Arts & Entertainment

Tribal belly dance

Info Guru,

Rate This Article:

3.6 / 5.0
Woman belly dancing
Styles of tribal belly dance vary across the globe
  • Share
  • Tweet

Discover the many characteristics and interpretations of tribal belly dance.

The term tribal belly dance is an umbrella term used to describe many styles of dance based on the movements, beauty and culture of various peoples and tribes across the globe. There are many characteristics and interpretations relative to tribal belly dance, some of which are explained in further detail below.

Roots of Tribal Belly Dance

This type of dance form is rooted in a movement that occurred in the United States in the 1970s and was mainly driven by folk groups performing in renaissance fairs across California, including the famous Bal Anat, founded by Jamila Salimpour. Mimicking movements, costumes and inspiration from the tribal cultures of the Near East, Middle East, North Africa and Spain, tribal belly dance was introduced to audiences in the Western world.

American Tribal Style (ATS)

The term ATS refers to the original format of group improvisational belly dance. Throughout time, ATS developed many different styles and characteristics as it spread across the country and was influenced by different dancers from different cultures. A staple of the original ATS includes the flamenco style posture and -body alignment.

Tribal Group Improvisation

This is a term coined to describe the many forms of dance that are referred to as tribal belly dance but do not adhere to the original form. In this group of dance, participants learn various movements and through subtle cues and practice learn to develop non- verbal communication to put together a dance that appears choreographed. The movements vary from tribe to tribe and may include individual moves or short combos.

This dance draws on cultural conventions of the tribe it emulates and dancers find camaraderie through the dance experience. Two types of tribal group improvisation dances are combo-based tribal dance and tribal fusion.

Combo-Based Tribal Dance

A recent style of tribal dance, combo-based tribal dance, is anchored in long combinations of moves (32 counts plus) linked to individual moves common to those found in ATS. The moves allow for a breath between combos and are necessary for clean links between specific combo moves. Dancers are able to dance faster with more dynamic move changes.

Tribal Fusion

This term is applied to the style of tribal dance that results when choreographed movements meet with improvisational ones. For instance, adding African style stomping to more subtle Middle East style movements would be considered a fusion. One type of fusion is coined Urban Fusion, which is a style that incorporates modern hip-hop with traditional belly style movements. All that is required in a Tribal Fusion dance is that the basic elements of straight tribal dance and belly dance are included.


The basic components today are the turban, choli top, coined bra, tassel belt, multi-tiered skirt, pantaloons, scarves, mazouna ropes, shisa mirror and Kuchi jewelry. Costumes are often very colorful with decorations and flourish.

The dancer will often wear a turban; a simple piece of fabric used to cover the hair and wound around the head and down the length of the hair. They will often wear a choli top, alone or with a bra. A choli top is a form-fitting garment that comes under the bust line. It is a piece of clothing often worn by Indian women under a sari and when worn during tribal dance it is often adorned with tassels and coins. A tribal dancer will also decorate her belt with yarn tassels.  Natural fabrics such as cottons, silks, and velvets in rich jewel tones or earthy colors are favored. Dancers also will paint their faces with tribal markings.

Costumes are not necessarily authentic. There were many nomadic tribes in different parts of the world and costumes even then would have differed greatly. Regardless, the costumes of tribal dance are beautiful and add mystique and romance to the dance.

Rate this Article

Click on the stars below to rate this article from 1 to 5

  • Share
  • Tweet