Friday, October 02, 2009

fusion confusion and the trouble with tribal...

... Is that people think it's just doing the ooey-gooey stuff like Rachel Brice, or dressing up with flowers stuck in their hair and big chunky bracelets and armlets, or doing that crazy layback drop (again) like Rachel Brice, or having tattoos (preferably on the stomach area), or mixing styles from all over the world and call it Tribal Fusion.

To me, "Tribal" is not that easy. I don't care if people call me a Tribal Purist. Heck, I don't think I even want to take "Tribal" workshops from dancers except from The Indigo Girls, Naimah (yeah, right, when is she coming here), Elizabeth Strong (she's coming to Malaysia next year! Aaarggh, gotta save money!!), and possibly some of the BDSS Tribal Dancers, but just because I've seen them dance. God knows how much I want to study from Zoe Jakes and Mardi Love.

The thing is, when I had that crashcourse on "American Tribal Style" (ATS) and "Tribal Fusion" with Ms. Joe in Tokyo, I was exhausted. Especially my upper body parts like the shoulder blades and my arms. The posture kills me! But That's why I love ATS.

And then we began training on "Tribal Fusion". She had prepared two choreographies: one Tribal-Jazz and one Tribal-Hip-Hop. We didn't have time for the Hip Hop one, so we tried out the jazz. Did I like it? Yes, a lot. Although I've two left feet for jazz. But I liked it because the choreography was so rich. The repetitiveness was minimal and 98% of the movements is oriental.

Yes. You read correctly. "Oriental".

In my opinion, it's really important to step in on the right track at the beginning, and that first step is Oriental.

There's nothing to argue, really. Even ATS is largely influenced by oriental dance. Where else will you find figure eights, shimmies (particular shimmies, not like the salsa ones), and camels but in Oriental?

Ms. Joe constantly reminded me to always ground myself and make the movements look earthy, by doing things flat footed (doing flat-foot maias look so different than doing them while lifting your heel alternately) and not being too bouncy. Unmata dances to fast music so they couldn't help but being bouncy, but there's still the earthy quality in their dance (possibly because those girls don't shave their armpits, but hey, why should they anyway?)! And I find Sharon Kihara the bounciest, at least in her performances in the Tribal Fusion Fundamentals and her Instructional Video. And I don't like that.

And some people think "Tribal" is... "Tribal". They praise the dance without even knowing the very existence of ATS's Tribal Pura (FatChance Belly Dance's collaboration with Devyani Dance Company) or "Improv Tribal Style" (ITS), the more international form of tribal cues.

As for fusion... Personally, again, call me a purist (although I am definitely not one), maybe this is why I opt not to take Hip Hop or Salsa or Capoeira, because I know for a fact that some people are so Hip Hop that they look Hip Hop when they're doing Salsa or Oriental. I know for a fact that some people are so Salsa that they look Salsa when they're doing Hip Hop or Oriental. I greatly admire Zoe Jakes. She does that pop & lock thing without looking like Hip Hop pop & lock.

But one thing is certain. You can't wear a bare-midriff outfit and do whatever style it is, throw in figure eights for eight counts in a song that's five-minute long and call it "Tribal".

Sorry for being so bitter, but I just can't stand people who say that they do "Tribal" just as an excuse not to learn about Oriental, or worse, not to learn about ATS. Granted, there's no ATS class here and you have to have at least one partner to perform ATS (or ITS), but at least know where "Tribal" sprang from, forgodssake.

And I'll bet lots of "tribalists" have never even heard of Jamila Salimpour, Bal Anat, Masha Archer, or Carolena Nericcio.

bal anat
Jamila Salimpour (seated middle with black dress) with her Bal Anat troupe

Just for your information, Carolena Nericcio has been doing that layback-drop way before Rachel Brice. And don't get me wrong, I love RB and have a lot of respect for her. She's clearly taken Tribal Fusion (or as she labels herself and the Indigo now, "Burly Fusion") to a new level and helps promote Tribal, Tribaret (Tribal Cabaret), and ATS and ITS to a new level.

I feel so bitchy right now.


thegypsykiss said...

I understand and judge not. Some people just aren't interested in the history of tribal fusion, let alone belly dance itself.

In the video you are showing (which I have to admit is named a little interestingly), it's clear that only one lady is interested in 'tribal' AT ALL. I think sometimes, with smaller, less hyped troupes, there are a bunch of dancers who come together, mainly because they live in the same area and are friends, and just can't agree. Many come from cabaret or oriental backgrounds and just wanna wear bubble gum pink no matter what.

We've had some issues in our troupe like that in the past- differing levels of understanding and research of what tribal fusion really is, and what it came from. It can be a challenge, but I've managed by just not worrying about it, and letting people do what they like without crabbing. However, if we were a more serious troupe who really wanted to go places, I'd be much more stringent. So I get where you're coming from in that regard, for sure!

the boy who shimmies said...

You have... a really gorgeous website.

And thank you for your comment.

Well, maybe I judge too much, but I've really been holding my tongue (or fingers) for too long.

I think I should just give comments when necessary, or when I think that the techniques and movements don't resemble Oriental or Tribal dance at all.

thegypsykiss said...

Thanks for the compliment!

And yeah, that sounds like what I'd do, too. It should at least resemble belly dance - instead of whatever other form with a few figure 8s thrown in. Unless they correctly label it, rather than saying it's tribal fusion belly dance. Then, anything goes. That's just my opinion - everyone has their own about this subject!

the boy who shimmies said...

Yes. Thank you. I think I'll just do that and diplomatically say, "That's not what I've been taught to do". I think that sounds reasonably polite enough.

Now all I need to do is control my facial movement so as not to give any impression of, "I think you dance horribly!"

That'll be the hardest part!

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