A little more information on different styles of Belly Dance

When I asked my teachers to explain the difference between American Fusion and Cabaret Style Belly
Dance, one of them said to me, "If you ask 100 belly dancers, you'll get 100 different opinions." I had to
laugh because, in fact, a dancer's perspective on the historical cultural context of their technical style,
regardless of the technical style, is often somewhat unique to them; based on their training, their own
cultural or ethnic background, and the experiences, opinions and education of their teachers, among
other things.
And, it matters if their teachers have studied or understand the historical and cultural
context of the form as well.

Currently, at the Dance Workshop, we offer classes in American Fusion Belly Dance.
Introduction to American Fusion Belly Dance with Rebecca Hennagir and Ayre Briar

We offer both beginning and intermediate level classes in American Fusion Belly Dance.

The introductory level class will help students gain an understanding of movements and technique
fundamental to all styles of modern belly dance.  Emphasis will be on isolations and drills to improve
strength, stamina, flexibility and poise.  This class will also introduce students to the concept of fusion
belly dance -- a relatively new but exciting dance form in which classical Oriental style belly dance is
fused with elements of other dance genres such as jazz, hip hop, tango, ballet and more.  Each
session will have a warm up, technique and drill section, as well as a short choreography at the end to
pull the elements together.  

Hip scarves or coin belts are optional, but students should wear loose, comfortable clothing and should
bring plenty of water.  No previous dance experience necessary.
Intermediate American Fusion Belly Dance

The intermediate class further expands on the concepts introduced in the beginning class and
increases the level of difficulty by adding isolation layering, incorporating the use of various props, and
an increased focus on performance aspects. Instructor approval for intermediate class is required.
Ayre Briar's thoughts about the difference in styles

Today in America, students can learn many different forms of belly dance including Oriental style (also
known as Cabaret or Arabic dance), American Tribal Style (ATS), Tribal Fusion, Improv Tribal Style
(ITS), as well as Folkloric styles.  All of these styles have their roots in dances that come from Middle
Eastern countries.  However, much of the belly dance seen today is a blend of Western and Middle
Eastern dance.

Oriental and Tribal style belly dance seem very different when performed; however, there is a set of
basic movements most dancers agree form the core of these dance forms.  Of course, how these
movements are executed and taught depends on the performer/teacher, and even the names given to
these movements can vary from dancer to dancer.  In general, Oriental dance has an emphasis on
isolations involving core muscles (especially the hip area), is performed to Arabic or Middle Eastern
music (typically involving orchestras or tabla drum solos) and uses props such as finger cymbals,
sword, cane, fanveils, isis wings and veils.  Tribal style belly dance also places emphasis on isolations
of core muscles, but puts added importance on upper body posture and placement of arms and
hands.  Tribal dance styles can also incorporate props such as finger cymbals, sword, veil, fans, veil
poi and fire props.  Tribal style belly dance is performed to music ranging from Middle Eastern folk
songs and rhythms to modern electronic music and everything in between.  Though soloists from both
styles can perform improv or choreographed pieces, a key difference between Oriental and Tribal lies
in group dancing.  Typically in Tribal belly dancing, short combinations are learned along with specific
cues for them so that a group can perform a completely improvised set based on those combination
elements to any piece of music.  Oriental group dancing is usually choreographed to a specific song.

Tribal style belly dance as it is known in America began with Jamila Salimpour, who worked to create a
fusion of folkloric dance styles and costuming from a range of Middle Eastern countries.  ATS,
developed by Carolena Nerriccio of FatChance Bellydance, extended the dance vocabulary created by
Jamila to create a set of movements meant to be performed by a group on an improvisational basis.  
From ATS, other tribal belly dance styles have emerged that give individual groups the freedom to
create their own dance vocabulary with which to do improv style dance.  Tribal Fusion describes dance
that incorporates Tribal style belly dance with movements borrowed from other dance forms such as
Jazz, Hip Hop, Ballet, Modern, Flamenco, Indian, Hula, Burlesque and so on.  Fusion belly dance can
be performed solo or as a group, and can be improv or choreographed.  Any style of music is
appropriate for Fusion.  Costuming is quite open as well, though more traditional Oriental (Cabaret)
style costumes or non-Tribal style folkloric (Baladi) costuming is rarely seen in Fusion belly dance.

So what difference will a student see in an Oriental (Caberet) style class vs. a Fusion belly dance
class?  In the very beginning, perhaps not much!  Both styles of dance require the same fundamental
set of isolations and technique that make up the foundation of belly dance.  This includes isolations in
the pelvis and hip area (lifts, drops, shimmies, circles, figure 8's), the abdominal area (undulations,
rolls, expansions, contractions, flutters), the chest area (lifts, drops, circles, figure 8's, pops), the upper
back area (conditioning required for chest and shoulder work), shoulders/arms (shimmies, snake arms)
and hands.  Add in turns and some floor work, and this makes up the most basic skill set a belly dancer
(of any style) should know.  However, from this common starting point the two styles of dance diverge
and become more stylized.  A student studying Oriental dance can expect to work on building strength
in core muscles to master the isolations that characterize this style of dance, along with graceful, fluid
arms and hands.  The persona of an Oriental dancer is one of strength, femininity and playfulness -- it
is a dance that is meant to look delicate but which requires a great amount of muscle strength and
stamina.  Often what sets Oriental dancers apart from each other is their musical interpretation of
similar pieces of music.  A student studying Fusion style dance can expect to work on building strength
in core muscles, as well as strength and flexibility in legs, arms and upper and lower back.  Students
can also expect to learn some tribal belly dance vocabulary -- combinations that can be used in
improvisational group dancing.  In addition, students will be exposed to dance movements from a range
of non-belly dance genres which may involve different dance technique altogether.  In Fusion belly
dance, theatricality plays a central role and dancers often take on different personas depending on the
piece being worked on.  Thus, unlike Oriental dance, there is no one style of movement or costuming
that signifies a Fusion belly dancer.  Yet in general, Tribal Fusion belly dance embodies power, poise,
fine muscle control and a very slinky or serpentine quality that can come across as mysterious.  What
often sets Fusion dancers apart from each other is their inventiveness in choreography.
Written by Ayre Briar.
Instructor Rebecca Hennagir
Ayre Briar performing at Whole Earth Festival
Davis, CA 95618
(530) 756-3949