This wonderful essay is authored by Alley Smith  
Alley is a member of Tapestry-Desert Rain's student dance troupe and a henna artist. 

The Magic of Tribal

A group of women stand in a circle, in silence. An earthy Middle Eastern music fills the air in the large dance studio, which almost transforms itself into a vast open desert.  Movement starts, it is uncertain from where. Suddenly everyone is moving, one arm up then down, turning back and forth. The tribal dance class has begun. You can almost envision a fire growing tall and fierce in the middle of the circle. An array of color swirls around faster. Fringe, tassels, braids, coins and patterns, as diverse as the women wearing them, move in time together. The movement creates a strong connection between all of the women in the dance. A potent sense of oneness fills the circle when the performers bring their palms together at their foreheads and freeze for several seconds, as the room once again grows silent. A tribe has just come together and every woman in the room is an active member focused on the task at hand.

This tribal belly dance class is unique for many reasons. As opposed to the traditional cabaret style that almost everyone pictures when belly dance is mentioned, tribal belly dance offers a new perspective where the focus is not on the dancer but the dance. The amazing feeling of synchronicity not only surrounds the dancers, but pulls the audience into the action of the dance too. The movement of the dancers in this class is not a choreographed or rehearsed series of steps. This style is improvisational and changes with the mood of the music as well as the mood of the dancers. Some of the students' favorite aspect of tribal style is that you never know what is going to happen next. Watching this group dance together makes me think maybe the best synchronicity is achieved with improvisation. The students seem to develop a great awareness of one another as well as learning the moves. This helps them intuitively communicate with each other on the dance floor.  The result of this synchronicity is a mesmerizing display of color moving around the room.

The colored skirts and the tassel and fringe belts that they wear can draw more attention than the dancers themselves do. Some students choose not to adorn themselves with the traditional costume elements. However, many students enjoy and look forward to inventing and working on their own homemade costumes and accessories. In tribal belly dance the dancers body is completely covered except for her belly, and even that may have several tattoos winding here and there. Turbans are worn to cover the hair and some students even have tattooed feet. In this particular class some dancers are completely bare wearing no jewelry;  others wear so much that you can hear them jingling like a bag of coins as they walk across the room. Though the costumes are all similar, no two are alike.  Just as no two costumes are the same, no two dancers are the same.

This class is full of inspiring women of all ages, shapes, sizes and backgrounds. One of the students, Jenica, enjoys this class because, " It is a group full of so much energy and belly dance brings that energy out and focuses it on dance. " She also says, " It is a great feeling to be part of a activity where women of all kinds can come together and share an experience."  Jenica is a new student, but already loves the dance form. It may be an indication that more people will gain interest in this dance form for a good reason. It is readily apparent that the students and teacher enjoy dancing and are happy to be a part of this class each week. When the class is over the students appear to have an uplifting attitude and some are more energetic than when they arrived.  At the end of the class the tribe will go home and take of their costumes and become the interesting people they are during the week. However, the connection and the oneness the dancers feel while they are in class stays with them days after they walk out of the dance studio.

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