3rd Coast Tribal Festival
by Yasmin Henkesh
Held January 3-6, 2013, in Ft Worth, Texas
Report posted January 20, 2013
I had never been to a tribal dance convention before, even though I have been a professional (Egyptian style) belly dancer for 40 years. From my “glitz and tits” perspective, this belly dance offshoot wasn’t something I recognized as mine. It was part folkloric, part invented, and totally alien to my solo, improvised cabaret mind. Don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t that I didn’t like it; I just couldn’t see my old body doing it–the upper torso arch, the reverse undulations, the back bends, the drops, and the writhing on the floor like a snake. However, the first time I actually saw Tribal dance live (at a 2003 Bellydance Superstar performance) my opinion of the dance form changed forever. Rachel Brice undulating to weird electronic music and Sharon Kihara’s command of the stage blew me away. I thought they were the best acts in the show. (It’s amazing what a difference live versus video can make!)
After that, I saw a number of sinuous trail blazers at our local haflas. Fortunately, my area (Washington, D.C./Baltimore) has a rich and vibrant tribal community: performances by Ashara, Belladonna, Ariel, Naimah and Mavi are always a pleasure to watch. …but spend four days at a convention dedicated entirely to tribal? Nope, I hadn’t done that! Nor would I have considered it (even now) if it hadn’t been for Artemis Mourat and her foxes.
Artemis lives in the woods and loves to feed the foxes around her house. Less than a week before her teaching engagement at Third Coast Tribal, she slipped and fell on her way to deliver cold cuts to the fox she calls Zaki, the smart little guy who figured out my friend has a soft spot for red fur, pointed ears and a bushy tail. When she landed smack on her hand, she broke a finger, sprained two more and realized she wouldn’t be able to demonstrate twirling a cane in Texas.
That’s where I came in. I have a soft spot for Arty. So the day after New Year’s Day, I found myself bringing a long stick on a plane to the Lone Star State. I had no idea I was going to have so much fun! As the sponsor, “Z”, said, I was like a kid in a candy store.
Before I left, GS editor, Lynette Harris, suggested I do some background research on what I was about to see and referred me to April Rose’s article, “Improvisational Tribal Style”, in GS’s The Belly Dance Reader. After reading it, I finally understood what all the fuss was about; it is difficult for a group to improvise on stage, look polished, and give everyone a chance to lead and follow. It takes work to learn all those cues for when to turn and where to go.
The tribal work ethic and spirit of dedication were evident from the moment I walked into the convention hotel. There were volunteers everywhere to insure the event was a success. The classes were packed with eager women who had trekked great distances to this cowboy Camelot in search of the tribal “holy grail”.
The event had multiple Merlins, all teaching magic from the mists of Avalon – or Egypt, or Turkey, or Algeria, or even California and Boston. However, rather than tell you about what I saw, let me show you. Here are some highlights from behind the scenes at the Urban Gypsy 3rd Coast Tribal. Wick Sakit Photo also took the show’s official photographs, and hopefully, they will submit a selection of them soon.
Arty with suitcase and hand
Really, I wasn’t joking: Arty broke her hand, but insisted on bringing a suitcase the size of a mountain! As soon as we arrived in Fort Worth, she also acquired a hat…
Tribal performers always seem to have tattoos. So, while I wasn’t prepared to commit to an image for life, I thought a souvenir for a week or two would be fun. Wednesday night, before the festival’s official opening, there was a henna party, provided by Debi Varvi of Henna Crone. Z, Amel Tafsout and Rachel Brice took turns sitting patiently while the Crone worked her magic on their hands. In the picture, Rachel’s hands are bandaged so that she could sleep with the henna for a better stain. The next day it was my turn and definitely worth the wait. I got to wear glitter all day as the henna dried.
Hands of Amel
Hand o Yasmin
Amel, Henna Crone and Rachel
There was far too much stuff on which to spend my money! From dreadlocks and braids to bejeweled eyelashes and hammered pirate jewelry, there seemed to be something for everyone. Most of the stuff was handmade, not “Made in China”. Of course, I had to stop at Geisha Moth before she sold out of my size: I knew from experience that her creations go fast. I also signed up for a massage, and the next day, after a full day of classes, I was so grateful that I had.
Some were large, others were small and intimate. Artemis Mourat, Sharon Kihara, Rachel Brice, and Zoe Jakes taught packed classes in the largest space while Amel Tafsout, Karim Nagi, and 20 other instructors shared spaces in the theater and the hotel. I signed up for a kick-ass drum solo by Sharon Kihara, odd rhythms (10/8 Sama3ee and a 18/8 Greek killer) by Rachel Brice and all of Amel’s sacred dance offerings (my favorite subjects). Indeed, I was in workout heaven, even though I paid for it later.
