by Jasmine June Cabanaw
posted February 26, 2011
As Tribal Fusion belly dance has gained momentum, so too has the incorporation of steampunk fashion in Tribal Fusion costuming. Tribal Fusion being the tricky genre that it is, some people have begun coining the term “steampunk belly dance”. While this seems innocent enough, using terms without properly defining what they mean can lead to a slippery slope of “everything” belly dance. We need to remember that belly dance is based on movement and not on aesthetic. It is belly dance, not belly fashion.
Steampunk is an aesthetic that draws from science fiction, fantasy, and eras in which steam power was in popular use- primarily Edwardian and Victorian. Belly dancers who don costuming influenced by steampunk mix lace with stockings and top hats and industrial metal (like coin bras made from washers and metal chains). In San Francisco, Tribal Fusion belly dancers frequent the store Five and Diamond, in which ruffles and Victorian-era lace can be found amongst gears and rivets.
It makes sense that steampunk fashion would be used in Tribal Fusion costuming. Tribal Fusion is already theatrical and fantasy oriented, just like steampunk. That is to say, that the influence of steampunk has been a natural progression. However, it is important to note that the theatrical quality in Tribal Fusion proceeded steampunk; Tribal Fusion set the stage for a variety of costuming styles.
“Steampunk” bands, like Abney Park, dress in the full steampunk regalia and have “steampunk” belly dancers perform live to their music. The steampunk is in quotations here, because how can a band or a dance be defined by an aesthetic? The answer is that something that is music or movement based simply cannot be defined as “steampunk” For example, if one was to listen to Abney Park without having seen what the band looks like, steampunk wouldn’t come to mind because steampunk isn’t a musical genre.
Steampunk isn’t a dance genre either, in belly dance or otherwise.
To label a belly dancer as steampunk is misleading; it’s not the belly dancer who is steampunk, but her costume. The Tribal Fusion dancer, Rose Harden– who has been labeled steampunk by some- shed some light on the subject. She pointed out that photos of belly dancers in costume are so easily accessible because of the Internet. When a person who does not know much about belly dance sees these costumes, it is easy for them to label the dance based on what they see in the photograph. For example, while researching this article, the dancer Fayzah was mentioned in several articles about steampunk. Yet she has stated that her costuming and performances are not influenced by steampunk. In one of her costume pieces, she wears pinstripe cuffs, which could be defined as steampunk fashion, but this does not mean that her entire style is steampunk. It just goes to show you that we should not define a belly dancer by her costume!
Since Tribal Fusion is also easily accessible, there have been dancers who begin performing and calling themselves professional when really they are just hobbyists. A professional belly dancer would never label her dance genre based on an aesthetic.
As for the hobbyists, some fall into the trap of calling themselves steampunk (or some other creative title) because they don’t understand what belly dance truly is. If a dancer wants to be professional, she needs to keep in mind that belly dance is more than just its costuming.
"These pictures are from a Steampunk Convention where I was a costume vendor.
I saw on Facebook that you needed some Steampunk costume pictures. I just now thought that you probably mean Steampunk belly dance costumes. Hmm….oh, well. I am attaching some regular Sp costumes just in case you can use them. "
Ready for more?
- 12-14-10 Tribal Fusion: An Evolving Dance Form by Jasmine June
The biggest contrast between ATS and Tribal Fusion was that improvisation was the basis for ATS while Tribal Fusion, at least in its earliest phase, had a strong emphasis in choreography. This allowed Jill Parker to play around with musicality and to explore musical genres that were appealing to her.
- 11-3-10 An Intro to Tribal Fusion by Jasmine June
Since Tribal Fusion Belly Dance is a relatively new dance form, it is especially important to treat the genre with a level of professionalism, or else one runs the risk of discrediting the work of dancers who have dedicated their lives to creating and elevating Tribal Fusion Belly Dance.
- 9-16-10 To Berlin and Back, Bridging Cultures Through Belly Dance by Jasmine June
In this way, he demonstrated that belly dance isn’t something that is defined by culture. Rather, it is an art form that can be perfected by anyone who puts their mind to it, and it’s an art form that can be used to bridge cultures rather than divide them.
- 12-3-07 Bellyqueen vs. Barbary Coast: It’s an east coast west coast showdown! Gina Grandi puts on a show of astronomical proportions. Review and photos by Surreyya
Comedic timing, clever costuming and an endless supply of mojo bring about the wonderment of the early settlers of the California gold rush, with a taste of burlesque, and a taunt of influences from around the globe.
- 3-14-09 So, If You Cut up a Rose, is it still a Flower? Fusing Bellydance With Other Dance Forms by Rebecca Firestone
A reader’s position at this point will depend on whether you think that bellydance and Middle Eastern dance are one and the same, and whether you feel any particular sense of ownership over either one of those terms.
- 5-30-08 Welcome to the Gothla! Dancing Along the Sulk Road Review of 3 DVDs by Rebecca Firestone
The costumes are fabulous. It’s almost like—who needs all that dance technique if you’re wearing an enormous leather headdress that makes you look like an alien refugee from Star Wars? Tempest’s approach in
particular is a painterly one, not surprising from a student of the Rhode Island School of Design.
- 4-3-06 Rachel Brice Goes Balkan: Pogonometric Revue Reviewed by: Rebecca Firestone, Photos by Brad Dosland, Sunday, March 12, 2006, CELLspace, 2050 Bryant St., San Francisco, Cost: $15 and worth every penny
- 5-26-06 Sashi- Kabob by Lynette, Warning, possibly disturbing graphics!
The punctures appear to go under the skin into the subcutaneous fat layer and not through muscle tissue.
- 6-26-06 The Spirit of the Dance: A Response to the Criticism of my Tribal Fest 2006 “Pierced Wings”Performance by Sashi
I was originally hesitant to write this article regarding my Tribal Fest 2006 “Pierced Wings”performance as I personally believe that a performance should not have to be explained by the artist, rather it should rely on what it evokes in others.
- 5-18-07 An Evening with The American Bellydance Superstars, Reviewed by Sierra
Marin Civic Auditorium, March 3, 2007. "Even though the dancing from Egyptian cabaret to tribal and venues in between is incredibly truly is an American tableau of how we represent this art."
- 5-15-07 Thribal Throwdown Photos and Workshop Review for Heather Stants’“Appetite for Deconstruction: Urban Tribal Style”Review by Eleyda Photos by Brad
March 17, 2007 Live Oak Center in Berkeley. Heather’s task was to transmit that fusion thought in the workshop. She did an excellent job.
- 6-13-07 Le Serpent Rouge Reviewed by Yasmela
The blending of theater and dance was really outstanding with broad comedy moving seamlessly into dance.