Bellydance used to be a big part of my life, and for today’s T-related A to Z Challenge post, I am going to talk about a couple of Ladies I Love, my favorite Tribal Fusion Bellydancers. Just before I moved to Portland, I started taking beginning bellydance classes in San Diego, so when I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I had a good foundation to explore the many types of bellydance that are out there. I’m certainly no expert on various bellydance styles and I haven’t danced in a few years now, but I’d like to give you a taste of some of the bellydance styles you may encounter. You might have seen solo bellydancers perform when you go out to eat Moroccan food; those are typically Egyption cabaret style dancers – lots of colors, scarves, jingly shiny accessories, and they often perform to more traditional middle-eastern music (see the photo below, left). American Tribal Style (ATS), another another form, borrows traditional bellydance moves and is typified by multiple dancers performing the same movements at the same time. While there is some improvisation in the choreography, complex movements are signaled by a leader to other dancers in the troupe with subtle movements so that all the dancers know what step is coming up. ATS dancers borrow a lot of their dress and makeup styles from Eastern Europe (think gypsy!) and Africa to create a unique and recognizable look (below, right).
But let’s get back to tribal fusion bellydance! I first saw this style at an Offbeat Bellydance show at the Blue Monk, in Portland, Oregon. A dancer named Endymienne took the stage and I had never seen anyone dance like her before – I was absolutely transfixed! In fact, here’s a picture from her performance that night, way back in 2010:
All bellydance is about muscle control and isolated movements of the ribcage, hips, stomach, arms and head (among other parts), but tribal fusion includes so much more. It’s an off-shoot of ATS, but has elements of cabaret, hip-hop, popping, flamenco, burlesque and breakdance. Movements can be slow and controlled, or fast and percussive. The style is a beautiful combination of tribal, old 1920’s and 30’s flapper and burlesque, vintage circus, and modern elements (lots of tattoos and piercings, too). To me, it’s utterly mesmerizing! Here are a few more photos to help you picture what I’m talking about:
The two women pictured above are probably the most well-known tribal fusion bellydancers in the U.S., and for good reason. First, there’s Rachel Brice (the two pictures to the left, above), based out of Portland (here’s her wiki page, too). She has her own studio called Datura, and teaches classes and workshops there. She has performed and toured both nationally and internationally since 2002 and has a lot of accomplishments to show for it! Here’s a fun performance she did a few years ago at a Le Serpent Rouge show at the Tractor Tavern up in Seattle (I like it because a bit of her personality comes through in interacting with the rather adoring audience):
Next, there’s Zoe Jakes (two pictures to the right, above), who is part of a musical group called Beats Antique, which formed in San Francisco in 2007. She and Rachel Brice often perform together, and Zoe Jakes is a guest instructor at Datura, along with having several instructional DVDs of her own. She has been bellydancing since 2000, and like Rachel Brice, has a ton of accomplishments under her belt. Instead of a performance video, here’s one of my favorite videos from Beats Antique (called “Revival”, released back in 2011), which will give you a taste of their music (which seems to be a favorite among tribal fusion dancers…I don’t even know how to describe it!), as well as a peek of Zoe Jakes who performs in it about halfway in.
I could go on and on about these ladies and there are a ton of videos of their performances on youtube, so if you’re interested in viewing more, they’re easy to find. Was it what you were expecting from bellydancers? Let me know what you think!