, or set to have the students talk about anything that happened during the dancing. These little discussions are really helpful to clear up issues they may have when following other dancer’s cues, fix timing mistakes, sight lines, or get clarification on timing, moves, etc.

There’s a pair of sisters in the class who get together to practice quite a bit. I heard one of them say to the other, “I knew you were going to play ‘Throw the Leader'” and my ears pricked up! It turns out they have a game they play to see how quickly they can throw or change the lead, which I think is hilarious. And I love it! So that’s why their Duets went so well – they were active, interesting, and engaging to watch. I think we’ll be playing this game a lot!

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the mixed-level approach

Mixed levels again in class

but that’s a good thing

Lately it seems that every class of mine has students who know different levels of TOBD; from just learning the Slow Combos (and no lead-throwing), to full on “Anything Goes”. Well, the range of knowledge isn’t quite so diverse, but each class level is mixed to some extent.

What’s really good about this is that the lower level students get to see where things are going in terms of the overall group improv format; and the upper level students become even more aware of group dynamics when they have to adjust how they lead a mixed group or a partner at a lower level.

Right now the Basics class includes brand new students just grasping the Slow Combos, and students who are learning the Fast Combo repertoire including various lead-changing moves and stage formations. Just last week one student was introduced to basic lead-changing – always an exciting development! Here’s a post that explains the simplest way to handle the new information:

In fact, it really makes my job as a teacher easier when upper level students, just by the fact of their dancing, demonstrate how it all goes together. Quite often after we dance a song together we’ll have a short feedback session when anyone can ask for clarification on something; or suggest a specific drill they’d like to do as a group; or even point out anything that didn’t work when they were dancing. These quick chats are very helpful for all of us.

One thing I’ve known for a while though, is how important it is to actually keep the group from moving too quickly through concepts. Each new variation in the format needs a lot of drilling, dancing, and experiencing for each and every dancer in the group.

“Steady as she goes” for the Tribal Ship to sail smoothly on the Sea of Group Improv!

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and a new Sword Dancer is born!

We’re really enjoying the new Tribal Sword Combos! One of the newer PRISM Dancers, “Akila” joined us at our Hafla performance this past weekend; it was her first sword performance ever… and it was a success!

tribal sword dancers

l-r: Pixie, Kawakib, Akila, Galiyah

Sword handling and balancing skills take time to develop. Although sword dancing was never my “specialty” as a soloist, I’ve taught sword dancing before, and many of my students began using a sword in a choreography to a Desert Wind song, “ISIS”.  But – I think that the relatively quick changes of GROUP IMPROV dancing necessitates that the dancer develop her sword skills more quickly than when dancing a choreography. It may be too early to tell about that, but it’s what I suspect… Have you taught or learned by both methods? If so, what do you think?

Anyway, the dozen combos we’ve been using this spring are called the “Beginning Blade” combos. And now that we’ve used them in several performances and everything seems to be working well, I now feel free to play around with some variations… so here comes more sword fun!

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who put tribal bellydance in the Nutcracker?

We did! And we were practically the only grownups in the show too! Four of us took an afternoon this past weekend to participate in MFA Studio‘s holiday spectacular (which I wrote about here), featuring oodles of little girls and boys in adorable costumes – the cuteness factor was over the top! We were able to sit in the audience for the first half, and could barely contain our enjoyment. The sweetness of the tiny Sugarplum Fairies brought tears to our eyes!

For our turn in the second half’s “Nutcracker” sequence we dressed in flowing chiffon skirts with sparkly bellydance belts and tops, and danced with veils of red and green. Our color scheme seemed to fit right in with the decorated Christmas tree onstage!

Our number was so short (less than 4 minutes) that we barely had time to settle in and get our dance on, but we did really have a good time; and there even seems to be a video up already on facebook (I shared the link on the  TOBD facebook page) taken by someone in the audience.

I appreciate how we were invited to participate in this show;  the studio owner, Mayeisha, has been very welcoming to my bellydance class this year, and seems to be instilling wholesome values in her studio’s young students, who were all so polite and welcoming to us backstage. This dance studio is a treasure to have in the local area and I’m so grateful we’ve been a part of it.

after dancing

backstage at show

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