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Tribal Belly Dance

Updated on March 24, 2014

Tribal Fusion Belly Dance originated in the SF/Bay Area and is spreading throughout the world-wide belly dance community

I decided to start doing tribal belly dance almost two years ago.  It was something I'd always wanted to do, and I wanted to literally shake-up notions our society has about older, non-skinny women. I've found it's been a great antidote to sitting in front of a computer all day.  A chronic hip pain I'd had for years disappeared after the first six weeks (never to return) and my torso is slowly toning. Not a bad deal for playing dress-up while exercising, eh?

What is Tribal Belly Dance?

The phrase "tribal belly dance" is most often used to refer to what is more properly called "American Tribal" or "Tribal Fusion" belly dance.

The style is a modern fusion of elements from other forms of belly dance, with a few touches from other dance styles. It is meant to be performed as a group dance, where the dancers all know the same vocabulary and then the main dance is actually an improvisation guided by a leader in the troupe.

The style first came to wider public recognition in the US through the work of Caroline Nericcio and her Bay Area group Fat Chance Belly Dance. Founded in 1987, the style immediately had visual appeal to audiences and was fun and challenging to the dancers. Much of her dance theory and style of costuming has shaped and informed American Tribal Style (ATS) even though there were dancers working along those lines before her.

You can now find variations of ATS or Tribal Style belly dance being performed and taught all over American, throughout Europe and even Australia. I am learning dance that is part of the Gypsy Caravan style of tribal belly dance that stems from Portland, OR, as taught by Sharon Moore in Seattle.

Music For Bellydance - traditional to post-modern

For tribal belly dance music, find things with a good beat and give it a go. Since tribal belly dance (and most dance) works with counts of "eight" for learning moves, finding something that matches up with that is often good for beginners.

I'm constantly surprised how "regular ol' music" is often really fun use for belly dance practice. I'll often hit shuffle on my iTunes and make a spur-of-the-moment belly dance mix. Here are some recommended CDs that will keep you shaking and shimmying!

Galactic Caravan: Intergalactic Bellydance
Galactic Caravan: Intergalactic Bellydance

I'm really liking this CD for dance practice. The variety of songs let's me do a warm-up and dance all with this one collection. I can do moves anywhere from slow to moderate to fast tempo too.


American Tribal Belly Dance Explored

These links and articles are here to help you get an idea of just what defines tribal belly dance and to see what people doing this type of dance have to say about it.

Bellydance Hip Scarves - Yes, it's written both as "bellydance" and "belly dance."

Bellydance hip scarves let you clearly see the hip line when practicing. This combined with a longer mirror is a great way to be able to check your posture and form while drilling or dancing.

During performances, a fancy hip scarf adds sparkle and some jingle to the rhythms. A hip scarf can be solid color or patterned, fringed, beaded, coined or plain. Dancers usually have a signature or favorite color, and with troupes there is often an agreed-upon metallic accent, either all gold or all silver, so that their look coordinates but isn't exactly identical.

Add Some Swing and Sway

Ladies Sexy Exotic Belly Dance Sequins Stretch Costume Belt Skirt With Fringe - Purple
Ladies Sexy Exotic Belly Dance Sequins Stretch Costume Belt Skirt With Fringe - Purple

A fringe belt is a versatile accessory. It's quieter for practice than a coin belt, and layers with other hip accents for when you want your costume to really MOVE!


A Touch Of Red Flair

Belly Dance Velvet Vest | Meloura | RED | MEDIUM/LARGE
Belly Dance Velvet Vest | Meloura | RED | MEDIUM/LARGE

This lovely top can be layered under a coin bra or vest, and the flared sleeves add elegance and flair to your dance.


See Live Tribal Belly Dance

These are all substantial clips which will let you see the similarities and differences between everyone's different styles. Making videos is a good way to see your own form and refine your dance practice. It's also a great resource for seeing how different dancers use lots of different types of music, and you can get great ideas for costuming as well.

Troupes and Groups

With the expanding interest of Tribal Belly Dance and American Tribal, it often doesn't take too much effort to find a belly dance teacher or a group to go watch not too far from wherever you are. Renaissance Fairs are a great place to find belly dance performances, as are Middle Eastern restaurants.

Tell Us About Your Tribal Dancing!

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