“Tribal Belly Dance has changed my life”. I realise that’s no small statement, but it’s true for me. So how does a dance change one so?
Tribal Belly Dance is an improvisational style where each woman can take a turn leading the others through whatever moves ‘move her’ in the moment….we learn these moves and their cues to allow us to dance together spontaneously without a set choreography.
So when we step up to perform, we never know exactly what’s going to happen! (As in any performance of course, but it really is a leap of faith – am I going to remember anything while I’m nervous?!) Myself and 2 other women formed our first group, Floreo, for a wedding some years ago, and I will always remember the feelings of that night. Getting ready, nervous, singing together as we transformed into our costumed ‘bigger selves’. Lots of nervous pee’s, and deep breathing. Looking each other in the eyes as the moment arrived, and saying “Well here we go sister! I’m here with you and you’re here with me and whatever happens we are in it together!” The music starting, doing the moving meditation, feeling that sense of connection with all the other tribal belly dance sisters around the world…and a huge smile coming all the way from my heart and eyes as this feeling comes over me “I LOVE this!!! and I’m so happy to share how much I do!” It is simply the most wonderful experience, and we finish and we are always so happy even if some of our special moves didn’t work out like we planned them, we’ve made it through whatever challenges the venue or the night presented, and we are bonded in comraderie even deeper than we were before.
When we perform any art, we are giving an offering. When I dance I feel as though I’m giving myself over to the Goddess. I ask her to hold me and trust that she will. I give my best possible energy to the moment and hope that people feel moved by that. By my willingness and courage, by both the vulnerability and power that accompany revealing your belly, your soft underside. I’m trusting that something magical will happen. Every time I overcome my fears, I am stronger. Women respond with enthusiastic recognition – I can see them instinctively mirroring the movements and feeling the energy in their own bodies, and it is so nice to know they are there.
I used to feel I could never do this dance alone. Well life has a way of putting me in the deep end, it’s a pattern I’ve come to accept! Our group became geographically challenged (ie living in different places) so I found myself with no-one to dance with. So I found me, in the mirror. I danced alone alot, even dressing up, lighting candles, and creating my own ritual. I now see this dance as a bodymind practice that I can enjoy on many levels – just for fun, for my body strength and flexibility, or to shift some frustrated energy from my being. Now I have a completely different relationship with the me in the mirror. I feel the innate feminine beauty that is within every woman if she can tap into it and express it. I appreciate my body and how wonderful it feels to be in my skin. (It’s the year of the Snake after all, and I’m loving it!)
But to have women to dance with, I realised I was going to have to start teaching others, and to inspire them I would have to perform, so I was going to have to get over it…so I now teach other women, and I get all teary every time I’m explaining how much this wonderful dance has done for me! I ask them to imagine all the other tribal dancers here with me, I ‘call them in’ with the moving meditation, and I feel them all joined with me in spirit. I feel my teachers, and their teachers. I feel my ancestors and your ancestors. I am most certainly not alone!!
I first learnt cabaret style Belly Dancing over 16 years ago. I loved it, it felt good for my body and fun to do with other women. I never felt drawn to performing that style though, it just seemed too provocative for me! (Plus I already performed with our fire dancing troupe, the Tuatara tribe and felt very happy with that.) My teacher was Maria Bickley, in Golden Bay NZ. I appreciated her focus and attention to detail. We were trained to always have good posture and correct movement, so I got a good grounding in the dance. But we were also taught to respect the tradition and culture that it came from. As an example, in the Middle East it is insulting to show the palm of your hand to someone…so it’s important in the dance to respect that, as we are working with another cultures traditions.
With tribal, we are more free. We are offering a contemporary dance that is influenced by many cultures. Created in the early 90’s by Carolena Nerricio, director of Fat Chance Belly Dance, movements are drawn from Indian dance, Belly Dance, Flamenco and much more, and we can give it our own unique signature as well. American Style Tribal Belly Dance has now become ‘traditional’ in a way, and given birth to many new styles as each group makes the dance their own. I love the moving meditation – and so far always begin a performance or a practice with it. I feel it connect me with Tribal dancers everywhere around the world, and it puts me immediately in the space I want to be in when I’m performing.
I learnt initially with Angela England (also in Golden Bay, NZ) but when she left the area we were 4 dedicated dancers with no teacher, so we kept going together learning from the Fat Chance video training sessions. It’s amazing how intuitive you can become with women that you dance with often. Some of the moves in tribal don’t have very obvious cues, but you somehow just know what move the leader is going to do, and you change into it with her, as though you become of one mind. It’s about building that relationship and trusting each other, but also you have to learn to trust your own instincts and act upon them.
So there you go – that’s how a dance can be life changing! I love to inspire others to experience what it can do for them. Please join me in classes in Nelson, or in a one on one session. Phone me for info at 0272566748, or contact me HERE.