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  1. #1
    Established BHUZzer khadiya's Avatar
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    Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    I'm hoping that the wit and wisdom that is Bhuz can help clear up something for me.

    I'll start with the disclaimer that I'm an Egyptian style girl at heart and that, largely speaking, Tribal has never really 'done it' for me: I enjoy watching the (now increasingly rare I find) group Tribal dances; I've attended a few excellent Tribal workshops (mostly for arms) and have enjoyed the odd soloist piece here and there. I can appreciate a lot of the physical skill required for it, and some of the stylisation and costuming but generally speaking I find it quite hard to connect with.

    One of the things that I've always felt has distanced me from it is that a lot of Tribal soloists I've seen use a very deadpan, occaisionally grim facial expression on stage and for me, having been raised on a bellydance diet of 'its all about communication/reaching out to the audience', lack of facial expression in a dancer has always been a big, nay, massive, turn-off .

    However, the Tribal soloists I've watched performing whose dances I have enjoyed (most of them well known and respected dancers) have all been smiley with mobile faces ..g.:.

    So last night at a hafla I overheard the following comment (which was made seriously):

    'Its very important never to smile when you are dancing Tribal style!' ..c::

    Can anyone enlighten me about this? Is there a Tribal cannon about facial expression and audience communication? Or did this person have the wrong end of their assaya, so to speak?

    Help me out here guys, I'm genuinely mystified about this and would like to know more.


  2. #2
    Official BHUZzer _Kepi_'s Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    IMO it all depends on how you perform it. I'm not a fan of the deadpan expression. It instantly makes the dancer almost invisible, especially if they don't make eye contact with anyone. You can be expressive without smiling but to say that you should never smile in tribal is equvalent to saying you should always have a big toothy grin when you do other cabaret.


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    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Zumarrad's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    I believe there was a brief fashion for "I smelled a poo" face but that is no longer current.

    One of the thing about earlier tribal, anyway, was that there was not audience interaction so much as interaction between members of the tribe that you as audience are privileged to witness.


  4. #4
    Established BHUZzer khadiya's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    I believe there was a brief fashion for "I smelled a poo" face but that is no longer current.
    ..l;,..l;,

    Not so brief, if the performances I have seen over the last 3-4 yrs are representative!

    Thanks for that excellent point about the supremacy of 'the tribe' over the audience. I suppose that a lot of the earlier roots of tribal were about the group experience and were not really intended for 'performance' in the more traditional sense (please correct me here someone if I'm wrong).

    I'm curious as to how this has translated to the Tribal soloist phenomenon though. Most of the actual 'tribes' I have seen dance have been pretty merry on stage; whereas 95% soloist seem to work with the 'very serious artiste' look. Is there a reason for this? Is it a fashion? Or is it just the UK for some reason?

    Last night's comment made me wonder if I'd been missing some significant, deep and meaningful thing about Tribal that I ought to know about.


  5. #5
    Mega BHUZzer lylagus's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    I'm in a tribal group and we smile a lot...especially when we are looking at each other : ) I think it really depends on the group and what their intention is. I have seen a lot of "serious" tribal with no smiling but it was more tribal fusion. Who knows.........


  6. #6
    Established BHUZzer yaalini's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    My personal opinion is that TBF (Tribal B-Face) arose as the music changed and the dance changed from group improv to more choreographed pieces, both group and solo (the rise of Tribal Fusion, basically).

    Big toothy smiles don't quite always go with slow/mid tempo electronica/industrial. Smiles were decreased to Mona Lisa Mysterious, which is difficult to pull off well. The Indigo had it, and then as new dancers took to the new style - the new dancers couldn't have the smile reach their eyes, or they never noticed.

    Another explanation of opinion - in order separate themselves more from the cabaret dancer stereotype, the facial expression changed from the common playful smile to "I ARE SERIOUS DANCER. THIS SERIOUS DANCE".

    Khadiya, you should have asked that person what they meant. Betcha you wouldn't have gotten much of a response! :-)


  7. #7
    Ultimate BHUZzer steffib's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    It always irks me when I hear that. When you go back to the roots, i.e., to Fat Chance Belly Dance, you will find that Carolena Nericcio many, many times says that a dancer should smile on stage (she does not always add the comment that it should fit the mood of the music, but if one knows her, that's obvious - don't smile broadly through more dark/mysterious/introspective parts of the music). She is also very clear in expressing that a performer dances for the audience, which comes with the obligation to put on a good show for them. The whole "it's a privilege to watch" thing is somebody else's invention - if that works for them, that's a good thing, but it's NOT the offical tribal mantra.

