Tribal Bellydance – A Sense of Belonging
People are social beings and cannot exist, physically or emotionally, without the support of other people. Unlike bears in the wild, human beings need the support system of their own kind, their tribe.
Our desire to be part of a family, group, and community is strong in all of us and is hardwired into our DNA as part of our ability to survive and thrive. I can think of few more enjoyable or healthy ways to satisfy this need and desire to bond with others than through music and dance.
Bellydancers have been dancing in groups and troupes for ages. Whether the style of bellydance has been cabaret, ‘Gypsy’, ethnic, or other, dancers form a strong bond with each other in their shared participation in a troupe.
In the 1980’s a new version of troupe bellydancing was popularized and it was called tribal bellydance. It utilized a new type of choreography that used a lead and follow method of directing the dance. Tribal bellydance has continued to evolve, but it still uses the same classic movement vocabulary as other styles of bellydancing and has many other similarities as well. The costuming in tribal bellydance is an adaptation of earlier fusion styles of ethnic and cabaret costuming (popularized by troupes in the 1960’s and 70’s such as Bal Anat and The Perfumes of Araby). The traditional Middle Eastern music used in tribal bellydance is also used extensively in other belly dance styles. However, more than other styles, most tribal bellydancers put an emphasis on their identification as part of a quasi-ethnic tribe.
When you do a classic improvised belly dance solo, you get in touch with your own individuality through your personal interpretation of the moves and music. When you dance in a troupe, through the groups’ synchronization of movement to music, you can experience a feeling of connection or sisterhood with your fellow troupe members. Most dancers find that this is a positive and fun expression of their need to belong.
Regardless of our tastes in choreography, music, and costuming, we can find like-minded bellydancers to dance with. The bonding that occurs through shared movement and music can give us a sense of belonging to something bigger than, and just as important as, our individual selves.