The new face of “tribaret”

It’s official!  Tribal dancers are selling out and doing “cabaret” performances. Me included.

Ahh, yes, it’s true.  When the “big names” in the tribal fusion community, such as Zoe Jakes and Rachel Brice, start dancing to classical Arabic music, the deal is sealed.  Cabaret is back.

A few years ago, cabaret blended with tribal was called “tribaret”.  It sort of went out of fashion for a while, but in the past year or so, it has returned under the moniker of “tribal fusion”.  Tribaret was always there, but it was always quiet…  it is getting louder all the time.

Cabaret, however, is still a dirty word to many a tribal fusion and tribal style dancer.  “Oh, I could never wear those costumes or dance to that kind of music,” they say.  “I’m just not a beads and sequins kind of girl”, they say.  Well, you don’t have to be, but it seems that the “tribal fusion” community is fusing a lot more classic oriental style raqs sharqi into their performances.

Seriously.  Several years ago I was guilty of trying to expunge any hint of oriental from my dancing until I realized that it’s just not possible. I started in primarily oriental-style belly dance, and I started learning American Tribal Style and tribal-inspired styles later.  Naturally, oriental started becoming more prominent in my own dancing.  It’s always been there, but I am certainly embracing it more than I have in the past.  Why hide what is a huge part of my own training, especially if it comes to me instinctively as I dance?

Thank the GAWDS.

Why am I thankful?  Maybe younger and newer dancers who are want to learn belly dance because they idolize or look up to these performers will start seeking out Middle Eastern music.  Maybe they’ll start to want to learn classical styles of belly dance.  Maybe they’ll start to read about Umm Kalthoum, Samia Gamal, and Tahia Karioka.  Maybe they’ll actually go take from instructors and dancers who specialize in oriental.  Maybe, just maybe, this is the beginning of the end of the artificial and ridiculous separation of the two camps after more than 2 decades of animosity.

Of course, this could just be a dream of mine.

I leave you with a few performances of “tribal” style dancers performing to oriental music with pronounced oriental stylization in their movements.  We are the new face of tribaret.

And let me remind you all that without cabaret belly dance, there would be no tribal style belly dance.

Zoe Jakes performs to a classic Egyptian baladi song:

Rachel Brice performs a classic drum solo with an Arab drummer

And in a moment of egotism, me performing to Umm Kalthoum’s “Lissa Fakir” with the Casablanca Band.  The video is a little squished from top to bottom, making me look even shorter… I couldn’t figure out how to fix that.


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My interest in belly dance started because of a workout video by the belly twins Neena and Veena. So naturally I started reading about the Cabaret style of belly dance and eventually, started learning it through their other vids. I discovered tribal fusion belly dance immediately after and was hooked to that. I’m still quite a newbie but whenever I improvise at home, I always mix cabaret and tribal style and I like it that way!

Anyway, excellent article! I truly appreciate those who focus on certain style but I do enjoy fusion all the more.

Btw, I’m a new fan! I’m hoping to take Natalie’s class and yours as well at the Old Mill. I would come every week but my limited finances don’t allow it. Le sigh.




“And let me remind you all that without cabaret belly dance, there would be no tribal style belly dance.”

*STANDING O* THANK YOU! that’s what I’ve been wanting to tell some close Tribal and fusion sisters lately….just dance and be grateful that you get to choose what you like! enough already on both ends!

On the videos, I think that was Zoe’s best performance so far. Sometimes I can’t seem to keep up with what she’s doing when she’s on stage..but this one was a very nice change from the usual fast choppy style of hers, I loved it! I wish yours wasn’t set to private though!!! No can watchy! :(




Oh I forgot to mention that I got to see a very unusual treat a couple of months ago in Seattle!! inFusion (no more BTW :( ) did Tribal Improv to live classic Arabic music! It was ALL KINDS OF AWESOME!!! I’m sad that they disbanded though :(




What a lovely performance of yours, Asharah!

One other thing that I like about this – whatever the big names do, everyone else seems to follow, and maybe even take it too far. We’ve ended up with a lot of “tribal fusion” that is so much hip hop, modern dance, or burlesque that it’s barely bellydance anymore. (Not that I don’t love well-done fusion.) But, if the trend is back towards cabaret, back towards to roots, maybe all the bad fusion will get reigned in – and will start to look like bellydance again. Woo hoo!




This is definitely not news to me, perhaps because I’ve known so many people who cross over from Orientale to Tribal and back again. And though I love A/ITS, I also realize it’s limitations for me as someone who might want to dance solo at some point using the awesome things I am learning from my (non tribal) teacher.




I think a lot of us have been trying to get back to our roots lately – to figure out why we started this journey, and what path we want to be on. Especially in the more experimental areas of fusion, I think it helps with keeping it bellydance to know where the box is, so that rather than just breaking out of it, new dimensions can be added to it as well.
I also would not be surprised if it wasn’t a respond in part to all of the “Fusion isn’t Bellydance” talk that’s been going on of late.




