Tribal bellydance is not folkloric belly dance. Tribal belly dancing originated in America, and arose from the hippy culture of the Bay area in the 1960's. Think of the Afghan coats and long skirts of that time! Jamila Salimpour, who is credited with originating Tribal bellydance around that time, readily admits that her vision for her troupe owed as much to the many ethnic influences swirling around in society, as to the real Middle East. And there's nothing wrong with that – the result is a rich, vibrant dance form with a style all its own.

Although there are several teachers passing on Salimpour's tradition (mainly on the West Coast), it was Carolena Nericcio of Fat Chance Belly Dance who codified the style and turned it into a proper syllabus, American Tribal Style, so it could be replicated authentically by belly dance teachers around the world.

In other styles of belly dance, the emphasis in teaching is to faithfully pass on what you've learned from other "master" teachers. Tribal teachers seem more likely to regard other teachers as "influences", and the emphasis is on developing your own style. True, teachers who qualify as ATS instructors are very highly regarded, but even they are likely to have their own brand of Tribal Fusion as well.

But what is tribal fusion? It's Tribal belly dance "fused" with another dance style – and it's been done with a bewildering array of genres, including flamenco, Latino, burlesque, gothic, hula hoop, bollywood, ballet, hip hop and even American cabaret belly dance (tribaret). And some of it is awful.

Don't get me wrong – done properly, tribal fusion can be unique and enriching. But too often, I see Tribal dancers attempting fusion with a dance genre they simply don't understand, or using steps they can't do properly. The result is just messy and sometimes downright embarrassing. As a former flamenco performer, I often find myself cringing at so-called "flamenco fusion" routines that owe more to South America than to Spain. And I recall seeing a dreadful "ballet fusion" routine by a dancer who clearly harbored dreams of being a ballet dancer in her youth – she could (just about) get up on her toes in her pointe shoes, but someone should've told her that arabesques with bent knees and half-pointed toes are not an authentic look.

So if you're considering tribal fusion, do make sure you respect and understand both dance styles!


Tribal Fusion with Flamenco