Tribal Happenings & Tribal in Berlin by Devi & Jane Hect

Originally published in Bellydance Oasis Magazine
Issue 57 2016

Tribal Happenings and Tribal in Berlin by Devi Mamak and Jane Hect.

As I type, I am on a train travelling from Nagoya to Tokyo in Japan. I have just taught a weekend of workshops and performed at the show that was well attended by dancers ad locals a like. My host was once again Satomi Kuramochi from SDL Tribal who I introduced to you readers a few issues back. I love Japan for many reasons most of which is the scenery, the food and the people. The people of Japan are incredibly polite. Not just for someone like me, a foreigner, but also in the way they interact with each other. As the teacher I am shown the upmost respect and I feel very humbled to be around such talented and attentive students.

What I found interesting watching the show is the ability for Japanese teachers to showcase their students in a way that no matter the level of the dancer/s the end result is a seamless performance. I found this across the board watching ATS(r), fusion, Oriental and Hula performances. After much conversation, observation and experience getting to know the dancers I think it is the fact that as teachers we often know what s best for the student. This means sticking to the basics for sometime before moving onto the next new exciting combo. Japanese students respect their teachers decisions and trust that they will eventually lead them in the right direction. Pair this with their acceptance of hard work and perseverance and you have a country that produces some very talented dancers. I also noticed some very good musicality across the board. I think it’s a shame that some students take one class and are often then willing to jump onto the next level, combo, technique, choreography before they have mastered what the have already learnt. As teachers we want to keep our students happy so often we give in and show them all the new bells and whistles before they are ready because we want to keep our students happy and interested. This is not necessarily for the students technical benefit. I know I’ve done this many times myself as a teacher but funnily enough as a student I still am amazed of how much there is to learn from the foundations. To this day I’m still finding the nuances of the foundations new and fascinating. Food for thought readers.

Fast forward a few days and to Tokyo for another weekend of workshops and shows. This time sponsored by Gon and Kasumi Fanayama. Tokyo did not disappoint. I saw the same level of performance, respect and hard work from these students. Oriental dance is extremely popular in Japan with various forms of Tribal being a newer from of dance. I think this is about to change. I foresee tribal bellydance becoming extremely popular in Japan in the not so distant future. All in all a wonderful trip to Japan and I can’t wait t go back again.

Now let me take you back to March/April and my trip to Europe. This time I was in Berlin for 2 weeks staying with the lovely ladies of Daphnees Clan. These ladies are beautifully elegant dancers, lovely people with high standing work ethics and all round nice gals. Any dancer that will eat Nutella out of the jar with me after a show ( but never before ) is a friend of mine! But more on them later.

My trip started with my assistant and fellow Ghawazi Caravan member Diane Vogt joining me for my appraisal workshops. She was super….literally. The German dancers nicknamed her super Diane after the intense drilling sessions she put the students through! My second weekend in Berlin was very different to the first weekend (which was ATS(r) based). For this weekend I taught

Flamenco fusion and Indian fusion choreographies as well as emotive improvisations and Ghawazi Caravan movement dialect. This made it varied and interesting as well as challenging but we got through all material and all were very happy in the end.

The show was a blast with dancers from all over Germany performing a range of styles in a cool funky steampunk bar. Diane and I performed with Jane and Alicia and it felt like we had danced wither for years. The show was varied and interesting and I felt that German dancers have amazing stage presence and dedication which has paid off.

Next I was off to Belgium sponsored by Deborah Deprez. This was directly after the horrific bombings in Brussels airport. My heart goes out to all that were effected. I hope that the madness that has been happen in the world of late dissolves and soon. I did contemplate cancelling my trip to Belgium because of the situation but as my partner so aptly put ” if your time is up its up. Just go and have fun!” So after much consideration and on the thought that lightening doesn’t strike in the same location twice I went and gee was I glad I did! Belgium has a special place in my heart as it was my very first teaching destination in Europe. I have been there several times and every time Deborah has attended. It has bee lovely watching her grow as a dancer. She was very new to belly dance and now she is a teacher in her own right and a beautiful dancer with a lovely softness to

her style. It was lovely to stay with her and get to know her better. We had a great time. The workshops were very well attended with dancers from Berlin and neighbouring countries including Jane and Alicia who had surprised me and driven 8 hours to dance with me for one more weekend. I almost died when the walked in the door. I was so touched that I actually cried and I never cry!

The hafla felt like a family gathering with fantastic dancers performing anything from classical Oriental, ATS(r), Tribal fusion as well as some very experimental modern fusion that told an interesting story of new experiences which was fascinating. The dancers were very supportive of each other which was lovely to see.

So now I will leave you with Jane from Dapnees clan to tell yo a bit about herself, her troupe and the history of Tribal in Berlin…

My name is Jane Hecht (Fara la Sombra) and I am teaching American Tribal Style® since 2010. I am one of the first certificated ATS® teachers in Germany. I would like to tell you something about the history of ATS® and Tribal Fusion in Germany and my tribe Daphnee’s Clan.

Besides my weekly classes I am very happy to host international ATS® and Tribal Fusion dancers in Berlin where tribal dancers from all over Europe meet each other. This only strengthens the global community. It is a pleasure to see this happen. I could not do this without the support of my life partner and member of my tribe Alicia Pasternak. We cherish the weekends or weeks when we host the teachers in our home, especially when it is a dear friend like Devi Mamak.

