Sacred Surprise of Tribal Fest 3
Just walking into
Tribal Fest 3 was an exotic experience in itself. Outside it was a typically
sunny California day, but as I passed through the doorway, I found myself
transported into the strange but alluring world of the Casbah! My first
impression was of the sweet Eastern smell of incense, I believe it was
As my eyes adjusted
to the soft golden lighting, I saw the huge life-sized wall-hanging
of an ancient pillared temple, the very realistic backdrop for the large
stage. Surrounding me were table after table filled with unique and
authentic Middle-Eastern merchandise.
were Persian rugs, gold-trimmed veils, brass and jewel-handled scimitars
and daggers, intricately exotic clothing and costumes of every description.
In almost every sense it was an Eastern bazaar, with fascinating
merchandise too numerous to mention.
Impressive as it
was, all of the above seemed to suddenly melt away as the sound of doumbeks
and ouds filled the air, and a procession of red and gold clad dancers
moved onto the stage. Practically in a trance, I found myself drawn
to the seating area and was fortunate enough to find an empty chair.
At last I was finally here, at Tribal Fest 3!
My husband and I
had traveled all the way down from Portland, Oregon to attend Tribal
Fest 3 (in Sebastopol, just north of the San Francisco Bay Area).
We had come mostly because I am a big fan of Gypsy Caravan.
I, of course, experienced no disappointment on that account. Gypsy Caravan
performed as the grand finale later that Saturday afternoon, and as
usual, their performance was fun and energizing, in every way it was
a pleasure to watch.
We enjoyed a wide
variety of outstanding entertainment that day. I got to see performers
I had only read about or seen in videos up until now: Eowyn
and her dance of the three swords, Tribal Feat, Fat
Chance, Urban Tribal, the gracefully undulating
Rachel Brice, and dozens more! Tribal Fest co-host,
Kajira Djoumahna, danced
with her troupe, United We Dance.
It was unquestionably
a well-planned, fast-paced show, drawing on some of the top talent in
I now understand, in retrospect, that I had been really drawn to
Tribal Fest 3 for another reason.
I know the entire
week-end was fabulous. Sadly, due to other demands, we were only there
on Saturday. But Sunday promised to be just as exciting, with big-name
performers including the legendary John
Compton, Amara, Troupe Salamat,
La Linda, and (the other Tribal Fest co-host) Ellen
Cruz and her Dance Journey.
been a dancer for many years, and of course I’ve have been to
Middle Eastern dance festivals before. I can recall none better than
Tribal Fest 3, but still I pretty much knew what to expect. I wasn’t
expecting any surprises, but Fate, or more likely the Goddess, had a
real surprise in store for me that Saturday, Monique Monet!
She was the only
entry in the Sacred Dance category. Dressed kind of Turkish and kind
of like an old-fashioned traditional Catholic nun, she came slowly and
prayerfully on stage (in front of the beautiful back-drop of the ancient
temple) a short sword in each hand.
hear all of what the announcer said when introducing her performance,
but I heard enough to know that Monique Monet was portraying the ancient
Goddess, Inanna. The time was 7,000 years ago, and she was about to
battle the army of the barbarian patriarchs. All of this really grabbed
my attention because I’ve long been a student of the Mother Goddess
beliefs and the mythical and historical matriarchal societies.
the very onset, I thought Monique Monet’s concept alone was
entertainingly innovative. However, concept proved to be only a
shadow of her vibrant reality!
At first she danced
without the swords, slowly and gracefully, until men’s chanting
voices over-powered and silenced her music, and she curled fetus-like
on the floor. Then, after a few seconds of silence, the music came back,
hard and fast! Monique Monet/Inanna popped up like a kind of spooky
jack-in-the-box, a sword twirling in each hand. The battle had begun!
and movements were excellent, but I have to say she was much more attitude
than mere technique. Her eyes and expression, her energy gave me goose
bumps. I truly felt I was witnessing the prehistoric matriarchal deity,
Inanna, fighting heart and divine soul against the barbarian hordes
that would destroy her world of peace and beauty.
My husband leaned
close to me and said, “I’d hate to get in her way. It looks
like she really knows how to use those knives.” He was as awed
with Monique Monet’s dance as I was.
he said, “She wasn’t just playing a role. Whether she
knows it or not, she is a real priestess.”
than launch into a page and a half of metaphysics, I’ll simply
say that I think my husband was right. Monique Monet’s performance
was definitely in the correct category. It was truly, and almost frighteningly,
a sacred dance. I’ve often read of the Goddess Inanna, I’ve
seen photos and small statues representing her, but that Saturday, at
Tribal Fest 3, I feel I experienced the reality, the living presence
and incredible power of the Divine Feminine. It was a real surprise:
an encounter I didn’t expect at a Belly Dance show.
Tribal Fest 3 was,
as the program states, “a celebration of American Tribal Style,
Fusion, Folkloric and the Sacred Aspects of the Belly Dance Genre”.
It was an outstandingly beautiful and well-organized festival, and I
look forward to this October’s Festival Fantasia (also produced
by Ellen Cruz and Kajira Djoumahna).
self-expression are important and enjoyable facets of Middle Eastern
Dance, but beyond that, I feel good to be associated with a dance form
that, among many other aspects, actually acknowledges the sacred. Perhaps
someday at some other festival, I look forward to another sacred surprise.
bio: I am not a dance teacher or vender so I have nothing to promote
except my love of dance. I’m a public school teacher in the Portland,
Oregon area who has been fortunate enough to have enjoyed the many facets
of Middle Eastern Dance for nearly ten years.)
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