More of Helm’s Musical Adventures
by Ling Shien Bell
posted September 8, 2011
Twelve years ago, Isabel De Lorenzo moved from Brazil to Rome, where she met Lara Rochetti. In the center of Rome, next to the ancient fortified wall called “Le Mura”, they opened “San Lo”. This studio and dance school for all ethnic dance styles, presenting also theater and contemporary arts, was a new vision for a country rapidly changing with so many emigrants. Isabel created the first American Tribal Style (ATS) troupe in the area, Carovana Tribale, and invited Geneva Bybee to teach Tribal Fusion. The growing interest for both styles of Tribal Dance inspired them to hold a Tribal Meeting in this ancient city.
Isabel met Mark Bell and I when we were playing at the Sleeping Lady in Fairfax, California, and invited us to teach at the Roma Tribal meeting she was planning to hold at San Lo.
Ling Shien teaching Fellahi and Sa’idi
Mark and the Takadum Orchestra
An interesting highlight of this meeting was the Tribal Forum, held on the last day, where dancers gathered in a circle and shared their views on the major dance trends under the umbrella name “Tribal Belly Dance” and what that term meant.
As we went around the circle, Isabel asked me to recount my involvement with Helm and the traditional Middle Eastern music we’ve been playing for dancers since the ‘80s.
After meeting Mark Bell, I started playing in the Southern Renaissance Faire in Malibu, California, where we were joined by the great oudist, Henri Besançon, to accompany the Soux Ashe’s Montrebi Troupe. In 1987, when we moved north, we performed at the Northern Renaissance Faire in Blackpoint, for Sage Hoban: Gypsy Moor Dancers, which eventually evolved into John Compton’s Hahbi Ru, performing choreographed dances from Jamila Salimpour’s Bal Anat, and the Pita Guli Balkan Dance Troupe. Both these troupes had been performing at the Northern Faire in the ‘70s, with some dancers (Mish Mish and Kathy Bulk) leaving Bal Anat to join Pita Guli… Mark was the main drummer for the Bal Anat Troupe in those days.
The style performed by these troupes was still not labeled as “Tribal” at that time, but more as “Ethnic”, as opposed to “Cabaret”. It featured traditional folkloric acoustic music, and costumes with coins, camel belts and Assiut cloth (from Assiut, Egypt) rather than sequins and high-heeled shoes. It also differed from the Cabaret style in the fact that most of the dances were group dances.
Now there seems to be two main currents within the Tribal Dance trend: American Tribal Style, originated by Carolena Nereccio, and Tribal Fusion, encompassing a wide variety of genres. Tribal Fusion usually includes some of the original ATS moves and either original moves or moves borrowed from other dance forms. One major difference between the two, though, seems to be that ATS, with its specific dance vocabulary and overall look in the costume, is based on group improvisation. Tribal Fusion performances are mostly choreographed, and offer a wide variety of costume styles.
At the Tribal Forum, dancers took turns around the circle, describing their own take on Tribal dance.
Francesca, who founded De Nova Luce, wanted to have more emotion in the dance, and called her style Emozionale. In her troupe’s performance the night before, the chorus portrayed a “Bas Relief” or partially embedded sculpture, and Francesca was emoting in the foreground.
Mandagora Troupe of Barcelona at the Saturday show.
Kimberly Mackoy remembered the beginnings of Tribal Fusion with Rachel Brice, who, after studying with Carolena, quickly shaped a new style that she called “Tribal Fusion”.
Kimberly, who has an ethnology background, saw the word tribal from an anthropological point of view: a family or group of related people with a mode of life or lifestyle (dedication to the tribe as opposed to the individual). A tribe, in this sense, perpetuates traditions over generations.
Then I chimed in with the musician’s perspective. Mark and I have spent the last 30 years researching and teaching musical traditions that have evolved over generations of a tribal life style, whether nomadic or stationary, and as we play them, one can feel a sense of happiness, wisdom, and power that these musical melodies and rhythms convey. The differences and similarities of these forms gives us a sense of the time and space through which they originated and merged.
This research is a continuing fascinating adventure as we travel, learn, teach, and receive positive feed back from the natives, who are happy that someone is interested in their folklore.
(Coming soon: Our article on our research trip in Rajastan)
The Roma Tribal show’s finale (see video below) featured all the artists dancing to Helm and the Takadum Orchestra. Isabel invited me to dance with her. How could I resist? The rhythm was happening!
Isabel and Ling Shien
Helm joined the Takadum Orchestra at the festival’s performance
The closing tea party was a chance to say farewell to our new friends until Tribal Roma 2011!
Names? Ling in front in light tshirt, almost directly behind is Ilhaam, more?
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