The Light and The Dark


This past weekend, I happened upon a womderful couple of videos on Youtube. They were both interviews, one with Moria Chappell and one with Rachel Brice. Tomorrow I will be publishing a post about these two interviews, with video links and things that struck me about them, but in the interview with Moria, she said something that really got me thinking.

She basically referenced Cabaret as being the light side of Bellydance and Tribal as being the dark and you needed both halves to create the whole.

For years, I have tried to find a way to succinctly describe the differences between styles of Bellydance. Sure, I can tell you exactly what makes them differnt, the history, the nuances, the costuming choices, the music, etc. But often, I’ve found for beginners or people unfamiliar with Bellydance, this can prove to be an overload of information. When I heard Moria’s explanation something immediately clicked.

Like a giant Yin/ Yang symbol, Bellydance cannot just be described as one thing. There are two main encompassing classifications for bellydance. “Traditional” Bellydance is called many things, classification wise. There’s a lot that falls into this category, too. Egyptian, American Cabaret, Turkish, Folk Dances of the Middle East (and probably more) could fall under “Traditional”. These are the styles of the Light. They’re often pretty and shiny, sometimes earthy, yet glamorous and express an uplifted, joyous dance form. Even in sorrow, the spirit of this dance is ethereal, otherworldly and exotic. Then there’s “Tribal”. The styles of the dark. Now as Moria said, these have nothing to do with evil. They’re just “not pretty for the sake of being pretty”. A sense of old, odd, earthiness. Now a lot also falls under the Tribal category. American Tribal Style (in several incarnations, notably FatChanceBellyDance, Black Sheep Belly Dance and the style of Jamila Salimpour), Tribal Fusion (including, but not exclusive to Gothic Fusion, Romany Fusion, Spanish Fusion, Tribaret and a host of other styles.), and then Improvisational Tribal Style (notably, Unmata). Tribal aesthetic values things of a vintage nature, sometimes strange things, sometimes very earthy things.

Even though I have known all of this for years, hearing Moria talk about it and the image of the light and the dark creating the whole really spoke to me and made me realise why so many varied people can love this artform.

I often struggle with my bellydance persona (something I’ll discuss more in depth later) simply because I really do love it all. Every year I get “Egyptian Fever” known to most people as Spring Fever. I’m busting out my Saiidi cane and Amr Diab playlist and going to town with every Reda inspired move I can think of, envisioning pink costumes. Then, like Spring Fever I slide back into my old ways with my Tribal Fusion playlist, getting slinky with jazzy moves, pretending I’m in 20’s Paris and am wearing black again. And every year I think “Elena! Stop being so wishy washy! Pick a style and stick to it.” And after hearing Moria talk and thinking about it, I realised, for me the yin/yang of bellydance is all encompassing and that’s ok. If I stayed in the dark all the time, I wouldn’t appreciate the light and vice versa.

To finish off, I saw this picture last night on Sedona Soulfire’s Facebook and gleefully borrowed it! I thought it just perfectly fit the dichotomy I was thinking of and how much more beautiful could you get?
The Light and Dark
Smiles and mysterious eyes, shimmies and sidewinders,


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