Tribal Fusion Belly Dance
Tribal Fusion is a form of bellydance that began in America in 2000. It was created by the pioneer dance company Romani led by Frederique Johnston, with Beth Masse, Mishell Burt and later Sue Erokan. Tribal Fusion is a member of the Tribal Style bellydance movement that began in the San Francisco bay area in 1967, founded by Jamila Salimpour. Jamila Salimpour taught Masha Archer, a feminist and visionary who sought to remove the sexist stigma that had been attached to bellydance since the colonialist era of the mid 19th century. Masha Archer taught Carolena Nericcio who would later go on to become the innovator behind American Tribal Style bellydance, also known as ATS. Carolena Nericcio went on to teach ATS to Jill Parker who in turn taught ATS to Frederique Johnston, Beth Masse, and Mishell Burt.
In 2000, Frederique Johnston, Beth Masse, and Mishell Burt began formally creating the dance form that would one day be known as Tribal Fusion in the San Francisco Bay area after breaking away from the ATS group, Ultra Gypsy, directed by Jill Parker. To distinguish the form from ATS, Romani introduced world music, electronica and Classical music to Tribal Style movements. This changed the shape and pace of the dance from ATS to a smoother urban primitive and avant garde feel. Popping and locking was introduced as it fit naturally with the new electronica beats. Romani also introduced a more toned down costuming aesthetic from its ATS parent form. Where ATS dancers were known for wearing turbans, choli tops, full skirts, pantaloons and tassels the emerging Tribal Fusion form dropped the turbans in lieu of a smooth head scarf, dropped the full skirts and tassels in favor of simple pantaloons, and reintroduced the coin top and belt that the form is recognized for today. Tribal Fusion was introduced to fellow bellydancers at the first Tribal Fest inSebastopol, California in 2001 though it had been performed in the Bay Area by Romani since 2000.
Stephanie Barto, a student of Nerriccio, brought ATS to the Midwest with a group called Read My Hips, founded in Chicago with Heather Stants. During the early development of Tribal Fusion, Heather Stants also worked to introduce new elements to Tribal Style bellydance, including a minimalist aesthetic, underground electronica music and elements ofmodern dance. In 1999, she formed Urban Tribal Dance in San Diego, largely influenced by hip hop and street dance styles. In contrast to many other tribal fusion performers, Urban Tribal dance company was known for their minimalist costuming more traditional to modern dance than to Tribal Style.
In 2001 many Tribal Style dancers jumped onto the Tribal Fusion bandwagon and became involved in its early development leading to chaos and confusion surrounding its origins and founders. In the early years of Tribal Fusion the dance form was simply called urban tribal style bellydance.
Tribal Fusion was largely popularized by Rachel Brice and the Indigo (formed in 2003), who became internationally renowned as they toured with the Bellydance Superstars. Heather Stants refers to Rachel as the "adoptive mother" of Tribal Fusion. Rachel Brice studied with Jill Parker and performed briefly with Ultra Gypsy in 2001. Mardi Love, a pioneer in Tribal Fusion, was an early member of Urban Tribal with Heather Stants, later joining the Indigo with Rachel Brice. Rachel Brice describes her personal dance background as a combination of techniques from Suhaila Salimpour, Fat Chance Belly Dance, and Mardi Love. Rachel Brice also greatly contributed to the popularity of movements similar to popping, though she credits former troupe mate Ariellah Aflalo as the source. Initial members of The Indigo performance group were Rachel Brice, Mardi Love, Michelle Campbell,Sharon Kihara, Shawna Rai, Janice Solimeno, and Ariellah Aflalo. Rachel Brice initially studied Tribal Fusion with Jill Parker, who in turn had learned it from Frederique Johnston. Sharon Kihara also studied with Frederique and performed with Ultra Gypsy. Currently, the Indigo is composed of Rachel Brice, Mardi Love, and Zoe Jakes, who have been touring their own show "Le Serpent Rouge" since 2007.
The term Tribal Fusion is used to describe any Tribal Style dance form that incorporates the use of solo performances, utilizes world music, classical music or electronica, and involves the fusion of Tribal Style bellydance with any other kind of dance.