The Weekend I Went To A Tribal Bellydance Festival

April Rose [Photo Credit: Luís Conde]

My relationship with dancing is solely as a spectator these days. This to say that despite my numerous attempts at trying to learn a few salsa moves myself, I’m certain that I can’t dance to save my life. So let’s hold onto the hope that I’ll never be in that situation.

That said, I’m a big fan of seeing others dance, mainly oriental Bellydance and more recently, Tribal Fusion Bellydance. To give you a general idea of what this style is all about, imagine mixing Bellydance with other sorts of dance genres, that goes from Hip-Hop to Flamenco and everything else in between.

Even though there is a big debate about what moves should integrate within the realm of Tribal Fusion Bellydance, one thing is clear: during these four days, filled with workshops, performances and talks, TribaLX has made quite a name for itself.

With an organization composed by Cris Aysel, Piny Orchidaceae, Silvia Orchidaceae, Sofia Franco and Veronique DiVine, women who come from distinct dance backgrounds between them, every year they organize an event that attracts both professionals and curious dancers around Portugal and Europe.

However, one of the best things about TribaLX, besides the headline featuring world class teachers, is it’s yearly theme. This year, classic film Metropolis serves as inspiration for the festival, mainly the Main Gala, where each performer will have created something inspired by one of the most beautiful masterpieces on film.

Meeting and Greeting Everyone

The first night of the event is reserved for a Meet & Greet dinner, where teachers and participants get to know each other. Upon arrival at the vintage themed Clube Royale, I’m greeted by several members of the organization who are looking forward to this post (and whom I thank very much the opportunity!). Slowly, more and more people arrive.

By 8pm, I’m guided to a rounded table where the invited teachers are sitting. It’s an amazing table, composed by Gudrun Herold, Mell Tribalbounce, Sara Félix and April Rose, all teachers who are recognized by their expertise in Tribal Fusion, as well as their performing acts.

There’s a lot of excitement in the air, where everyone is having a good time, looking forward to the next three days worth of teaching, learning and performing to a wide audience who themselves are fanatics of this dance genre.

Competing and Partying Tribal-style

This year’s competition and Hafla (an Arabic word that translates to “get-together”), there were numerous acts that got my hyped. After all, this was my first time at an event of this genre and after not being able to attend previous editions, I was really looking forward to see first-hand all these performances.

Odalisk [Photo Credit: Luís Conde]

National acts like The Serpent Shadows, Nuray and members of group Orchidaceae Urban Tribal had me to on the edge of my bean bag in the front row, while Spanish dancers Odalisk got me impressed with their moves, while Rammstein’s “Sonne” was playing in the background. Apparently, using metal music is a common thing within the Tribal Bellydance community, along with other genres, like electronic music. All interesting stuff.

Ultimately, it was Moony Orchidaceae placing first in the competition, along with her sister member Mary Orchidaceae placing second. Young talent Raquel Correia placed third.

Mary Orchidaceae [Photo Credit: Luís Conde]

In various ways, it was enlightening what these dancers were doing and how they did their thing. Intricate details in each of their singular moves proved that in one way or another, they’re telling a story while performing.

‘Metropolis’ Goes Tribal

Sara Félix [Photo Credit: Luís Conde]

Saturday night and I was excited as ever to see the TribaLX Main Gala. With Metropolis serving as inspiration to performances on-stage, all eyes and exception lying on the international guests and the Portuguese groups.

Seeing Moony Orchidaceae, winner of the previous night’s competition, perform her choreography on a stage takes her concept to a higher level, as the light work does give it a different, more colorful, perspective. This girl definitely knows how to make a memorable exit.

Moving on to the main event, as international guests April Rose and Sara Félix show off how they’re changing the Tribal Bellydance scene one performance at a time, while Gudrun Herold and Mell Tribalbounce prove that Europe does indeed have some of the best dancers around.

Orchidaceae Urban Tribal [Photo Credit: Luís Conde]

Portuguese group Orchidaceae Urban Tribal prove that whether they’re doing solos or collaborating in smaller groups, it’s when they’re in full that they show their true colors, with a performance that is down to the detail. Every member has their moment, showing off their individual skills, while as a collective, it’s all down to the details.

Nakari Tribal [Photo Credit: Luís Conde]

In the meantime, my new Austrian friends Michaela and Doro, together form the Nakari Tribal, in a memorable performance that truly shows the duo is everything and more, with recent efforts showing their geekier side at Vienna’s Comic-Con last year. You’ll get what I mean by watching the video here.

Soon enough, Veronique DiVine makes a rare appearance in the Tribal scene, as her burlesque inspired performance is truly one worth waiting for every year.

Veronique DiVine [Photo Credit: Luís Conde]

Finally, Portuguese group Hula Halau O Nunes that featured dancers Sofia Franco, Joana Franco and Cris Aysel, in a Hawaiian Hula choreography at the sound of traditional Portuguese Fado music, showing everyone that Tribal is able to encompass different kinds of dance genres, put them together with something distinct and surprise an audience.

Hula Halau O Nunes [Photo Credit: Luis Conde]

Two hours into the show and it reaches the end. One that I didn’t really want, because I was really enjoying this journey into the Tribal style of dance, feeling inspired by the work and dedication put into each of the acts. As I leave the venue, all I can think of is what next year’s inspiration will be and honestly, I can’t wait!

TribalTalks Brings The Event Full Circle

On the first day of the event, I was meeting (and greeting!) and on the final day of this amazing festival, I join everyone for a casual dinner and talking spot, where participants and teachers engage in some kind of discussion related to the Tribal Bellydance.

Things started lightly, with April Rose, Gudrun Herold and Mell Tribalbounce telling the attendees more about their background and how they started out in the dance world.

Conversation lead into the concept and definition of cultural appropriation, a sensitive topic, with a few people intervening with their opinion on what they considered was good and bad use of different cultures and fusing them with other things.

This discussion lasted for little over hour and a half, with different situations and analysis on how ideas reflect towards their performances and each input was respectfully heard, creating a healthy space of debate. What was interesting was hearing how each person’s interpretation was crucial to the construction of their choreographies.

By the end, all that’s well, ends well, with us being better, more insightful people and having quite a bit of food for thought.

All in all, what TribaLX does for the dance community in Europe is quite important, both on a national level, bringing important figures from around the world to pass knowledge, while attracting visitors who are here to learn. Even more so, as the performances from both nights are inspiring, leaving us mere spectators in shock and awe. With this said, I can’t wait to see what TribaLX does next year!

Originally published at creators.co on March 29, 2017.

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Aspirant filmmaker and pop-culture geek! Follow me on Twitter @RicardoDuToit

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Ricardo Du Toit

Ricardo Du Toit

Aspirant filmmaker and pop-culture geek! Follow me on Twitter @RicardoDuToit

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