    Of course, when one does group improv, the attention has to be more on the group and not the audience - or one would miss a lot of cues. Plus, when a group dances, the expression has to be different from a soloist no matter what branch of bellydance you live in. So, individual dancers in ATS/ITS will be more focussed on each other by the very nature of the dance.

    But, bottom line - tribal dancers smile, and Carolena says so.


  8. #8
    Established BHUZzer khadiya's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    Khadiya, you should have asked that person what they meant. Betcha you wouldn't have gotten much of a response! :-)
    ..g.: Nah I suspect I wouldn't either! I've been around the block enough times to know that people really will come out with any old twaddle about bellydance ,r:;.

    However, the comment was made with such confidence and because I never assume that I know better. I just wondered if there was something I had been missing all these years.


  9. #9
    Official BHUZzer kazoogrrl's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    This photo set where Rachel and Carolena swapped dance personas came out a few years ago. I have a feeling this one may reflect on Carolena's ideas about smiling while performing:



    I think something else that has kept this myth going is the static nature of media. We (the dance community) see pictures of a moment in a dance, or a video of a certain performance, but it's those other moments and performances we don't see. For example, a dancer may do a mysterious slinky slow song for a club gig and it's filmed and put online and it seems that tribal is serious. What we don't see is the community festival performance, or the informal hafla, or the holiday party gig where the atmosphere is completely different.


  10. #10
    Established BHUZzer yaalini's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    I love that pic, it's so adorable!

    And yes, static media may have contributed as well.


  11. #11
    Ultimate BHUZzer Tourbeau's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    IMHO, there is one particular style of tribal that seems to be the biggest offender in the deadpan-face department. Sometimes it's a soloist, and other times it is a non-ATS-style troupe, but it's always the newer ragbag, vaguely Goth fusion. The routine always starts out with a slightly hunched-forward posture and the movements...wow, I'm sorry--the best way to describe it is that the Wachowski brothers saw Unmata perform, dropped a whole lot of LSD, and made a musical starring Dracula and a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It's kind of bullet time, and "Land of the Lost" stop motion, and creepy slinking around with the hands hunched up like little claw arms all mashed up into this self-indulgent mess and set to really unmelodious music. I have nothing against the clever, envelope-pushing, well-performed tribal that people like Amy Sigil and her group do, but bad tribal is just BAD. If you're going to do that, you may as well smile, so at least we know you're enjoying it.


  12. #12
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. anala's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    In looking closely at the above photo -the lip line on "Rachel's "make up is not meant to complement a natural smile or mobility of expression. It is a Cupids bow that is meant to be a static and theatrical "look".

    I see way too many "creepy predator pouty too cool for school" tribal dancers. If a Cabaret style dancer turned her back to, and walked away from, her audience at the abrupt ending of her song, we would consider her rude and lacking in stage craft. For the most part, Tribal Fusion seems to foster the "UnDancer..."We dont need your stinkin approval" aesthetic. Many of the dancers who are drawn to it in my area are also those who have a very difficult time connecting with traditional music, their audience, smiling while performing, and feel like Mrs. Murphy's Mule while dressed in anything other than yarn, cotton, and tarnished coins. They seem to be like a moving poster, and not very human at all. There..I have said it...let the flaming begin....
    Last edited by anala; 11-29-2009 at 02:24 PM.


  13. #13
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. anala's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    The routine always starts out with a slightly hunched-forward posture and the movements...wow, I'm sorry--the best way to describe it is that the Wachowski brothers saw Unmata perform, dropped a whole lot of LSD, and made a musical starring Dracula and a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It's kind of bullet time, and "Land of the Lost" stop motion, and creepy slinking around with the hands hunched up like little claw arms all mashed up into this self-indulgent mess and set to really unmelodious music.

    Hey...you must live near me!!!


  14. #14
    Ultimate BHUZzer steffib's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    Quote Originally Posted by anala View Post
    In looking closely at the above photo -the lip line on Rachel's make up is not meant to complement a natural smile or mobility of expression. It is a Cupids bow that is meant to be a static and theatrical "look".
    That particular photo may be a bit unrepresentative; this shoot was more about the switch-personas for two well-recognized dancers, so there are a lot of make-up tricks to accomplish that. I find the photos hilarious!

    Beyond that, I absolutely and completely agree that there is a lot of darkly-angsty tribal out there that I neither understand nor enjoy.


