Tribal Fest 2014
by Barbara Sellers-Young Ph.D
photos by Lynette Harris
posted July 14, 2014
Sitting in the main auditorium watching three days of performances at Tribal Fest 14: From the Root to the Fruit, I was reminded of the history of belly dance in the twentieth century from its arrival at the Chicago World’s Faire in 1893 to the evolution of the form as it exists today in global popular culture. Visually and aurally, the festival is a convergence of images of bright colors, flowers, heavy jewelry, tattoos, electronic music with its pulsing rhythms, and testaments to the impact of the dance, specifically Tribal Fest, on individual lives. The individual dance performances seem to span the history of the dance itself with a nod to the dances from North Africa and the Middle East to those that tie their roots to the movement vocabulary and choreographic style of American Tribal Style’s founder Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman, as well as extensions of this movement vocabulary into Fusion and Dark Fusion performances.
As someone whose personal dance roots go back to belly dance in the 1970s, it was fascinating to reflect on how the history of belly dance since the Chicago World’s Faire was reflected in these performances. The 1970s was evident in the incorporation of the rituals and the calling on of the earth’s forces that started and ended the performances. This was also reframed in dances that called up the spirit of the dance to the mother goddess of Jamila Salimpour, or to other ancient goddesses as Daniella Gioseffi did with her 1970s performances for feminist groups across the United States, documented in her book, Earth Dancing. This celebration of the earth and our life on it was reflected in costumes that included earth elements of feathers, flowers, antlers, leather, and natural fibers.
Africa, India, Bollywood, Urban Dance, Modern Dance, Ballet are just some of the many movement vocabularies and related moving images incorporated into Tribal Fest performances. In watching them, I was reminded of Ruth St. Denis whose company, Denishawn, traveled the globe and integrated the movement styles of India and elsewhere into their performances. The new twist is that the world’s dancers come to Tribal Fest from Japan, Italy, India, Latin America, and elsewhere. They bring with them new versions of Tribal, Fusion and Dark Fusion that are a consequence of the cultural contexts and aesthetics of their distinctive communities.
More than any other dance form I am aware of, belly dance and its related community, has served as a place of refuge and transformation for personal life challenges and a place, through improvisation, for movement experimentation and creativity; with specific reference to forms from popular culture.
I would argue that this is because its underlying movement philosophy is improvisation. This improvisational mode is found in the versions of the form that take place in ethnic communities in North Africa and the Middle East and related diaspora. A version of improvisation is encouraged in belly dance classes when a dancer is given the opportunity to take the movement vocabulary and make it their own. Another version takes place in the hig hly visual and kinesthetic reliant improvisational stage choreography developed by Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman and incorporated into dance companies that are its derivative. And, there is the improvisation that takes place when a dancer plays with the integration of the belly dance vocabulary and other movement forms.
Although Tribal Fest is a live on stage, face-to-face event, it is the danced realization of a world in which the technological flows of transportation and communication bring images and bodies into correspondence with each other, and through the form create new images that move a global popular culture dialogue forward.
Within the framework of history, Tribal Fest is 14 years old, having started in 2000. The moving global dialogue that it represents is over a hundred years old and somewhere in the process, belly dance, of which the belly features so predominantly in the movement and the costuming, is no longer a dance of North Africa and the Middle East but a dance of popular culture shared by men and women across the globe. As such, it is an example of the potential and impact of dance in popular culture. People who have found joy, creativity, meaning and identity within the improvising possibilities of belly dance have followed it on a personal integration of self and dancing body to evolve new movement images. Sitting in the audience I wondered what new integrations of movement will evolve in the rest of the twenty-first century.
Kraken Hunters Bound by Ship Ahoy of Nevada
A Salome Duet by Yvonne Michelle and Marci Ann of CA
Red Moon Dance Company of CA
Jamila Honeybear performs her dance to a poem she wrote and spoke.
Lynette Day of Hawaii
Liora of Texas
Hannah Romanowsky of CA
Kimberly Mackay of CA and UK
Mayuri of CA
Tree Russel of UK
Paige Lawrence of Oregon
Artemis Mourat of Maryland
Who is this hooded troupe? This dancer has a snake dancer tattoo!
Amy Sigil, Unmata and Hot Pot Studios fill the stage.
Apsara of Oregon, Moria Chappell in back.
Steven Eggers of Mexico and April Rose of Texas
Jewelry Movement of South Korea
Jewelry Movement backstage
Michelle Sorensen of Salt Lake City, UT
Alaska sends healing energy to the world!
Steven and April discuss their introduction for the MC
Geisha Moth leads a water balloon game outside, including: Amy, Mher, Frank, Raven, among others.
