Suvarna Garge (Editor)

Improvisational Tribal Style

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Improvisational Tribal Style

Improvisational Tribal Style (ITS) belly dance, or ITS, is a combination-based form of Improvisational Tribal Fusion dance. It relies on a shared vocabulary of movements, each initiated by a distinct cue movement. The leader initiates the cue movement, then a short, choreographed combination, or Combo, is performed. These Combos can be done in any order, and none of the dancers know ahead of time what moves the leader will cue next. Improvisational Tribal Style is a specific style or school of Tribal bellydance. The term was first coined in 2006 by Amy Sigil of UNMATA to describe her Improv vocabulary, as it evolved away from ATS American Tribal Style. (Similar styles include American Tribal Style, Synchronized Group Improv, Tribal Group Improv, American Improv Tribal, Group Improv Tribal.)


Although this style of modern fusion world dance is rooted in the United States, Improvisational Tribal Style has grown, and continues to grow, internationally and can be found in Australia, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, United Kingdom and other countries.


Three common characteristics help categorize the sub-types of Tribal Style Belly Dance:

  • Ensemble: Group vs. Solo [5]
  • Execution: Improvisational Choreography (or "Improv") vs. Memorized Choreography (or "Choreo") [6]
  • Styling: Traditional Tribal (see: Old School/Classic & ATS costuming [7]) vs. Tribal Fusion (see: Tribal Fusion costuming [8])
  • Tribal Style can be divided into sub-types depending on which characteristics are combined:

  • Tribal Fusion Style combines group, solo, improv, choreo and Tribal Fusion styling.Choreography is generally referred to as a set sequence of dance movements, performed the same way every time. Can be done as a solo or as a group.
  • Group improvisation (a.k.a. Group Improv) refers to a structured and codified repertoire of movements, each with their own distinct cue, performed in a lead and follow format. Group Improv is generally associated with American Tribal Style and Group Improvisational Tribal Style (a.k.a. Improv Tribal Style).
  • Solo improvisation refers to one dancer spontaneously dancing and being "in the moment" with the music. Solo improvisers will often be intimately familiar with their music or have some sort of a loose framework in mind for their dance presentation.
  • Belly Dance

    Belly dance is a dance characterized by sinuous hip, abdominal and arm movements.

    Tribal Style Belly Dance

    Tribal style belly dance is genre of belly dance that is folkloric and tribal in nature. Has a grounded, natural and simpler-times feel to it, inspired by Romany traditions. Music and moves, in general, are loosely or closely based on Egyptian folkloric, North African/Middle Eastern, Spanish or Eastern Indian. Costuming includes a rich tapestry of ethnic jewelry, natural fibered cloth and decorations such as shisha mirrors, with earth-tones and jewel-tones preferred. Generally some sort of head-dressing, trousers under a tiered skirt or just trousers, a choli and/or ethnic coin bra are worn. Body piercing, colorful dreadlocks, henna tattooing and permanent tattooing are favored but are not required.

    Tribal Style includes and transcends its predecessors, the 1970s California Tribal Style, characterized by its obvious counterculture response to club belly dancing and its daughter (which currently spans three decades — 80s to the present) American Tribal Style, a very carefully stylized belly dance format rooted in improv group choreography, characterized by intense isolation of movement and gesture with finger cymbal self-accompaniment, using a clearly defined group of moves and cues with a confident and upright, open posture.

    Tribal Style stylistically contrasts with Rak Sharki/Cabaret/Egyptian Style belly dance.

    Tribal Fusion Style

    Tribal Fusion Style is a dancer or a group of dancers with predominantly tribal style belly dance traits using other dance disciplines along with world and contemporary dance styles to enhance the core style of Tribal Style belly dance. Improvisational choreography with cues is fundamental to the composition of Tribal Fusion choreography, but the final production is not necessarily fully improvised. Compositionally contrasts with Tribaret. Past Tribal workshop schedules help verify style used for fusion. (See Tribal Fest 7 [9] as an example.)

    Tribal Fusion can conceivably include any of the following influences: Middle Eastern folkloric dances (see: Culture of Egypt ex. Ghawazee); North African folkloric dances (see: Culture of Morocco, Berber music, Ouled Nail, Tuareg); Spanish folkloric dances (see: Flamenco); Eastern Indian folkloric dances (ex. Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Bhangra); European Folkloric dances; Hula or Polynesian dance; African dance; Yoga Asana; Jazz dance; Tap dance; Ballet; Modern dance; Aerobic dance (ex. Jazzercise); Social dance (see also: Contra dance); Creative dance [10]; Raks Sharki or Cabaret bellydance; Gothic bellydance; Hip hop dance; Fire dancing; Bollywood; Vaudeville; and Burlesque.

  • Cedar's Photo Archives of California Tribal Style
  • "The Birth of Bal Anat and Other Adventures"
  • "The Bou-Saada Bus"
  • Shira's Dance Styles Used in the U.S.
  • Comprehensive article about Tribal Style Belly Dancing
  • Heavy Hips Definitions of Tribal & ATS
  • Comprehensive "Tribal Belly Dance Essay" by Heavy Hips Director, Palika
  • "Choosing Mindful Dance" by Heavy Hips Director, Palika
  • Improv Tribal Style Belly Dance Video (featuring Heavy Hips Tribal Belly Dance)
  • "Tribal Synergy 2: Paulette Rees-Denis & Kajira Djoumahna Discuss Its Power to Heal and Transform"
  • Blue Moon's interview with Kajira Djoumahna
  • An interview with Carolena Nericcio,director of FatChanceBellyDance
  • Jareeda Magazine's cover feature of Kajira Djoumahna
  • An article covering the first American Tribal Festival & Celebration
  • An interview with Rachel Brice
  • Various Published Articles featuring FatChanceBellyDance
  • References

    Improvisational Tribal Style Wikipedia