  15. #15
    Ultimate BHUZzer lizajuk's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    Load of bollocks,Judithn ...we grin like maniacs.
    Just don't do mean and moody..We can look at little more serious if the music warrants it but as one of life's gigglers (or rather guffawers), I find it damn near impossible to stay straight-faced.
    Anyway last Saturday when you have the likes of Anne and Bridget grinning at you it's difficult......even hiding behind masks.
    The main problem with doing tribal group dances (which is what I do - ATS inspired routines with 3 other nutty women) is not to look inclusive..to look outwards and includ your audience. I ( and those other 3 nutters) work on the premise that we are having fun and we want others to also.


  16. #16
    Advanced BHUZzer NancyAsiya's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    Deadpan expression + awkward body posture = dancer without confidence. It happens in all styles.

    In the past year I've learned so much about the various messages sent out through body postures. Even something as simple as palms up/palms down. Both can be strong and feminine but one is more vulnerable. If one is dancing to gritty dubstep, vulnerable may not be appropriate.

    I get the sense that some non tribal dancers want to apply their rules to tribal bellydance, doesn't really work that way. Its a different style of movement and music. Based in some of the same moves but its a whole different animal.


  17. #17
    Established BHUZzer khadiya's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    Load of bollocks,Judithn ...we grin like maniacs.
    Just don't do mean and moody..We can look at little more serious if the music warrants it but as one of life's gigglers (or rather guffawers), I find it damn near impossible to stay straight-faced.
    ..g.:

    Oh I know Liz!

    Most of the actual 'tribes' I have seen dance have been pretty merry on stage
    ^^ I would firmly catagorise your lot in the above catagory. Ditto the Roses, Michelle Pender's group and Wendy Marlett.

    That's part of what contributed to my confusion about the not smiling comment. I mean, you do see a lot of the 'verily I dance burdened with myself' thing about generally but from my point of view if groups like yours are happy bunnies then why not everyone else?


  18. #18
    Established BHUZzer saheli's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    I've always wondered this because whenever I see tribal fusion (not ATS) performers, they never smile or look mean. I thought that in tribal fusion style there must be some rule that you must look serious, though I'm not sure why.


  19. #19
    Mega BHUZzer indigostars's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    I think it happened because of Rachel Brice. IIRC, her performances for awhile were not smiley. She did smile on occasion but her performances always seemed more introverted to me.

    YouTube - theindigo's Channel


  20. #20
    Ultimate BHUZzer dunyah's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tourbeau View Post
    IMHO, there is one particular style of tribal that seems to be the biggest offender in the deadpan-face department. Sometimes it's a soloist, and other times it is a non-ATS-style troupe, but it's always the newer ragbag, vaguely Goth fusion. The routine always starts out with a slightly hunched-forward posture and the movements...wow, I'm sorry--the best way to describe it is that the Wachowski brothers saw Unmata perform, dropped a whole lot of LSD, and made a musical starring Dracula and a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It's kind of bullet time, and "Land of the Lost" stop motion, and creepy slinking around with the hands hunched up like little claw arms all mashed up into this self-indulgent mess and set to really unmelodious music. I have nothing against the clever, envelope-pushing, well-performed tribal that people like Amy Sigil and her group do, but bad tribal is just BAD. If you're going to do that, you may as well smile, so at least we know you're enjoying it.
    Sometimes I feel that part of the underlying message in these performances is "This is not your mother's belly dance." There's a bit of a generation gap going on, methinks.


  21. #21
    Ultimate BHUZzer dunyah's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    Quote Originally Posted by NancyAsiya View Post
    Deadpan expression + awkward body posture = dancer without confidence. It happens in all styles.

    I get the sense that some non tribal dancers want to apply their rules to tribal bellydance, doesn't really work that way. Its a different style of movement and music. Based in some of the same moves but its a whole different animal.
    Most of the tribal fusion belly dance performances that I see are SO different that I don't consider them "belly dance" as I know it. They are indeed a different species. I just wish they would call themselves by a new name, but it's not up to me, is it? ,f::


  22. #22
    Ultimate BHUZzer lizajuk's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    Quote Originally Posted by dunyah View Post
    Most of the tribal fusion belly dance performances that I see are SO different that I don't consider them "belly dance" as I know it. They are indeed a different species. I just wish they would call themselves by a new name, but it's not up to me, is it? ,f::
    Even though I dance what you might call "old-fashioned" tribal fusion (choreo'd ATS inspired dance), I no longer call myself a belly dancer when I do that.
    That term is reserved for when I step out dancing Egyptian style belly dance (or some approximation of it ..g.:)


  23. #23
    Ultimate BHUZzer lizajuk's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    Quote Originally Posted by saheli View Post
    I've always wondered this because whenever I see tribal fusion (not ATS) performers, they never smile or look mean. I thought that in tribal fusion style there must be some rule that you must look serious, though I'm not sure why.
    Well you know what they say about rules....


