"Tribal Fusion": where are we going as a dance community?


This article goes for the "Tribal Fusion" community. I have been thinking about this crisis we're going through, and leave you my thoughts. Thank you for reading, hope you can comment and bring in new perspectives that might inspire us all!

I do not know if you noticed it, but there is on ongoing discussion about the name for our dance style "Tribal Fusion". For a long time, dancers have been feeling uncomfortable with using it the USA and most of them are just naming it as "Fusion Belly Dance". In Europe there are a lot of people still going for Tribal Fusion and the main festivals here and out there still have "Tribal" in their name.

One of the main arguments is that the word "Tribal" is offensive and unrespectful of the communities that have been named as "tribal" by white western privileged societies. I totally understand and relate to this claim. In any case, the word "Tribal" in Tribal Fusion came from the Tribal in "American Tribal Style", an older fusion style that influenced Tribal Fusion in its first steps. The word Tribal in ATS refers to the fact that the dance form is to be danced in a troupe, so tribe goes for a group of people that share a dance language and costume styling, and aesthetics. It is not used to mean it's a Fusion of "Tribal dances" (whatever that might be). In this way, I do not see the use of Tribal here as offensive, even if some people talk about what they do as relating to "tribal" dances or whatever, but that would be just a demonstration of ignorance on what we actually do in Tribal Fusion. The roots are in middle-eastern and North African folklore and classical forms of Belly Dance, and in the mix there are influences from the so-called "dances of the world" such as Classical Indian Dances and Flamenco, as well as Ballet, Contemporary and Urban dance styles. So it's not "Tribal", in terms of being a mix of indigenous dances, at all, since a lot of these dances are codified styles, taught in dance schools or traditional/classical styles. Even the Belly Dance we borrow mostly from is already a fusion style mixed with ballet created in the 20th century, and not a folkloric dance style. And for me that is the issue: "Tribal" does not describe what we do and adds a lot of confusion. Also it might offend people who think we are a bunch of white western ladies playing around dancing indigenous dances of the cultures our ancestors named as being of "tribal" people.

I agree, it would be great to find a new way to describe this amazing fusion form that started in the 90's in the Bay Area, California, USA. What is on the table right now is: "Transnational" suggested by Donna Meija, "Transcultural" suggested by Amy Sigil, and "Folkoric Fusion Bellydance" suggested by Jill Parker, recognized as the main creator of Tribal Fusion (after some days she dropped it but she still says she will not continue using Tribal Fusion to describe her style and she is looking for a new designation).

Transnational for me raises issues such as Tribal, and it's a term for international commerce and industries, doesn't fit a dance style, from my perspective. Transcultural seems better but it is more of an academic term. So I do not know what will happen from here, but it seems that most probably anyone will start adopting their own terms for what they do, and this will separate people, destroy the sense of community that existed and potentially harm us all.

Tribal Fusion is a mess in every way. I use "Fusion & Alternative Belly Dance" already a lot of times not to delve into this mess when I advertise a show, and because my work is so varied that most of the times I am not doing only Tribal Fusion style when I perform. I mix in a lot of stylizations. But when identifying the type of fusion I am teaching in class, if I do not say "Tribal Fusion" the potential students within the Belly Dance community will not know what specific fusion I will be teaching. I usually use Fusion if I am doing one of my rock, blues or jazz fusions, based on music and musical culture and where I am mixing other stylizations and steps from other dances, but if I am teaching what I call a more straightforward Tribal Fusion class I call it that way. How can new students find online what the style is about if everything (videos, pictures and other resources) has Tribal Fusion as a keyword or hashtag? The transition will have to be smooth and we need to find an umbrella that most people can relate to and that creates bridges and not walls between us. For me, I will take a deep breath, continue thinking about this and be attentive to what's going on, trying to contribute in the humble way someone who is not one of the biggest names in the game can contribute.

Love for all of the "Tribal Fusion" passionate souls out there.
Let us be together even when we disagree. Let's keep the sense of tribe alive even if we decide to take the "Tribal" out of the equation for good. Because this sense of community was what made this a global phenomenon and would be a shame to lose it.

Article published originally on my facebook profile and page.