Improvisational Tribal Style

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ITS dance movement/AmySigil

Improvisational Tribal Style (ITS) [1] is a form of Group Improvisational Tribal Fusion belly dance. The term was first coined in 2006 by Amy Sigil of UNMATA [2] to describe her improv vocabulary, as it evolved away from American Tribal Style.[3] ATS® is considered to be the root movement language that inspired ITS. The group improvisational nature of ITS requires a shared vocabulary of movements that are each initiated by a distinctive movement cue. The group of dancers consists of (one or more) leaders and followers, determined by their position within a formation. The leader initiates a movement sequence (usually lasting between 2-32 counts) which is performed by the group. These movements are initiated independently and can be performed in any order, allowing for musical interpretation. Although this style of dance was pioneered in the United States, Improvisational Tribal Style continues to gain international popularity.[4] Currently, there are over 50 certified ITS teachers worldwide.[5]

Improvisational Tribal Style is a specific style or school of Tribal Fusion belly dance.

Classification and genres[edit]

Belly dance[edit]

Belly dance is a dance characterized by sinuous hip, abdominal and arm movements,[6] and as an umbrella term, encompasses a plethora of aesthetic variation between styles.

Tribal Style belly dance[edit]

FatChance BellyDance 01 DSC 0061.jpeg

Tribal Style belly dance is characterized by a blend of costuming and folkloric dance movements rooted in Egyptian folkloric, North African/Middle Eastern, Spanish or Eastern Indian traditions.[7] Costuming generally includes a rich tapestry of ethnic jewelry, natural fibers and decorations such as coins or shisha mirrors, with prevalent earth-tones and jewel-tones.[8][9][10]

Jamila Salimpour[11] is credited with popularizing the Tribal aesthetic in California in the late 1960's and early 1970's via her troupe Bal Anat.[12] Using traditional folkloric dance elements and costumes inspired by traditional and ethnographic traditions, Bal Anat included musicians, singers and dancers to create a "souk" or almost circus feel.

In the 1970s, a former student of Jamila Salimpour, Masha Archer,[13] began teaching a directing her own troupe, San Francisco Classic Dance Company. In her work, Masha blended together the diverse elements of Bal Anat into a single cohesive dance style which she simply styled as "bellydance".

Masha's student, Carolena Nerriccio,[14] is credited with codifying the first dance style and format to bear the name "tribal bellydance". She has registered their signature style American Tribal Style belly dance. Dancers inspired by Carolena's work with ATS have since created multiple offshoots of the style, some retaining true stylistic elements of ATS while others have evolved quite far from the original form.[15]

Currently, Tribal Style incorporates aesthetic elements from folkloric inspired dances (such as the original Bal Anat) to a fusion of ancient dance techniques from North India, the Middle East, Spain and Africa. As a general category, Tribal Style covers many flavors of American belly dance both the folkloric inspired and fusion and cross over styles which explore modern, jazz, dance theatre, and hip hop with belly dance, as well as fusion with traditional classical ethnic dance forms like Bhangra, Bharata Natyam, Flamenco and now even Polynesian and West African dance.

Tribal Fusion belly dance[edit]

Tribal Fusion dancer Rachel Brice. Tribal Umrah Rennes, France 2012

Tribal Fusion is a modern Western form of belly dance which was created by fusing American Tribal Style belly dance and American Cabaret belly dance.[16] Artists frequently incorporate elements from urban dance styles such as hip-hop, commonly incorporating popping and locking techniques, 'Egyptian' or 'cabaret' belly dance, as well as movement principles from traditional forms such as flamenco, kathak, odissi, and other folkloric and classical dance styles.[17]

Group improvisational styles are often considered a sub-category of Tribal Fusion and Tribal Style belly dance.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Richards, T. (Ed) (2000) The BellyDance Book. Backbeat Press. ISBN 0-9700247-0-3 (find this book)
  • Djoumahna, K. (Ed) (2003) The Tribal Bible: Exploring the Phenomenon that is American Tribal Style Bellydance. Kajira Djoumahna/BlackSheep BellyDance. ISBN 0-9728486-0-6 (find this book)
  • Nericcio, C. (2004) Belly Dance: A Fun and Fabulous Way to Get Fit. Barnes & Noble. ISBN 0-7607-5647-3 (find this book)
  • Khastagir, N. (Ed) (2005) Tribal Talk: A Retrospective, FatChanceBellyDance. FatChanceBellyDance:San Francisco.
  • Reese-Denis, P. (2008) Tribal Vision: A Celebration of Life through Tribal Belly Dance. Cultivator Press. ISBN 978-0-9791603-0-1
  • Mejia, Donna L. Digital Arenas and Transnational Dance: The Impact of the Internet on Tribal Fusion Dance Through the Lens of a Participant Artist. Diss. Smith College, Northampton, Mass., 2012.
  • Burnam, April Rose. Bellydance in America: Strategies for seeking personal transformation. Diss. University of California, Los Angeles, 2012.