  24. #24
    Advanced BHUZzer NancyAsiya's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    Quote Originally Posted by dunyah View Post
    Most of the tribal fusion belly dance performances that I see are SO different that I don't consider them "belly dance" as I know it. They are indeed a different species. I just wish they would call themselves by a new name, but it's not up to me, is it? ,f::
    I guess my confusion is that if Tribal is in front of it...isn't that a "new" name? Is it more the thought that "if its not 100% bellydance you can't use that word at all."

    Also, are there actually Tribal/Fusion dancers who are saying they are doing belly dance without any other descriptors with it?

    I'm just seeking clarification and understanding on other viewpoints. I already know my definition of what is and isn't bellydance is going to be different from many here.


  25. #25
    Advanced BHUZzer raqFariha's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    Quote Originally Posted by kazoogrrl View Post
    This photo set where Rachel and Carolena swapped dance personas came out a few years ago. I have a feeling this one may reflect on Carolena's ideas about smiling while performing:


    .
    soo cute ^_^ i love it! ^_^..g.:


  26. #26
    Ultimate BHUZzer Tourbeau's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    Quote Originally Posted by dunyah View Post
    Sometimes I feel that part of the underlying message in these performances is "This is not your mother's belly dance." There's a bit of a generation gap going on, methinks.
    I'd say this myself, but I see dancers my age and older doing this style. I'm not sure it is so much about the age of the performers, but for many of them, it seems like it is a matter of work ethic. There are plenty of tribal dancers of all ages and seniority within the dance community who work very hard at mastering this style, but they usually stand out above the rest. You know they take what they do really seriously and spend a lot of time learning and practicing and developing a unique stage presentation. The offending dancers don't give off the vibe that they have really busted their butts, and rather, reek of "lazy" dressed up as "individuality." Yeah, it is a lot easier to "be who you are" than to try to adopt another culture's body language and sense of musical interpretation, and there's just so much to learn to be a good ethnic-style dancer, but, okay, not everyone wants to do Turkish style or Reda-esque folkloric dances or whatever.

    OTOH, it's also easier to hide behind, "You shouldn't judge me because this is who I am," than it is to put in the long, hard hours that Carolena Nericcio, Rachel Brice, and others did to create something that was innovative and engaging enough that people would want to copy it. This whole angsty, "I'm not smiling because I'm a serious artist," faux individuality just reminds me of that Stewie quote from "Family Guy": "I took a bunch of pictures. You can see 'em on my MySpace page, along with my favorite songs and movies and things that other people have created but that I use to express my individualism." If you want to be a memorable and unique performer, then you need to invest the time to come up with something new and/or special, not dress like you crawled out of the Addams family's laundry hamper and slink around stage in a bad mood. If you've seen that once, you've seen it enough.


  27. #27
    Official BHUZzer portiaangel's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    Quote Originally Posted by steffib View Post
    It always irks me when I hear that. When you go back to the roots, i.e., to Fat Chance Belly Dance, you will find that Carolena Nericcio many, many times says that a dancer should smile on stage (she does not always add the comment that it should fit the mood of the music, but if one knows her, that's obvious - don't smile broadly through more dark/mysterious/introspective parts of the music). She is also very clear in expressing that a performer dances for the audience, which comes with the obligation to put on a good show for them. The whole "it's a privilege to watch" thing is somebody else's invention - if that works for them, that's a good thing, but it's NOT the offical tribal mantra.

    Of course, when one does group improv, the attention has to be more on the group and not the audience - or one would miss a lot of cues. Plus, when a group dances, the expression has to be different from a soloist no matter what branch of bellydance you live in. So, individual dancers in ATS/ITS will be more focussed on each other by the very nature of the dance.

