For our first analysis and breakdown of a Belly Dancing Style, we have chosen the American Tribal Belly Dancing, also called American Tribal Style (ATS), just Tribal or Tribal Belly Dancing. This style is unique in that its origin can be generally tracked to a single time, location and individual for its creation.
Early Tribal Dance
Jamila Salimpour is universally credited with being the mother of Tribal Belly Dancing. Jamila began studying and researching Eastern Belly Dance techniques from an early age. Influenced by her Egyptian landlord, Jamila’s initial focus was on Egyptian Belly Dancing. Not having a structured curriculum, she watched videos and listened to music on any style of the Oriental Belly Dance she could get her hands on. She began instructing in Belly Dancing in the early 1950s. The class was initially taught exclusively through imitation. As her students asked questions that she wasn’t able to easily answer, she decided something more structured needed to be in place. Is was this impetus that resulted in Jamila identifying, naming, categorizing and cataloging the movements of Belly Dancing. In doing so, Jamila took moves and costumes from the various styles she had been exposed to and created a fusion style that was the precursor to the current Tribal Belly Dancing style.
Tribal Dance – A Fusion
Based out of California, Jamila was the first female to own an Arabic Night Club in the state. With her success in both instructing and performing, Jamila was able to bring in talent from various countries to continue and reinforce or exposure to various forms of dance. Describing this time, Jamila explains “I began sponsoring dancers from Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Turkey and other countries-Ahmed Jarjour from Lebanon, Lala Hakim, Faten Salama, Shawki Naim, and Ahmed Hussein from Egypt, Bora Oskuk from Turkey, and Hassan Wakrim from Morocco who taught Shikatt. Some of them were lead dancers with folkloric troupes. It was very important for me to have all styles available to my students. The dance was growing and so was our school. Although it wasn’t my specialty, I made sure to have all styles explored. One week I would have a Guedra workshop, the next week Suhaila would teach the choreography she learned from Nadia Gamal.” Whether intentionally or not, the styles were being combined and students were taking some aspects from one style and a move or two from a different style. A new style was being created, a fusion.
Tribal Belly Dance truly separates itself from other styles in the principal way it is performed. Referred to as Choreographed Improv or Improvisational Choreography, the dance is performed as a group with cues to alert the performers to the upcoming moves. Typically, a dance will be organized as a troupe, with the head dancer providing cues to the other dancers on what is coming next. In some cases, the music itself will serve as the cues, and the musicians will change rhythm or style to alter the course of the dance. American Tribal Belly Dance is unique in that most other styles are primarily solo performances. Those performances that do involve groups, in other styles, are often well planned and every step well rehearsed prior to the first note of music.
Tribal Dance Costumes
True to the soul of the Tribal Belly Dancing style, the costume is a bit of a mash-up of various styles. Typical items may include a short choli, gypsy style skirts, a coin-decorated bra, hip scarves with fringes, finger cymbals, heavy jewelry and occasionally swords. Modern costumes often include face painting of some sort and tattoos. Since this is a very free-flowing and changing style, the costumes seem to reflect the culture and personality of the troupe or dancers performing.
That’s my quick overview of the US Tribal Belly Dancing style. More styles to come later.
Welcome to Arkansas Belly Dance. The goal of this Belly Dancing Website is to create a multi-faceted reference site created by a belly dancer for those who desire to teach, learn, perform or enjoy the ancient art of belly dance.
We gladly offer this space to troupes and individual performers to advertise their classes, performances and belly dance events free of charge. We invite you to take a look around, offer suggestions, ask questions, contact us and advertise yourself/troupe.
At Arkansas Belly Dance, we believe that dancing is an art. The music acts as our paint, the moves and costumes acts as our brush and the floor acts as our canvas. Similar to painting, even an amateur can take joy in the process of learning and expressing themselves. While many seek the destination of being a skilled dancer, the journey itself is the true reward.
This connection to art is even more so in Belly Dancing. Belly Dancing is an art inside an art. The Belly Dancing Costumes, Belly Dancing Music and the Belly Dancing Props are as varied as the moves themselves. Variations in what people call “Belly Dancing” ranges from the general Arabic Belly Dancing to the specific areas (Lebanese Belly Dancing / Egyptian Belly Dancing / Turkish Belly Dancing) to the modern Tribal Dancing. While many criticize one type or the other and one dance or the other, we have a different outlook. One of the sites that looks more into the different styles is www.pennyforyourshimmy.com. While we enjoy the content this site provides, we are looking at a different aspect of the art: the dance as pure enjoyment and less of a rigorous study to be perfected.
We believe the art of Belly Dancing is like the dance itself – it is fluid and ever shifting. While some sites will focus on one style or historical representation of the art, we believe that all are genuine in their own right. Belly Dancing was not a one step creation. It was the development of styles and changes over time. If you make up a new move that has never been seen before, we consider that art and not some deviation from what is considered “true” Belly Dancing. While we will look from time to time on the history (for a quick overview of one site’s opinion, checkout History of Belly Dancing)of the dance and different style of dancing, our primary purpose is to encourage people to learn and appreciate this amazing and beautiful form of expression. We believe it expands the art to look at the different Belly Dancing Props and the beautiful types of Belly Dancing Costumes, but we do not believe in criticizing people reaching out to try new things or create new techniques.
As we mentioned earlier, the Belly Dancing Journey is the true reward. There is no finish line and no place to stop and say you have learned it all. This is because the art is ever expanding and the source and variety of the different techniques is as vast as the ocean is wide. The journey is one in appreciating the skill, becoming one with the music and the melding of the movements and rhythm. The dance becomes a source of meditation and a place we go to relax and feel comfortable.
We encourage other sites, dancers, troupes and individuals to share their experiences, promote their upcoming dances and add to the community knowledge. Please feel free to go to our “Contact Us” page to submit any articles or information you would like us to share. Until then, please browse our site and enjoy the beautiful pictures, videos and content we work to provide you.
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