Thursday, October 10, 2013
There is no high council of tribal fusion.
There is no high council of tribal fusion.
No one gets to tell you what can and can't be done in tribal fusion, or who you have to study with or how you have to dance. No one gets to dictate your facial expression or what moves you're allowed to use. No one gets to tell you that you aren't tribal enough. There is not a secret cabal of bellydancers who have codified exactly what percentage of your movement must have originated from bellydance, and which styles you're allowed to fuse, and how many sparkles your costume may have.
Are there rules to tribal fusion bellydance? Of course there are, but they're the same kind of rules that would apply to any dance form. Off the top of my head, they include:
-Study with the best teacher(s) you can. Depending on where you're located, that might be an ATS, ITS, Tribal Fusion, AmCab, Egyptian, Turkish or just general bellydance skills teacher. If there is not a good tribal fusion teacher in your area, you'll have to use videos to take the basics you're learning and modify them to fit the aesthetic you prefer. If you have the opportunity and money to study with multiple teachers in different bellydance styles, that's even better, although you may not want to do that right away as a beginner as it can get confusing. But if you learn multiple styles, you get different approaches to the same moves, some different moves, different ways to interpret the music, etc etc, and you can combine them to create your own personal style that works well in your body (obviously that only applies to soloists, in a troupe you'll want to do your best to do the moves exactly how your director does them).
-Study the kind of dance you would like to add to your tribal fusion. If you study with a tribal fusion teacher, you'll probably get a little bit of ballet, jazz, hip-hop or maybe Latin dance, depending on your teacher's tastes and backgrounds. But once you know what other non-Middle Eastern elements you prefer in your fusion, it's good to take classes specifically for those styles. For instance, I love the extensions and turns from ballet, so I take ballet classes. I also take Femme Cardio because it's a good workout, makes me think on my feet, and gives me some different movement to try to absorb.
-Practice hard. Practice the things that you're bad at so you become good at them. Practice the things you're good at so you become amazing at them. Practice things that feel weird. Drill moves. Put on random music and do improv. Give yourself emotional and artistic challenges. Master some props. Practice your costuming and makeup skills, too.
-Make good choices. Choose music and movement that is appropriate for the venue. Choose a costume that is appropriate for the mood of the piece and the style of movement you're going to be doing (no floorwork in delicately beaded vintage skirts!). Early on in your performance career, while you're still developing your style and your sense of what is appropriate, you may want to work with a mentor who will help guide you until these things become second nature.
-Dance with integrity. As long as you are making good choices based on your knowledge and capabilities (ie, fusing the bellydance you've been studying diligently and the jazz you've been studying diligently, instead of saying "I want to do a belly-tango fusion tomorrow so I'll just watch a few tango performances tonight, no big deal") and you dance the very best you can, and interpret the emotions of the song you're dancing to, you'll be fine.
I think it's important for us to remember that tribal fusion bellydance is a very young artform. There's going to be a lot of experimenting, and there may be offshoots that thrive and become their own style, and offshoots that last only a year or two and prove to just be a passing fad. It will probably be decades until it settles into a semi-permanent form with a specific style of costuming and a core vocabulary of moves, and even then there will be differences, just as traditional bellydance isn't just one thing, but encompasses folkloric dance and fauxloric dance (inspired by traditional dances but completely made up or given some theatrical spin), and Egyptian, and Turkish, and Lebanese, and AmCab, and probably a few others I'm not listing. So just chill out. Stop trying to apply your rules to it, sit back, and let it evolve. You don't have to enjoy everything that you see, and sometimes you will see some objectively bad dance performed by people who rushed to the stage without taking the time to really develop your skills. But no one is the one high judge of what counts as tribal fusion.
I'd like to thank Gothic Charm School for inspiring me with the concept of the Secret Cabal of ElderGoths. The Lady of the Manners has such a way with words!