Men compare equipment,
Emil of Diamond Pyramid and customer.
A Rapt Audience. Lower right: Colleen, Karen, Barbara.
Ready for more?
- 1-18-11 Delilah, Women, Nature and the Body
This belief in the force of the earth is central to Delilah’s approach to teaching belly dance.
- 1-17-10 Serena Wilson (1933-2007) A Student of Ruth St. Denis, Part 1: Childhood
Serene Blake was born in the Bronx on Aug. 8, 1933 into a Vaudeville family of performers called Blake & Blake. Her mother sang and her father played the banjo. Her childhood and adolescent years intersected with the Vaudeville stage, on which she often appeared with her parents in the 1930s.
- 2-2-10 Serena Wilson (1933-2007) A Student of Ruth St Denis, Part 2: Salome and Her Impact
When suited to the context, she also had no hesitation in using the term belly dance as she considered the dance as evolving as an Americanized version based on primarily Middle Eastern as opposed to North African influences.
- 3-16-10 Serena Wilson (1933-2007) A Student of Ruth St Denis, Part 3: Serena’s Books
Serena’s approach saw women as joyful, soft, and feminine. They were responsible for and in control of their sensuality and by extension their sexuality. The dancers were not encouraged to challenge men by their physical presence, but neither was their physical presence and personal desire controlled by men.
- 8-14-07 Tamalyn Dallal’s DVD- 40 Days and 1001 Nights,
Thus, the film did expand my visual awareness. Now, did it deepen or extend my understanding of what that diversity implied? My response would have to be no.
- 3-3-08 Academics and Belly Dance, Two Books Review
Belly Dance: Orientalism, Transnationalism & Harem Fantasy edited by Anthony Shay and Barbara Sellers-Young & Choreographic Politics: State Folk Dance Companies, Representation, and Power by Anthony Shay
- 10-17-12 Kajira and Chuck Interview, Cultural Appropriation or Artistic Freedom? Part 6: Separate Community? Burlesque?
Kajira believes that the Tribal community is bigger and more successful than the rest of the belly dance community. "We wish we could be accepted as a sister dancer form… As Artemis said, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to look." Burlesque is a separate art form.
- 4-21-14 Colorful Maghreb in Los Angeles, A Celebration of Music and Dance,
“Dancing In The Sunset ~ A Celebration of Maghreb Music and Dance” held February 1, 2014 at the Live Arts LA Theater in Los Angeles, California
The International Oriental Dance Festival of Gijón, held every year in March, is organized by Fusión Oriental Group and Vanesa Moreno. Gijón is a small town on the north coast of Spain. Since its inception, the number of students was increasing and improved their attitudes about Oriental dance. That is the main reason why Fusión Oriental group decided to do something special to provide an outlet for all of these emotions and ideas. Many ideas emerged, but finally we decided that a festival was the best of them.
- 4-17-14 Zar: Trance Dancing with Yasmin, 2014 Workshop at Amina’s in San Francisco
Here in the Bay Area, so many excellent instructors make appearances that I always feel I need to choose carefully to make the most of my workshop budget. But when I heard that Yasmin Henkesh was coming to give a daylong workshop on zar, I knew right off that this was one I wouldn’t want to miss – how often do most of us get a chance for an in-depth look at this fascinating ritual?
As artists of an often misunderstood dance, we dancers understand that everything we present publicly reflects back upon us as individuals, upon bellydance as an art form, and by extension, the Middle Eastern culture. When presenting these facets in the most favorable light to other dancers or the general public, good design becomes paramount because it is the most unmistakable way to demonstrate our worth.
- 3-31-14 Beata Zadou in 1988, Winter Visit to Berlin’s Snow Princess
It is rare that reality matches one’s fantasy, but in this case, in 1988, my expectations were surpassed by the reality of wish-fulfillment.
- 3-25-14 (reformatted) Music Copyright Law for Belly Dancers (or for any Performing Artist) (commenting now available on this article)
You are not going to like what you are about to read. But if you are performing publicly to music you do not own, for your own protection, please keep reading. Every professional dancer should know at least the basics of music publishing law, particularly if she wants to appear in an audio-visual production destined for commercial distribution.
- 3-25-14 Patient is a Bellydancer, Part 1, Irritable Bowel vs. the Dancer
Weeks later my doctor told me she had never seen it that high in anyone before. Something was very wrong.
- 3-17-14 Dangerous, Dirty and Dastardly, 17 ways to Avoid It by Samira Shuruk
Every day we go to places where we are surrounded by strangers!