The Belly Tribe

Reading Nimue’s blog today got me to thinking about tribes. I used that word, tribe, last night in my belly dancing class – describing what we are, what the other ladies mean to me.  That sense of belonging somewhere, with people who share similar views, passions and goals is very inspiring!

With our belly dance tribe, we practice what I call gypsy fusion – it combines traditional Egyptian and Turkish belly dance moves, and to them we add American Tribal style moves and combinations, as well as elements from other fusion belly dance styles.  We incorporate flamenco and eastern European influences, melding it all together into one beautiful dance style that gives us a unique identity among the other belly dance tribes. 

Each form of belly dance can be seen as a tribe – there are the cabaret dancers, with their lovely sparkly costumes and long flowing locks, swishing veils around with fluidity and seeming abandon.  There are the ATS dancers, with their vocabulary of moves based on an improvisational style (which we incorporate in our version as well), who stand tall and proud in what they do.  There are the gothic dancers, dark and mysterious, the innovators who are constantly changing their styles and incorporating new ones, inspiring us all.  Each tribe works off from one another, supporting the same love of the dance and yet celebrating each tribe’s own uniqueness. 

I love my gypsy belly dance tribe.  Based on the historical evidence that has come to light of the Romany peoples origins being quite similar to the Celts in their Indo-European roots, so too have we incorporated elements from other cultures along our own journey.  More and more we are using improvised dances, with cues and a language that comes solely through the dancers to communicate what will happen next – most of the time the audience don’t even see or even notice these cues.  This style means that no matter where we are, no matter how many dancers we have, no matter what the music, we can all dance together, flowing as one tribe with the music moving in our blood and through our souls in the ultimate expression of creativity. 

Dancing is a language unto itself – for it is a form of expression.  Without words, we convey moods, attitudes, stories and images.  Being able to use our bodies in the flow of awen that is inspiration and creativity is a true joy that should never be taken for granted.  Proud of bodies, no matter what their shape or size, we use them to tell our stories of who we are, who we would like to be, what we have achieved and what we would like to achieve.

Improv belly dancing, in the ATS form has coined the term “flock of birds” to represent the idea of all the dancers moving together unchoreographed yet utterly in sync with each other. When this is done well, the spirit truly does soar, your essence blending with that of your other dancers and creating something that is truly special.  You have moments on stage or in class, when everyone is completely and utterly in the moment, and it just flows, like starlings at sunset. 

A lot of hard work goes into this, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my belly tribe, and the tribes of all other belly dancers – no matter what tribe you are in, we all do it because we love the dance, and are inspired by it.  Every single person is carrying on a tradition of beauty, or even using old ones to create new traditions that will continue to inspire future generations as the dance evolves.  So, a huge thank you to all who have inspired me, to all the teachers and students out there who slog it to class through the rain and snow, to those whose families support them in what they do.  It means a lot to belong to a tribe, and the belly tribe is a great tribe to belong to!

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