Tribal Bellydance in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

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30 Nov 2012 – What is a Tribe?

NorthWind as an entity has been long in the process of creation. Initially NorthWind was just a name given to a class group for performance purposes, but it has developed into a concept and a style which has its own unique identity. For a long time I felt a bit apologetic about what I was doing. Apart from videos and a few workshops where the information delivered was second-hand (and not always well taught) I had to work it out for myself and was not all that confident that what I was doing measured up to the source material.

Of course that was a bit of a big ask. Most of the videos produced were being danced by women who were professional dancers who had done the style for years before appearing on video. My little band of hobby dancers were never going to be a match. What we were developing, however, was a different feel to the class and group. There was much more of a supportive, community feel to the tribal group – far more than I ever found within Egyptian/Oriental dance where ‘being a solo star’ was a big driver. NorthWind had turned itself into a tribe in a people sense without much input from me.

However for a long time I worried about what we were doing in dance terms. We were ‘sort of’ doing Gypsy Caravan style, but what with mistakes and our own tweaks we were drifting from their moves at times. We were also calling our moves by different names as so many moves already had UK names and there seemed little point making people learn a new vocabulary.

Paradoxically it took my doing a couple of intensive courses with Paulette Rees-Denis on strict Gypsy Caravan style to make me finally appreciate and understand what NorthWind is – a real expression of a tribal approach to bellydance.

The big USA groups, who sell DVDs and courses and online workshops and all the rest (and are fundamentally a commercial franchise operation), will tell you that if you follow their style faithfully you will be able to dance with like minded people all over the world. And this is possibly true – but you will always be a customer, a subordinate – never part of their actual ‘inner’ tribe.

Realistically you can only really be part of the tribe that you work with on a regular basis – people you know and see and dance with week-in and week-out.  Now you could do this and still follow along to some other group’s format, but this will seriously restrict your freedom to develop. I firmly believe that true tribal bellydance is small scale and based around little local groups developing their own styles. Of course we should value the women who originally created this style, and learn from them as and when we can. But if we are to be creative groups and individuals we have to develop and grow in our own way once we have the fundamentals in hand.  OK, some groups will be more thoughtful and cautious in their development than others – and some will be more successful, but each tribe is, and should be, unique, local and a real community to itself.