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Tribal Tigerlily is teaching some tribal fusion classes in Edinburgh.  Yipee!

The fabulously talented and gorgeous Tribal Tigerlily

She running a 4 week ‘taster’ set before Christmas starting Sun Nov 18th, and a 6 week regular term afterwards starting Sun Jan 20th, £9/£7 per class in advance, £10 on the door.  Both sets are being held at the Edinburgh Studios, off Leith Walk.  You can get full details, and whatnot on the Facebook event page.

And, because it’s such a treat, here’s a video of her performing:


Related posts:


I found a Lebanese restaurant in Prague that has tribal fusion bellydance performances every Monday and Thursday night.

Tribal Fusion in Prague

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So last time I was talking about how some tribal-fusion bellydance aesthetic has been influenced by art, particularly Mucha.  What’s also been of interest to me is how bellydance has influenced art.  For example, this painting by Sam Flegal‘s (below) has strong elements of tribal-fusion styling in terms of the bra, jewelry, belt, stocking & panel skirt:

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Growing up in a city festooned with Rennie Mackintosh buildings and art meant that that Art Nouveau became the sort of background aesthetic to my younger life, and there’s something I still find deeply appealing about his, and other artists of that movement.  I particularly like Alphonse Mucha.  I love how he paints women, I love the headdresses he creates:


I like headdresses in bellydance, and have seen some particularly beautiful ones on tribal fusion dancers.  For example, in the below Kimberly MacKoy models this gold Mucha-inspired piece created by Medina Maitreya

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I recently asked Tamsyn, who is taking over my classes, if she would write up a blog post for me on something that interested her, and she has!  Note: given the subject matter some of the links are not safe for work (NSFW) unless your employer has a particularly liberal attitude towards nudity.  The embedded video links are as safe for work as any standard bellydance video clip. Enjoy!

Tribal Fusion and Velvet Hammer Burlesque

Meeting up with my friend yesterday, the popular burlesque dancer Leyla Rose, got me to thinking about something Donna Mejia (a choreographer, teacher, and lecturer at Smith professional dance college in Massachusetts) and I talked about when I was last States-side: the Velvet Hammer as one of the first influences for modern tribal fusion, starting back in 1995.

For anyone who doesn’t know the Velvet Hammer, it’s a burlesque performance troupe based in Los Angeles created by Michelle Carr. Focusing more on the “tease” in striptease than the “strip”, it emphasises the joy of style, strut and imagination in performances that are designed to be sexy rather than sexual. It’s been described by Princess Farhana, one of the troupe’s founding performers, as “a reproduction of old fashioned burlesque, filtered through a savvy, witty, post-modern feminist point of view, not to mention Michelle’s totally twisted, politically incorrect sense of humour.” Think modern day Mae West, Lilli St. Cyr and Gypsy Rose Lee. The troupe is legendary for lavish costumes, over-the-top sets, and kick starting the “Neo Burlesque” movement with a healthy dose of punk, tattoos, glitz and thrilling excess. It was so popular, that by early 2000 neo burlesque was a full on craze throughout North America, inspiring events such as Tease-O-Rama, The New York Burlesque Festival, Miss Exotic World Pageant and Viva Las Vegas.

Looking at the glamour and pizazz in one of these shows, do you think the first tribal fusion dancers on the cutting edge of performance art just a bit further north in San Francisco didn’t catch the buzz? When there was a belly dancer on the show? Let me say those fishnet tights, pants cut like suspender belts, flamboyant head-dresses, theatrical staging and feather fans came from somewhere. Even the tattoos fit right in. Here’s a clip of Zoe Jakes with one of her feather fans in action.

Perhaps in part due to the fact that Princess Farhana was on the show, the popularity of neo burlesque reached such heights that you can now find numerous examples of belly-burlesque fusion springing up all over the world, ranging from almost pure oriental performance with ostrich feather fans, to the opposite end of the spectrum with tacky costuming and only a camel or two and some snake arms to bear a passing resemblance to belly dance. One thing you can say about Princess Farhana: she may not be the best dancer out there today, but she is accessible, having fun, and very popular with a broad base audience. In case you missed it, here’s a promo clip for the documentary-style “Underbelly” featuring Princess Farhana, released in 2008. And to see an example of just how far the neo burlesque movement has spread, another clip which is practically belly dance goes Broadway!

Now before anybody jumps up and down about associating belly dance with stripping, let me just say that I see your point. Belly dancers spend enough time and effort managing ill-informed public perceptions that belly dancing is just about shaking it on stage, or is somehow akin to prostitution or stripping, that any reference to burlesque might well be regarded with suspicion. But I distinguish between raqs sharqi, or classic Egyptian and folk dance, and the rather more broad category of belly dance. In no way am I suggesting a connection between raqs sharqi and burlesque. Neither do I mean to suggest that general belly dance is any less about art than raqs sharqi – it just has new fusions and styles arising from it, while raqs sharqi remains firmly grounded in the style and sensibility of the Middle East.

And finally in passing, despite scanty clothing, burlesque is an art form itself, one involving slapstick humor, social parody, musicality, feats of magic and circus acts. Timing and audience appeal are crucial. Saying that a burlesque is merely stripping is like saying that a professional comedian just tells jokes – there’s more to it, and when you take costuming and theatre into account, a lot more to it! Talk to a burlesque dancer and they are as likely as an oriental dancer to bristle in indignation when an incompetent or beginning performer is held up as an example of an entire art form.

With that I’m back to thinking about my lovely, down to earth friend, and all the cool costuming ideas for the taking. Now I’ve got to run off and sew something glittery onto a bra.
Tamsyn will be starting her classes at the Yoga Room next week, and is also starting her own blog. For details of both visit

Recently I went looking for inspiration to vamp/goth-up a bellydance routine and I thought I’d share some of the performers that I came across in my search.

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Zafira dance company are a Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) based bellydance troupe, comprised of three members (Christine Andrews, Maria Hamer, and Olivia Kissel) who have been performing together since 1996.

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Kimberly MacKoy (pictured below) is a tribal fusion belly dance teacher and performer based in London.

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