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Tribal Bellydance: it's origins, it's evolution and it's future...?


The rise of American tribal style [ATS]


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American Tribal Style” is an fine example of a well defined belly dance style that was created in America.
Tribal dancers

ATS is purely American in many ways. America as a melting pot of different cultures created rock'n roll, jazz, blues before and now ATS.
Partly due to manager Miles Copeland, highly credited in the world of pop- and rock music, belly dance and American tribal style in special is getting worldwide attention. Workshops tribal style meet increasing popularity. Perhaps the Bellydance Superstars featuring Jillina, Rachel Brice from "The Indigo Belly Dance Company", Ansuya, Sonia, Bozenka, Adoré, Sharon Kihara, Petite Jamilla, Colleen, Jayna, Moria, Kami Little, Zoe Jakes, and Cassy accompanied by percussionist Issam Houshan did open the minds and eyes not only for the art of oriental dance but also for a different style of bellydancing, American Tribal Style. In fact Rachel Brice and companions are not entiry doing ATS but make their own version of it, but who cares? The whole bellydance community is benefiting from the exploits of the BDSS after all. More media exposure is always good, isn't it?

Manager Miles Copeland who had spent his childhood in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, set up a troupe of professional bellydancers on stage and launching them into a worldwide theatre tour was considered a big risk. Miles did it... and with succes! The first appearances of the Bellydance Superstars were at Lollapalooza in 2003. While the first tour attracted mainly dancers and students, the second tour sold out to a much broader audience. Finally bellydancers deserved their rightfull place in the Hall of Fame. One of the highlight of the show was en is certainly the "Tribal style" section under the direction of Rachel Brice.

An interesting fenomenon is the rising star of Rachel Brice, American tribal style dancer and yoga teacher. Although "la Brice" as a solo artist isn't ATS but a tribal fusion. She was certainly not the pioneer of American tribal style, I believe Carolena di Nericcio of "Fat Chance Bellydance" deserverves more honours in that respect. The Fat Chance Bellydance troupe from San Francisco, California, was a pioneer in Tribal style, together with Bal Anat of Jamila Salimpour. Bal Anat was founded in the sixties and is sometimes credited to be the first American tribal belly dance company that popularized ethnic costuming. Although Bal Anat never labelled themselves as 'Tribal Style'. Where the so called bellydance 'cabaret' style was dominantly a solo performance, the tribal style performances are a group happening. The dresses were more closed, at least in the 20 th century. Tattoos and ethic jewellery such as khul-khal (ankle rings worn by the Egyptian gypsies), turbans, the music choice and the choreography created a completely different atmostphere.
Tribal style is something like a return to the roots of oriental dance. The Algerian Ouled Naïl tribe were no doubt a source of inspiration and so did the Ghawazee of Egypt. Indeed the Ghawazee and the Ouled Naïl danced sometimes together.
Suhalia Salimpours workshops inspired Rachel Brice a lot and indeed this brings us to the the precursor to ATS: Bal Anat. Suhailia's mother Jamila Salimpour founded Bal Anat and members of "Bal Anat" founded later on Fat Chance Belly Dance with Carolena Nericcio. Megha Gavin, director of Devyani Dance Company of Birmingham, Alabama teamed up with Carolena Nericcio and became her dance partner and co-instructor.

Carolena Nericcio and Megha Gavin (24K)
Carolena Nericcio and Megha Gavin (Tribal Pura)
Rachel did open many doors for American Tribal Style, she was featured on a few CD covers, was highlighted on the poster of the second world tour and her video did quite well. Her own troupe "the Indigo" is pretty interesting with the use of electronic music and Native American element in the costuming.

FatChanceBellyDance student Quinn Donovan started with tribal style bellydance and founded Oregon's Gypsy Fire in 1998. Quinn studied since 1994 with the originators of ATS in San Francisco. Gypsy Fire spins around the vocabulary of classic American Tribal Style and does now international shows.

Gypsy-Fire (44K)
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