Alicia started her dance career with Raqs Sharki when she was eight years old. Over the next ten years she learned classic oriental dance but also different folkloric dances from North Africa and the Middle East. She took her first tribal fusion workshops when she was sixteen. Over the next one and a half years she traveled through Europe to learn from some of the most famous American Tribal Fusion Dancers. Since 2011 she concentrated on learning the roots of Tribal Fusion and dances in Daphnee’s Clan ever since.

Dancing and playing instruments were always my greatest passion. After dancing ballet and classic oriental dance for some time I swiched to ATS® which I have been dancing for several years now. I am always looking for new inspiration and ideas to realize my own vision of improvised dance. Furthermore and building on the strong base of ATS® I am also teaching the ITS-Style NEA’s Fundamentals. My goal is not only to teach the movements but also to pass on the passion which still takes my very own breath away.

To find my own expression and stylization within this defined system and aesthetic which is ATS® is the ultimate goal for me- the freedom of being individual inside of a synchronous group of dancers.

The first German tribes were established around 1999. One of the pioneers of Tribal Style dance in Germany was Gabriella with her tribe NEA’s Tribal. They had their first tribal experiences with FCBD®’s DVDs before Gabriella invited Karen German of FatChanceBellyDance® in 2003 to learn from the source. This was the first “real“ encounter of ATS® for German dancers. Ever since Gabriella, other hosts and festivals have hosted FCBD® members or international fusion dancers to share their knowledge with the ever growing German community. In 2011 Gabriella hosted the only General Skills and Teacher Training for ATS® with Carolena Nericcio, Megha Gavin and Wendy Allen in Dillenburg.

Some of the most influencing and earliest tribal fusion dancers and teachers were Patricia Zarnovican with her tribe Perlatentia and Nicole Urbantat with her group Shir o Shakar. Perlatentia is well known for their very elegant tribal fusion performances often accompanied by very creative usage of zills where Shir o Shakar has a strong impact of Indian and flamenco aesthetics in their dance.

Tribal Fusion and other fusionend dance styles has become very popular in Germany and the number of ATS® tribes grows every year. It does seem however that there are more fusion than ATS® dancers which might be caused by the nature of ATS® which requires a group to rehearse and perform with and a limited repertoire of movements and formations. Tribal Fusion offers the opportunity to mix many different and exciting styles that it might seem more attractive to many than ATS®. In my experience I have learned that if you really study ATS® and it’s history and roots profoundly you will find a whole different access to it’s meaning and movements. Some leading dance teachers even created their own format of movement dialect like Gabriella’s NEA’s Fundamentals.

In 2013, after three years of teaching ATS®, I founded Daphnee’s Clan which consist of six dancers. The members have very different dance backgrounds- one is a Kathak dancer (a classical Indian dance form), others were trained in ballroom dances, North African and Middle Eastern folklore and Raqs Sharki. This variety of knowledge and dance styles opens up the possibility to create new and exciting ideas.

In the beginning we were just dancing ATS® but with time other dance aesthetics had an influence on our stylisation. While ATS® is the root we always relate to we are also drawn to the extension of the defined boundaries of it’s format. We strongly relate to it but create our own movement dialect too and use formations and concepts of other improvisational tribal style (ITS) dances. I guess you could call some of our performances tribal fusion in the sense that we combine the ATS® vocabulary with unusual concepts and contexts rather than different movements of other dance styles. This manifests itself – not only but also – in our choice of music and costumes. We like to perform “classical” ATS® sets but also a more contemporary approach can really work with the look and feel of the ATS® repertoire- to combine this feminine, proud and in some ways traditional movements with a rather plain and elegant aesthetic.

We danced at some national and international dance festivals but seem to concentrate our performances to Berlin and it’s region. We have some annual shows here at street festivals or for fundraising events and travel through Germany to perform on various stages and festivities. We love to dance for audiences but our main focus stays the creative work that takes place during our rehearsals.

One of our most important influences at the moment is the Portuguese tribe Orchidaceae created by Piny. This group of dancers is a true exception in the community concerning the skillful melting of urban dance styles with the femininity and grace that is tribal fusion. Their performances are brave and not the slightest bit restrained or timid. You can feel their deep connection to each other while they are on stage which should be the base of every group that unites in tribal dance styles. This is what should be the foundation of our community. We love the feeling they communicate to the audience and their out-of-the-box-thinking. You can see and appreciate every dancer’s individualities and fortes and yet the group does not seem inhomogeneous. When I witnessed this energy I was truly impressed and knew that this was exactly what I want to emphasise with my tribe as well.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to talk with Piny which was extremely inspiring to me. Orchidaceae consists of very talented and professional dancers with different dance backgrounds which makes it possible for them to fuse these styles. If you mingle dance styles together you have to be aware of every single one of them and do it carefully. It is probably possible to call ATS® a classical dance form since it has a format but it still is a fused dance form. And it is not only the responsibility of a tribal fusion dancer to know and understand the styles before you use them but for an ATS® dancer as well. To know the heritage and provenience of the movements we use can only enhance the quality of our dance.

We are very glad that one of the Orchidaceae members, Silvia, lives in Berlin and teaches Tribal Fusion classes alongside other very talented fusion teachers like Lia Pavlidis and Madlen Werner. My latest project is UNIQUA. This trio is a cooperation of Nicole of Shir o Shakar, Gabriella of NEA’s Tribal and myself. Everyone of us is an experienced ATS® teacher and our goal is to create a new flamenco-influenced movement dialect for improvised dance including props like fan and skirt. Dancing with such creative and skill-full dancers is a real challenge which helps everyone of us to grow and evolve.