What is Tribal Belly Dance?
Tribal vs. Cabaret…What’s the difference?
This is a question I get asked all the time, particularly from new students…What is the difference between Tribal and “traditional” Cabaret?
The answer is that the difference is subtle in technique and glaring in trappings.
For example, a shimmy is a shimmy… whether you are wearing a sequined beaded bra or a belt of tassels and cowrie shells, a shimmy is a shimmy, a hip roll is a hip roll a spin is a spin…you get the idea.
HOWEVER…within Tribal, the emphasis is put on more pronounced isometric movements, deeper feeling of earthy sensuality within the movements and an over all more ethnic feel, even when the music has an underbelly of rock and roll. If you have the privilege to watch the most famous Tribal artist of this time, Rachael Brice..you will notice her very pronounced isolation movement, her fluidity and that the carriage of her body is higher and more structured than that of cabaret. Tribal also has a tenancy to be lower impact. Some other aspects of tribal is the “Follow-the-leader” method of group dancing where a set form of non-verbal communication is set forth from the dancers to follow a lead dancer who takes on the bulk of the choreography. This was made famous by Fat Chance Belly Dance in California, most known as the dancers who were on the forefront of the tribal movement.
Costumes are also a BIG place where we see the difference as well as in the music. In “traditional” Cabaret, the costumes are very sparse, very sequined, the sequins are plastic and the beads are light, you do not often see coins any more on the Egyptian costumes and they look very “Vegas”. The girls also look very “Vegas”, young, thin with well displayed breasts. In tribal, the costume has a natural and organic feel. We try to adorn ourselves as tribal folk and nomads would…REAL metal, real coins, REAL crystal and stone beads, Shells, tassels, flowers, feathers…the costumes are heavy and very individual…as individual as the girl dancing. People often hold my belts and bras and marvel at the weight. But it is not just that they are heavy, it is the wonderful weight of personality which goes into each one. A Dancer will hunt for months for the perfect Kuchi pendants for her belt, create tassels from grandma’s old shawls and create a costume rich in her own nomadic history. Not to mention that the costumes usually include layers of fluffy skirts, harem pants, veils and such, so although most still expose their belly, you never feel naked doing it. And the bonus…if you REALLY do not feel comfortable with your tummy ( though tribal celebrates EVERY body style) many costumes have Ghwazi coats which cover the tummy. ( And you STILL get well displayed cleavage if you want it!)
Music: The music that most people identify with traditional cabaret belly dance, usually has a very heavy Middle Eastern sound, usually Moroccan and Egyptian, drums and high flutes and such. This music, although also used in Tribal, tends to not be used as often, usually the tribal dancer opts for music that has a more earthy feel, heavy in drums, that lends itself to snaky movements, Isolation and a general feeling of deep sensuality, The tribal dancer as well, has a little more freedom to experiment in music that lends itself to more modern instruments, as well as influence from Latin, African and new age genres.
All in all, I have found that the Tribal style to be very freeing and lends itself to celebration. My female audiences are never as threatened as when I was a Cabaret style belly dancer and the amount of creativity I can bring to all aspects of this dance makes me feel very at home.
I look forward to exploring this amazing Art with you in the very near future.
HUGS & Al-Salam