American Tribal Style® Belly Dance, excerpt from “The Art of Bellydance” by Carolena Nericcio
"There are several elements that distinguish American Tribal Style bellydance, the style I typically teach, from other styles of bellydance.
From its name we learn two of the most important. American identifies this style as a modern fusion of many dancing traditions. Tribal Style refers to its appearance when performed, with several women dressed in layers of costume and jewelry dancing together.
That the dance is designed for group performance is significant. The steps and gestures are simple and uniform so that two, three, or four dancers at a time can easily assimilate cues and gestures. The uniformity isn’t intended to eliminate a dancer’s individuality, but rather allows her uniqueness to enhance the overall impact of the performance. Different body heights, weights, and shapes appear in step together on the stage, providing a visual array of beauty.
The steps and movements of Tribal Style have evolved from both Egyptian Cabaret and the folkloric dances of North Africa, as well as inheriting some stylistic influences from the Spanish Flamenco and the dances of India. More generally, Tribal steps are derived from everyday gestures, so the audience often unconsciously "connects" to the dance through our collective muscle memory. The dance form is constantly evolving, and to this day we keep our eyes and ears open and are always adding to our repertoire. Tribal is also a largely improvisational style of bellydance, using simple steps and gestures in a repetitive fashion, building on the music and the interaction between the dancers.
The musical choices of Tribal Style are also unique. We favor Egyptian Folkloric music over Classical Arabic because of the repetitive nature of its phrasing. Classical Arabic music is designed for one dancer interacting with the musicians and the audience. Folkloric is traditionally performed for a group dancing together, often for long periods of time. We find the Folkloric music gives us time to set up a movement, repeat it several times, and make a change, all within one phrase. We do use other types of music as well, including other Middle Eastern and African Folkloric songs, as well as some contemporary fusions such as Rai and World Beat. In choosing the music, we are always looking for the distinctive taxeem--the slow, improvisational sections of the song--and the driving up-tempo beat, which encourages the more lively steps.
The costuming also distinguishes Tribal. A typical Tribal costume consists of pantaloons, a full skirt, a hip shawl, and a choli (open-backed shirt). For performance, we often add a coin bra, a tassel belt or coin sash, and a headdress or hair swept up and adorned with flowers. Opulent displays of jewelry, such as coin necklaces, bracelets and cuffs, rings, and ornaments pinned anywhere that might catch the eye or enhance movement are also encouraged. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to put together a costume, as long as it empowers the wearer by flattering the line of the body and augments the display of steps and gestures.
Despite the differences between styles, it is most important to remember that belly dance is belly dance the world over. Its main attraction is delight. The dancer feels good doing it, and the audience takes pleasure in watching it."