Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Belly Dance: the Meaning of Tribaret

 Carrie Konyha

From what I have read online, it seems that Tribaret belly dance initially referred only to choices of costuming and music. For example, wearing Tribal style costumes but dancing with Cabaret movements, or vice versa. Or it could mean using a combination of costuming elements for a glitzier Tribal look, or an earthier Cabaret style. It could also imply using Tribal music but dancing Cabaret, or vice versa. At any rate, Tribaret did not seem to point to the fusion of Tribal and Cabaret movement vocabulary, perhaps because this category was called Tribal Fusion. Confused yet?

Unfortunately, neither the word Tribal nor the word Cabaret tells us much about what dance form we can actually expect to see. At one time Tribal referred to Jamila Salimpour's troupe, Bal Anaat, which I have discussed in previous posts. Then it was used in Carolena Nericcio's lead and follow, group improvisational format, dubbed American Tribal Style, or ATS. Other troupes developed their own Tribal formats, usually called either Tribal Group Improvisation (TGI) or Improvisational Tribal Style (ITS). Paulette Rees-Denis of Gypsy Caravan calls her format simply "Tribal", as opposed to ATS. All of these variations could be known under the umbrella of Classic Tribal. But as I have written before, the Tribal umbrella has swollen to such vast proportions, to include any sort of "fusion" under the sun, that I am loathe to use the moniker "Tribal Fusion" in relation to belly dance at all.

"Cabaret" has similar issues in that it is usually used to refer to any type of Oriental, or non-Tribal, belly dance, and it leaves out Folkloric forms entirely. Instead, Tribal has come to stand for Folkloric, which is erroneous, even if classic forms of Tribal do incorporate some Folkloric elements. The word "cabaret" also has low-class associations in some countries, so it is not the best choice, to say the least.

Tribaret belly dance has evolved to become the "new" American Vintage Oriental (a.k.a. American Cabaret or American Restaurant), which harkens back to the classic night club and Renaissance faire styles which mixed various forms of Middle and Near Eastern dance and emphasized the use of props such as zills, veils, and swords. It had a distinctive 5 to 7 parts and was particular to the United States while being firmly grounded in the cultural roots from which it derived. Tribaret belly dance today is distinctive from Tribal Fusion.

While a Tribaret performance may use less of the classic 5 to 7 sections, it sticks to the American Vintage Oriental roots, with the addition of classic Tribal vocabulary and presentation from Bal Anaat's direct descendants (ATS, ITS, and TGI). There is no infusion of hip hop, burlesque, break dancing, gothic, or other modern dance interpretations in either movement vocabulary or musicality (though some "funky" or electronic Middle Eastern music fusions may pass inspection).

As an American belly dancer, Tribaret seems to me an "authentic" form of belly dance, except for the unfortunate blending in terms of the meaningless "Tribal" and "Cabaret" language. So what to call it? "Tribaret" is fine if you like it and have a firm grasp on what it means, but I am currently using the term, Classic Tribal Oriental. I may come up with something better and will keep you posted in that case. At any rate, inspired by Carrie Konyha, I am developing my own "Tribaret" combinations, incorporating movement vocabulary and technique from the Egyptian Baladi, Golden Era, and classic Tribal, with an undercurrent of Gypsy romance.

Carrie Konyha is a trailblazer in Tribaret belly dance, having come up with her own format for use in either group improvisation or for solo enhancement. The final performance of her Tribaret video is earthy and elegant, nothing akin to most "Tribal Fusion" disasters. It looks much like classic American belly dance! And if you watch her Tribaret troupe, White Lotus, on youtube, the effect is distinctively Tribal but is richer and more nuanced than the typical Tribal group improvisation. The moral of the story is that belly dance can indeed evolve beautifully, but historically, time and again, we see that going back to the cultural roots is always necessary to be able to move forward with integrity, dignity, and preservation of the authentic spirit of the dance.

Carrie Konyha

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