Tribal Videos Today
Tribal Fusions, Volume 2 from Bellydance Superstars
Tales of Desire from Hollywood Music
Review by Davina
posted August 17, 2010
Inspired by my recent experiences at Tribal Fest 10 in May, I pulled a pair of Tribal videos off my shelf to share. The world of Tribal dance has produced some of the most innovative, creative and artistic performances on the dance stage today. Inspired by hip urban clothing, modern contemporary dance music and moves pulled from the clubs, Tribal today is fresh and exciting. These elements are grafted onto classic belly dance moves, and I adore the myriad of new directions that Tribal performers are exploring.
The new Tribal is an art form infused with it’s own sense of mystery. The latest trends are sultry and sophisticated, a dance of dichotomies, pairing the supple and the severe, slow flow with quick staccato, playfulness and intensity. When performed by a master, the Tribal style is compelling, thought provoking, and inspiring. Experienced dancers, regardless of their own personal style, can appreciate the skills.
It’s my belief, that as dancers, it’s good to keep up with what’s happening within the greater dance community, even if it doesn’t suit our taste or style. It’s especially important for dance instructors to recognize who the industry leaders are. It doesn’t matter if it’s Egyptian Raks Sharki or Flamenco/Gypsy/Zambra Mora or in this case, Tribal Fusion–knowing who is the current crème-de-la-crème will give you a stronger knowledge base from which to teach your students. Investing in one or two high-quality professionally made Tribal DVDs will add breadth to a dancers video collection.
When it comes to DVDs, I look for products that are well-produced and yet are about the cost of an admission ticket for a quality show. I want a selection of well crafted dances, with well recorded music and costuming that support excellent choreography and high levels of execution. More than anything, I look for quality content, (with at least three performances) that I want to watch again and share with friends. If there are three outstanding performances – I recommend that my friends buy it! To this end, I would like to share two excellent Tribal-themed performance DVDs. Tribal Fusions, Volume 2 and Tales of Desire.
Tribal Fusions, Volume 2
from Bellydance Superstars– 68 minutes
Not as good as Tribal Fusions, Vol 1 – but still quite enjoyable, this DVD has a few stand-out performances that make this video well worth the price (under $20). This production captures the most cutting-edge Vaudvillian style that is currently sweeping through the world of Tribal dance. This trend walks the line between Belly dance and Burlesque, acting as a bridge between the two worlds. There’s an apparent vintage kitsch to the clothing styles that are a little bit Goth, a little bit ‘20s French, a little Moulin Rouge, a little Steam Punk. It’s lace and lace-up boots, a tad naughty, grungy, and always viewed through sepia toned goggles. This is the style of the moment in Tribal dance, and will certainly give way to experimentation in other directions, but for now, my inner Victorian costumer loves the richly diverse and complexly layered allusions to the past. This style is especially embodied within the performances of Zoe Jakes, Moira Chappell and Elizabeth Strong. Like all BDSS productions, this video features exceptional dancers, well produced music and professional DVD quality. If you are only going to buy one Tribal video this year, you should consider this one.
Sonia & Colleen
My personal favorite performance on this DVD is Sonia & Colleen’s amazing duet. This is a fascinating piece that pairs the classic Belly dance movement vocabulary with the Tribal, clearly illustrating through juxtaposition that tribal is rooted in traditional Belly dance movement vocabulary. Seeing these two lovely performers dancing together, yet embracing their individual stylistic point of view, clearly illustrates that the real difference between Belly dance and Tribal dance is the superficial “styling” layer, the shape of the arm, the characteristic attitude of the hand, the intensity of a vibration as well as choice in costume, make-up, and music. This piece is brilliantly conceived and performed by two masters of their craft.
I think anyone who says, “Tribal isn’t Belly Dance” needs to see this performance for a head-to-head comparison.
Fat Chance Bellydance
It’s been an age since I’ve seen such a compelling ATS* performance! However, on this video there are two dances performed by the original innovators, reminding us of why this technique was so universally admired when it first hit the scene nearly two decades ago. Their exceptional control of each combination is exquisitely executed within the context of simpatico call-and-repeat improvisation, the Fat Chance signature technique.
