Tribal Fest: It went to 11

Kami Liddle and Zoe Jakes

This year’s Tribal Fest theme—“It goes to 11!”—refers to a line from the cult film Spinal Tap in which the hard rockers announce that the volume on their amp is so loud that it surpasses the maximum volume of ten and “goes to eleven.” And so it was at Tribal Fest 11 when the dancers, vendors, and attendees brought eleven amps worth of tribal spirit to this year’s annual festival.

Leather top by Judith's Head

I’ve attended Tribal Fest six times. My last visit was TF 7, after which time I felt I’d had enough. Maybe I was just old and jaded but I felt that too many of the dancers had become either bad impersonations of Rachel Brice or aggressive Goth-types. The music was too loud; the dance was stale; the vendors less than inspiring. Then I attended TF 11 and was awed by the developments in tribal bellydance styles and choreographies and by the avant garde fashions that were entering the scene.

Gaya in an unusual costume

The collective spirit of Tribal was created and heightened by all kinds of sensory stimulus: by the sonic vibrations of the music, the visual complexity of costumes and choreography, and the constant triggering of our kinesthetic mirror neurons. You didn’t even need to get up and dance to feel like you’d been dancing all day. My ears were ringing with drum beats and zaghareets. My eyes were tired from two days of looking: looking at piles of silver and lapis and textiles from the Middle East; looking at the delicious variety of colorful original designs by very clever craftswomen and men; looking at dancers dancing dancing dancing.

Zoe Jakes and Friends

The dancers, the women of tribal style, reveal in their movement a new feminine fierceness. These women are proud, confident, and courageous; you don’t fuck with them. They carry their chests high, look you in the eye and demand your attention. Look at me! they shout. Look how powerful my body is, how articulate, how beautiful. Tribal-style bellydance is liberating, rebellious, celebratory, joyous, and fierce and it attracts women who are willing to take it on and push it to eleven.

You can watch many of the performances on Tribal Fest 11 Channel on YouTube. Its not like being there but at least it provides you with a good seat. (One of my complaints about the dancers is that they performed mostly straight ahead as if they were still performing for The Sun King. Maybe the power of the camera has replaced the power of his Majesty. Dance to your corners, girls!) Some of my favorites that can be found there are Red Lotus (one of the best proponents of ATS outside of FCBD); Troupe Hipnotica (if you’re looking to steal some great new ATS troupe moves, look no further); Zoe Jakes and company (especially the final 7 minutes, and skip the skeletons in the middle, oh, and check out the exquisite costume Jakes designed); Ashara (a beautiful tribal fusion soloist); and Frank Farinaro (one of the best U.S. male bellydancers). Those are just a few of the performances I personally saw; there’s lots more at TF 11 Channel.

For still photos of the festival go to my previous gallery posting.

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