    But, bottom line - tribal dancers smile, and Carolena says so.
    this.

    my tribal class / group smiles tons ... we couldn't help it if we wanted to - we are enjoying dancing and sharing it with each other and with the audience ... if I had to say the primary feeling of what we were portraying when we dance I would say it was joy -- at least during up most up tempo music ... (slower more mysterious stuff may have a bit of a different feel - but still not sourpuss) ... why on earth would we not smile??

    and most of the GOOD "tribal fusion" dancers that I've seen DO smile and change expression as the song / music warrants (including rachel brice)- they may be serious at times all the way up to silly at others


  28. #28
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    Quote Originally Posted by khadiya View Post
    So last night at a hafla I overheard the following comment (which was made seriously):

    'Its very important never to smile when you are dancing Tribal style!' ..c::

    Can anyone enlighten me about this? Is there a Tribal canon about facial expression and audience communication? Or did this person have the wrong end of their assaya, so to speak?
    Other responses on this thread have made clear that not all tribal dancers would agree with the above quote.

    However, some tribal-style dancers DO embrace the quoted attitude above, so I'd like to offer my observation on why some people do believe this.

    In Kajira's book, The Tribal Bible, she made some statements that could be used to justify the above thinking. Now, I'm not saying Kajira herself intended the statements to be taken that way, but I think what happened is that SOME people who WANTED to be dark, mysterious, introspective, or otherwise non-smiling saw Kajira's statements in Tribal Bible as giving them permission to be those things.

    I don't have the book in front of me at the moment, and I'm talking from memory, so these are paraphrases, not direct quotes:

    At one point, Kajira was making the point that ATS group improv is inward-looking, NOT audience-interactive. She made the statement that ATS performers aren't seeking the approval/attention of the audience, they're permitting the audience to witness what they are doing.

    At another point, Kajira was talking about what kind of facial expression is and is not tribal. As examples of NOT tribal, she indicated stuff like playful, flirtatious, etc. As examples of what IS tribal, she indicated stuff like strong, empowered, etc.

    This meant that dancers who felt averse to "flirting with the audience" could use statements like the ones above to justify expressing other moods such as "dark and twisted".

    Now, remember that the Tribal Bible was not written by Carolena, it was written by one of her students. And remember that the book tells us more about KAJIRA'S personality and views of what tribal means to her personally than it does about Carolena's. But again, if someone WANTS to be dark and moody while doing shimmies or hip drops, Kajira's words provide a convenient foundation that they can use to justify it.

    I have a feeling that the above was what inspired the conversation you overheard. But as this thread has showed, different people have different opinions of:

    1) What tribal "is" and "is not", and
    2) How much of the Tribal Bible they agree with


  29. #29
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Zumarrad's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    I knew that stuff was in the Tribal Bible. I don't own a copy and haven't read it in a couple of years.


  30. #30
    Advanced BHUZzer rosehips's Avatar
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    Re: Facial expression in Tribal ...?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shira View Post

    Now, remember that the Tribal Bible was not written by Carolena, it was written by one of her students. And remember that the book tells us more about KAJIRA'S personality and views of what tribal means to her personally than it does about Carolena's. But again, if someone WANTS to be dark and moody while doing shimmies or hip drops, Kajira's words provide a convenient foundation that they can use to justify it.

    I have a feeling that the above was what inspired the conversation you overheard. But as this thread has showed, different people have different opinions of:

    1) What tribal "is" and "is not", and
    2) How much of the Tribal Bible they agree with
    I just wanted to add to this is that The Tribal Bible was published (according to the copyright in my book) in 2003, though I would imagine much of the material was compiled much earlier, as I remember reading Kajira's interviews with Carolena, Artemis, and others back in 2000, which became part of the basis of the book. So we're looking at something that's hitting 10 years now, and has not been updated yet, when Tribal was focusing hard on being about power of womanhood, strength, and not the flirty/girly/sometimes fake/forced smile feel that some cabaret oozes with. And lord knows the Tribal scene has been through a LOT in that period of time, and so has Kajira. She is clearly all-genuine-smiles when dancing with her girls, exuding joy and love, and has also mastered the wickedly evil smile of Goth when performing in that vein. I would LOVE to see an updated version of the Tribal Bible!

    Frankly, I think a lot of the not-smiling/constipation look in ANY genre comes down to lack of understanding stage energy, and concentrating on parts rather than the whole of the performance. Angry/detached/unsmiling face is certainly NOT something that I teach in Gothic Bellydance and never have supported. AND top it off with the drilling phenomenon - a lot of these people don't realize that while you're drilling 300 chest circles and pop-locks/whatever, you're also drilling the muscle memory of a frown/concentration face. Something that doesn't happen as much when you focus on a whole dance and moving through it, rather than just movements.


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