With all the mega-watt talent on this video, choosing one soloist to mention by name was daunting. But I was struck by the contrast between Kami’s two pieces. In her first piece, her choreography demonstrates her extreme musicality with strong supple arms and controlled sinuous torso work. The music, costuming and movement combined to create a graceful and elegant dance piece. This contrasted with her second piece that featured all the staccato energy and sharp isolations and contractions that are the hallmark of tribal. Between Kami’s two pieces, the viewer gains an appreciation of her power, control and versatility.
Tales of Desire
Hollywood Music – 57 minutes – Filmed on Sat. Dec. 6, 2008 at the Beyond the Stars Theater in Glendale, CA.
Unfortunately, this video was a bit hit and miss for me. There are some stellar performances with some fusions that just didn’t work (for my taste). The video is well shot, with a really high production value; good lighting ensured that you could see the dancer, and the sound was excellent. There were three cameras filming, and frankly, the top camera angle is not one that I prefer because it simply is not an angle from which Belly dance is generally viewed. Simply put, details of the dance movement are lost from this eagle-eye vantage. However, I do like a production with multiple camera angles, so I really appreciate the mixing of front and side views, close up and distant.
The performances in this video covered a great deal of fusion territory, but unlike other videos, the performances are more varied and eclectic in their fusions. There’s a dash of jazz worked into Aubre and Lumina Bellydance Company’s piece “Fosse Fusion” and a taste of Tunisian hip work in Unmata’s piece “Flaco 81”. There is more than a mere dollop of interpretive dance in Damage Control Dance Company’s “The Hunt” and a blast of warm Caribbean attitude fused with Saudi style in Troupe Nekyia’s number entitled “Kalypso”.
While I’ve enjoyed performances by many of the performers on this DVD in the past, I found this production was a bit uneven. A few performances left me wondering why those acts were selected, and perhaps a little more conscious editing could have produced a better overall product. However, if you think about it, in almost every dance show there are always one or two performances that might not be your cup of tea. As an aside – I had seen a promo for this video and was dissapointed to find out that Princess Farhana – one of my personal favorites – is appearing on Volume 2!
Overall, I recommend this DVD, especially if you are looking for a wide variety of fusion acts. My three personal favorites were:
Sherri/Cherchez la Femme: “The Alchemy of Salvation” She is beautiful, with a supple, flexible body topped with an amazing headdress. I found her costume to be completely over-the-top: it was dripping with metal and chain richly layered over her yoga enhanced physique and model-worthy face. Her style seems infused with the techniques of pioneer Tribal dance artist, Rachael Brice with an intimate knowledge of yoga. From her dramatic opening on the floor of the stage, I simply couldn’t stop looking at her until her performance ended. In this piece, she found that perfect balance between the slink and the staccato.
Mira Betz: “Not Without” This is a gorgeous retro-inspired performance that achieves something I look for in top dancers–a total design package. Mira’s music choice, movement technique, and costume style all come together brilliantly to create a unified performance experience, evoking 1920s France. Her style is informed by superb isolation technique with graceful transitions and smooth flowing arms. There was a simple quiet elegance about this piece that makes it compelling to watch and happy to own this DVD.
Elizabeth Strong: “Afghani Song” A bit more classically inspired than other pieces on this video, Elizabeth opens her dance with a lovely quiet moment of traditional storytelling. She’s a girl, preening in front of her mirror and dreamily applying her makeup. Throughout the dance, she integrates traditional Persian moves with Tribal belly dance. Her movement vocabulary combined with her simple rose-colored costume and acoustic music create a lovely ambiance and a refreshing break from the heavy synthetic beats featured throughout the rest of the program. Even though this is a DVD, I was totally sucked into the moment, writing a narrative in my mind of the young girl dancing with joy of being in love. Fantastic!
These two videos present a melange of diverse Tribal flavors. They are both high-quality professionally shot productions that offer the viewer a wide variety of styles, tastes and techniques. They both capture the essence of what’s happening in the world of Tribal today. Either or both would make a great addition a library in need of a taste of Tribal.
*ATS= American Tribal Style
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