Art of the Belly and Dance Thoughts

Last weekend I performed with the MD/DC/VA ATS supergroup, the Transcendence Tribal Collective at Art of the Belly. Here it is!

I took a workshop with Asharah about the Salimpour Legacy in tribal bellydance, and then I took a private lesson with her where she gave me a crash course in the Jamila Salimpour format. I love learning. I'm all about finding out the WHY behind everything.  Why do we style things with a certain posture or tempo?  There's a history there and it's worth looking into, especially if you have the intention to change it up.  There's a lot of feel-good bellydance mythology about how dance was passed on mother to daughter, and passed along through generations. I've always thought that sounded corny, but now I am realizing that actually that kind of tradition is still alive today.  My first bellydance teachers were trained by Piper, whose mother, Rhea, was a dancer in Jamila Salimpour's troupe, Bal Anat.  My mentor, Carolena Nericcio, was a student of Masha Archer, who was a student of Jamila Salimpour.  We're still close to the source of some bellydance history, and I think we should take advantage of that as we are at an interesting time in the growth of tribal bellydance.

That's why I am working my buns off trying to learn as much as I can.  It is incredibly daunting because the history is so rich, and it's more than just reading, it's getting that knowledge in my body as well.  ATS® is always going to be at the core of what I'm passionate about performing and sharing, but I'm excited about adding more depth to my dance to bring to my troupes and to fuel my solo projects.

I have the reputation of being the ATS® curmudgeon.  Why?  Because I think classic ATS® is an elegant system of dance and if you learn it and dance it as intended, it is beautiful, exciting, and fun to do and to watch.  But it's also because tribal fusion bellydance has gotten so far away from it's roots, not just from the American tradition of tribal and proto-tribal (which is the thing that I fell in love with in the first place), but also bellydance in general.

This is Kallisti's interpretation of just how bad it's gotten:


I must say I do like my neo-victorian outfit, but I can't see what that has to do with bellydance.  That, of course, is the joke.  Many of the members of our collective study traditional (non-tribal) bellydance in addition to ATS. They are talented soloists who layer their own experience and interests onto bellydance without venturing into crazy hot mess neo-victorian/steampunk/circus/crazier-fusion-than-you nonsense.  We play zills.  And I'd like to think when we put on our big show at the Faerie Fest it's more like Bal Anat or Hahbi'Ru where we can come together as a tribe and look awesome, and we can also breakout into exciting solos and featured groups showcasing the unique talents and passions of our individual members.  And that, I think is a legacy worth preserving.