Adventures in Tribal Fusion

Performing with Renegade Tribal. That's me on the left. Photo by Jennifer Bombardiere-Lippit

Perhaps my best kept secret is that I am a dancer.  The fact that I am a dancer is proof that sheer force of will can make almost anything happen.  I do not have what this culture considers a dancer’s body.  Since childhood I have been known as “the klutz”, and in high school theatre my inability to dance was used to comic effect, if it was used at all.

In hindsight we see our missed chances, places where we blew it.  I don’t have many, but the one that is most glaring is my refusal to dance, seriously, earlier in my life. In the late 80s I lived in San Francisco, just when Carolena Nericcio was inventing American Tribal Style dance and founding Fat Chance Belly Dance. I was hanging out at Cafe Istanbul in the Mission and there were women dancing.  Not the sequinned, chiffon veil bellydance I’d seen before (which I thought cheezy) but something else totally mesmerizing and earthy, and something I really, really wanted to do.  At the end, one of the dancers tried to pull me up to join them and…I refused!  I refused to dance because I was too ashamed of my body, and certain I would make a fool of myself.

One blessing about getting older is you no longer listen to those voices. Belly dance is a haven for women who have stopped listening to those voices and just want to move, and move well.

For a few years I have been dancing seriously– in my own living room. I have had world class teachers.   Kimberly MacKoy  gave me the gift of muscle memory training– “welcome to the labyrinth of your body” she would say.  Jesse and Philippa of Morai Tribal were the ones who taught me American Tribal Style, though I am still a beginner and would sometimes come home from that class in tears, it was so hard for me.  Jesse was the first teacher to help me understand that it wasn’t hopeless and it was dancing with her that I first realized that mastering even the most basic of ATS could feel like flying.

I now study with Samantha MacLaren in Selby and perform with Renegade Tribal, and my first performance in front of other people was this weekend– something I thought I would never do.  Life surprises you sometimes. With Samantha I have continued to hone my muscle memory and choreography skills.  Samantha not only believes everyone can dance, she makes it happen. She is a powerful dancer and I’m lucky to have her as a teacher.

Along with Tribal Fusion comes exciting possibilities in costuming– the photo below is of Samantha wearing her belt and headdress I made for her Lady of the Lake solo piece.

Samantha MacLaren wearing the Lady of the Lake belt and headpiece by Feral Strumpet on Etsy, photo by Mark Zuza.

4 thoughts on “Adventures in Tribal Fusion

  1. I have this same feeling about singing…I’ve had people tell me in recent years that I have a good voice and I had a few missed chances years ago when it seemed everyone I knew was in a band and I was convinced I couldn’t sing. Singing can sometimes feel like flying to me. Now I’m strumming my uke and singing in my living room.

    I know so many women who have grown more creative and less fearful as they age. It is inspiring!

    Oh, and Cafe Istanbul! I did a lot of writing there once upon a time.

  2. Jeanne– I love that you have a ukelele! That is awesome. I think that’s the one wonderful thing about getting older– you get to do whatever makes you happy– it’s very freeing. I miss SF so much sometimes. But of course the SF I miss no longer exists! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. everyone should dance! and sing! keep it up, no matter what anyone says. i danced like a lunatic at royal trux show in LA of all places, where it is NOT done, NOT cool, one of my favorite moments. drc

  4. Hi Dylan– yeah, what’s up with LA and the not dancing thing? It was similar in London, but only at certain gigs I went to. Dancing is good for the soul. I used to sing too, all the time– but somewhere along the line I became kinda tone deaf. I still like doing it though.

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