June 25, 2012

Is It Belly Dance? Views on Fusion

belly dance and fusion

belly dance and fusionThe other day I read an article written by on the subject on fusion and confusion and whether it was deemed to be belly dance or not.

 There are some very strong feelings on this matter and while I will share my own on the subject, there is no right or wrong, and all thoughts are respected.

That being said, there are a few schools of thought on fusion. Fusion is where you combine the art and discipline of belly dance with another dance style. 

In this blog I will be referring to three main belly dance styles: American belly dance, Egyptian style, and tribal. These three will serve as the base point in my logic.
Let us begin by discussing Egyptian belly dance briefly. In this particular style the dancer attempts to emulate the Egyptian belly dancers from the golden era and a little beyond. Dancers such as Dina, Nagwa Fouad and others come to mind. This style  can be inward at times and pleasing the audience is not the main concern. This is probably the strictest in its view of fusion. Because this style tries to maintain the traditions and integrity of its original form, fusing it with anything else is deemed as making it “not belly dance” by many.
American cabaret by its very development is a style that combines a mixture of various belly dance styles such as Egyptian, Turkish, Lebanese, and audience driven entertainment concepts to formulate something unique and pleasing to a wide audience. 
This is the style that I adhere to the most with the exception that I also include Tribal belly dance movements and concepts as I take a comprehensive approach  to my belly dance. I also take snippets of Latin styling such as a flamenco arm thrown in every now and then, and whatever other genre the modern music I choose calls for. 
Many traditional minded dancers deem American belly dance as not being belly dance surprisingly, even though the typical American dancer uses the same movement vocabulary, just executed in a different way.
American tribal style has been around for a few decades and is an American creation with a very earthy, muscular, and group/tribe emphasis. It is deemed by many in the Egyptian belly dance style and even other belly dancers as not being considered belly dance because of its heavy incorporation of other world dances.
In this I must wholeheartedly disagree! Tribal and tribal fusion belly dance still has all the basic vocabulary of traditional belly dance just as American style, it is just executed with a different stylization to make it unique and different. 
My feelings on fusion is this:
-if it heavily utilizes belly dance vocabulary then it is belly dance
-if the other dance genres infused into belly dance are not overtaking the amount of belly dance, then it is still belly dance. A 60:40 ratio is the max amount in my opinion to still label something as still being belly dance. By this I mean, that if 60% is belly dance vocabulary and 30% is a completely different non belly dance style that is done keeping in mind the class and intention of the dance, then it is still belly dance in my opinion.
What I do not consider belly dance in fusion:
-when the majority of the dance is non-belly dance vocabulary
-dancers who are not well trained in the art and wear the costume for beautification purposes and dance with no knowledge of the culture or class in this art form.
Ok I h ave written a lot so will stop here but enlighten me please. What do you consider to be belly dance or not and why? What metric do you use? How do you feel about fusion?

3 Comments on “Is It Belly Dance? Views on Fusion

June 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Hi, I will try to ” keep it short” as it will probably be a book someday. Background ballet, modern dance since age 4, belly dance for 12 yrs.See my 2 FB pages Biz and personal to see see this & that.I discovered belly dance when I was going to stop dancing altogether but it was new,I wanted to know everything & be good with no idea where that would lead, what it meant,how challenging it would be or how it would grab me.Currently I own the only Belly Dance studio, with a sign,in the entire state of little RI.There are many wonderful teachers,dancers but I have a studio address.One could say that in shows my dance is sometimes,”beyond belly dance”,”belly dance inspired” or “not real/ authentic belly dance”. I think some people have said ” she’s not really a Belly Dancer which bothers me only because I have worked very hard to learn how and have spent 12 yrs sharing and teaching the beautiful dance.I teach every student the basics but I also always encourage each student, when they have learned the basics, to explore their dance expression as creatively as possible which may involve them dancing to non belly dance music and performing non belly dance kinds of shows – YET, underneath the dance, it is ” belly dance” rhythms, isolations, vocabulary etc…….Probably this kind of conversation,interesting,frustrating will go on till the end of time because art evolves,artists love to explore & need to put their passion stamp on their work. Thanks for writing. I will share with my community …. Barbara

June 25, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Thank you so much for writing this Barbara. I wholeheartedly agree. Everyone has their opinion, and I respect that, but there are beautiful styles out there such as tribal or american belly dance for example that get bashed by SOME traditional belly dance minds at times as not being belly dance. This infuriates me as it is all the same vocabulary so how can it not be? It is an art, so it will change, innovate and be free to interpretation.

Thanks so much for your comment and for sharing with your community!

July 1, 2012 at 9:36 pm

There’s also another point that arises in fusion with regards to content because it’s not always about separating the dances involved in the style that is being taught/performed but also how they are used to enhance the use of typical belly dance styles. One thing I’ve learned from my year thus far of Tribal Fusion study is that it has some definitive influences from hip hop, but not necessarily because those style specific moves are used. One of the concepts of hip hop dance is muscle isolation and individual muscle control. This concept bleeds into the traditional vocabulary which spins out a style that is taught by the muscles you use and not necessarily the appearance of the movement. So is hip hop part of the breakdown if it’s influences are seen mostly in the traditional vocabulary and it isn’t necessarily a separate incorporated vocabulary?


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