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  • May 9th, 2011

Tribal Belly Dance

It was the Holmfirth Folk Festival over the weekend. An annual event which celebrates Britains rich folk heritage. There was a wonderfully diverse programme of dance. Many of the different styles of Morris dancing were represented from Molly to North West, Yorkshire Longsword, Rapper and Border. But the dancers that really captured my attention were the Urban Gypsies from Manchester, with their tribal belly dance. The group’s founder, Zehara, has developed her own unique style which is heavily influenced by African dance.

Aesthetically tribal belly dance is based on the richness of textiles and jewellery from North Africa, the Middle East and India. The costume does not aim to reproduce any given tribal group but instead conforms to western notions of ethnic fantasy. Black lace layered with fabric in earthy tones, madder, ochre and indigo. Block printed and tie dye patterns. Woollen tassels and pom-poms formed into elaborate hip adornments accentuate the fast energetic movements of the dancers. Tribal face markings and fabulous headdresses complete the look.

Tribal belly dancing is a modern and western phenomenon which first emerged on the west coast of the USA. Taking moves from Middle Eastern belly dancing and combining them with movements from other ethnic dance forms. I just love the eclectic nature of the costumes and the energy of the dance. It really transports you to a nomadic gathering in some distant desert land for a few minutes at least.

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