Class held on the stage.
Of course, what is an event without evening entertainment? Boring! The organizers had this all planned out too, from Thursday’s talent show to Friday and Saturday nights’ performances and after-parties. The most touching moment had to be the tribute for John Compton during Saturday night’s show, but all the performances were a pleasure to watch. They were original and well rehearsed: creativity meets the Puritan work ethic… Seriously, each number was better than the next. I didn’t see the time fly by. One minute they dimmed the lights to start, the next it was final curtain call. There were dancing skeletons and an Australian didgeridoo, tribal pompoms, and flamenco shawls. There were even (gasp) two-piece cabaret bedlahs and double veils (but no Isis wings, however). So much talent left the audience yelling and screaming for more. Oh well, there’s always next year. Who knows, maybe I’ll see you there. I was told Third Coast Tribal is like drinking from the Nile: “Once you’ve had a taste, you always want more.”
Amel and Urban Gypsy. (individual names please!)
Christina of Blue Lotus, Zoe, Sharon, and Rachel.
Next year’s event- January 9-12, 2014
Ready for more?
I left Cairo on September 9th, 2012, after a three-week visit to research the zar. I wrote the following article on my flight home – two days before the Libyan tragedy* and the violence outside Cairo’s US Embassy. As my plane circled the pyramids I had no idea Egypt would once again become the center of world attention.
- 5-17-10 A Bust to Be Proud of…
When she introduces me to her dance friends, it’s the first story out of her mouth – eighteen years after the fact. We still laugh about it.
- 1-27-10 Shoo Shoo Amin, A Forgotten Treasure of the 80s
Twenty years ago when I told people I had worked with Shoo Shoo Amin in Cairo, the response was “Wow!” Now, people go “Who?” Today no one seems to know who she is. For belly dance purists, this is a tragedy. Every so often, someone my age or older will wax lyrical about her on-line, but for the most part, she’s an enigma – even to young Egyptians.
- 9-17-09 Sex, Belly Dance and the Afterlife
To these people, sex was not dirty, shameful, frightening or forbidden. It was a natural part of daily life and the essential prerequisite for birth – on earth or in the Afterlife.
Originally written for Caravan Magazine 1992- The one thing on which you depend about dance in Egypt from year to year is that everything slowly changes. I’ve returned to Cairo each year now for nine consecutive years, and last year my visit was just before the short war we had with Iraq in which Egypt was our US ally. Cairenes seemed sad last year, because Cairo had lost most of its income from tourism, and many Egyptian nationals were returning from Iraq and Kuwait, where they no longer had employment. I did not know what to expect this year, except the inevitable fact of surprising, yet subtle, change.
- 1-18-13 Fabulous Hip Drops in 30 Seconds or Less!
A principle is a single unifying and guiding idea that when we apply it to our alignment or movement, helps us move more effectively. An advantage of using a principles-based approach to dance or martial arts mastery is that it lets us use a single visualization or body sense to achieve a desired result, instead of having to remember lots of little details.
A vibrant dance community affords benefits to all of its members. In a healthy dance community, each and every person is relevant. For learning purposes or gathering a certain show cast, there is a large pool of talent from which to choose. Those with specialties and unique areas of expertise can share their knowledge, enriching the individual skill sets of everyone.
- 1-15-13 Diamonds in the Rough & Polished Perfection, 2012 Berlin SomerFestival-Thursday Competition,
Produced by Beata and Horacio Cifuentes, Held in September, 2012. The costumes were innovative and personalized with many of the competitors from the Ukraine, Russia, and Asia. Many of whom are also ballroom competitors. As a result, the costumes were visually striking and elegant. The trend in costuming is floral with tribal going towards more colorful stylized burlesque (ala Chicago musical).
- 1-14-13 A Journey to Fuse the World, Aubre Hill’s Second Asia Tour and Great China Visit
Aubre Hill earned respect for her teaching and dancing styles at the 2011 events in Taiwan. But when Kelli Li, the event sponsor, told me that she would sponsor Aubre Hill again in 2012 and with longer hours, I had my doubts about the feasibility of the project.
- 1-11-13 Whirling, Meditation in Motion or Spectacular Show?
A dance could not be any more contradictory. The Whirling dance lingers between spectacular showmanship and meditation in motion; it combines trance and technique. It is a surprising paradox, unified like lovers within the dance.