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History of American Tribal Style Belly Dance
by Julia DiVerdi

ATBD (more commonly known as ATS -Ed.) originated in California as a blend of different ethnic styles in movement and costume.  "American Tribal" was named by a famous cabaret and folk belly dancer, Morocco, as she saw ATBD as an American fusion and not one singular folk style.  The style truly emerged in the 1980s and began out of a desire for something new and challenging: ie. a new look and style.

The originator of the style was Jamilia Salimpor with her troupe Bal Anat . She began her eclectic fusion approach of belly dance for Renaissance fairs.  Jamilia did not solely perform "tribal".  She tried to present a survey of Middle Eastern styles, often inspired by topics from National Geographic, and always included cabaret belly dance in her shows.

Jamilia's student, Masha Archer, began improvising in the 1970s.  Masha left Jamilia's group before learning how to choreograph so she made up improvisation to fill the gap: she taught improv by simply never choreographing.  Masha sought to take belly dance out of nightclubs and restaurants and her main goal was for an artistic presentation, therefore, she was not concerned with recreating a specific culture or group.

Next and most pivotal in the legacy of ATBD is Masha's student, Carolena Nericcio.  Carolena began FatChanceBellyDance [FCBD] in 1987, the first tribal dance troupe.  FCBD's name was chosen because unlike the common stereotype being a belly dancer does not mean you're a prostitute.  As Carolena says:  "Fat Chance" you'll get a private show!".  FCBD is responsible for the style of ATBD that we are familiar with today. Carolena invented the first format of lead/follow with cues and her main focus was with bringing dance back to it's cultural roots, but still producing an exciting show for American audiences.  FCBD evolved on a figurative island and had no contact with belly dance community until 1990.  Perhaps this isolation allowed the group to develop such a unique style.

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Genesis. In Trible bible (pp. 1-35). Santa Rosa, California: Kajira Djoumahna.  Richards, T., & Shira. (2000)
Terminology.  In T. Richards (Ed.), The Belly Dance Book (p.14).  Concord, CA: Backbeat Press. Zenuba. (2000)
American tribal style belly dance.  In T. Richards (Ed.), The Belly Dance Book (pp.38-41).  Concord, CA: Backbeat Press.