I just loved your performance at TribalCon; I’ve never understood why there had to be such division between Cabaret and Tribal. As a tribal dancer who started out in Egyptian Cabaret I love the classic music and my cab moves inevitably come out when I dance to it. While I still love the tribal aesthetic the best, I find myself drawn more and more to Cab sparkles (although there are limits, LOL).

I’m always a little baffled by the tribal dancers who have no knowledge of classic music and/or dance; it’s the foundation of bellydance and IMO even tribal dancers should at least have a basic understanding.




I agree with Amy on this point: “And though I love A/ITS, I also realize it’s limitations for me as someone who might want to dance solo at some point using the awesome things I am learning from my (non tribal) teacher.”

I started in Cabaret because those were the classes being held in my vicinity, and then went to ITS, and while I do love my Tribal classes and the improv format, it feels very static since we are only working with a very small vocabulary of movements. I’m also finding myself disillusioned with generic “Tribal Fusion” performances (i.e. styles similar to early Rachel Brice: predominance of T-Rex arms, an expressionless face, pops, locks, mostly black costuming) which used to fascinate me. Although I’ve always enjoyed more traditional Middle Eastern music, I’ve been drawn much more to Cabaret style recently to invigorate me. I’ve even *gasp* been persuaded to appreciate sequins!

Cabaret has a lot to teach Tribal dancers, especially who wish to dance solo: how to make more dramatic entrances and exits, how to move around the stage (and just traveling steps in general) and engage different areas of the audience, etc.




Thank you Asharah! can watchy now! :)

I have seen solo performances that use strictly Tribal Improv moves/vocab…and while the technique is flawless, the dance seems so limited and predictable….even those who are self proclaimed “fusion”, I can’t help but wish that those dancers who have so much potential weren’t so afraid or dismissive of Orientale styles “because aesthetically does not call them”…I say you don’t have to perform any particular style, as long as it helps you grow as a dancer…there’s always something that you can take and milk it in your dance: A concept, a move, a point of view. Especially if you are a soloist, there ARE so many things you can take from Orientale styles and add them to your Tribal vocab. Or whatever vocab you’re using.

I have seen people literally horrified when we see/learn tribal combos that have a travelling hiptwist or the huge scooping hip circle. Like “OMG that’s so Cabaret! I’m NOT doing that” What is so wrong with that, I ask? (FWIW, I would be equally annoyed if I heard it said the other way around)

Most of my orientale knowledge comes from videos and from exchanges with my cousin who’s trained for many many years…..I wish I had quality instruction that fits my schedule in my area. Sigh.





FYI I did the restaurant circuit for 5 years, almost every night in a cabaret costume, loving (almost) every moment of it. The first troupe I danced with taught me classical egyptian songs that we learned to sing and dance to, and I have years under my belt with a circus, vaudeville burlesque company. I also did 10 years of ballet as a child. So I would say that for me it has never been about a specific style, I just follow that which moves me…..




    Zoe – I loved the baladi…. and I love that a lot of us “tribal” girls are starting to pull out our more “traditional” roots. I guess for me, starting belly dance on the East Coast, where “tribal” was almost a bad word at the time, I saw a lot of “well, that’s tribal and that’s cabaret”. I’m loving seeing dancers in the “tribal” and fusion circuit pulling more oriental into their work. I also think my Middle Eastern Studies side is really happy to see this return back to Middle Eastern music and stylizations, but in a new context. It’s like we can say, “Yes, we respect the origins of this dance, and here’s how I dance it as I am.”

    I think we’re saying the same thing. :)




I’m glad this war is coming to an end.

I was trained in classic Egyptian and Turkish styles. When I first saw the tribal style, I was attracted by the strong arm and upper body movements, the staccato accents, and the chance to get into my own emotions and not worry about being pleasing and smiling. However, I did not want to give up the strong vibrations, hip circles, traditional snake arms, and most of all, finger cymbals that I had learned. (My tribal teacher, Fayzah, uses finger cymbals, but she is the exception). So I developed my own style using these elements that I love and look good on my body.

The history of tribal started with a rebellion against “sexiness” and an effort for the dance to be taken seriously as an art form. Bravo! But tribal fusion has evolved its own style of, to me, aggressive sexiness (i.e., garter belts). Is there anything wrong with either style? Maybe we can all relax and enjoy the huge dance vocabulary that is available to us now, free to pick and choose and create a dance that is truly our own.




As someone who feels caught between both worlds but not quite fitting in 100% with either, this article was an interesting read. I love the costuming of tribal and the moves of cabaret (and Balkan and Egyptian folkloric styles). With all the myriad ‘fusions’ over the past however-many years, I find it frustrating that I encounter so much resistance to the idea of wearing a choli top and layered tribal-style skirts while dancing cabaret-style. Or breaking out cabaret moves while improvising to a Gogol Bordello song. It’s like any fusion or experimentation is acceptable *except* for fusing elements of tribal with elements of cabaret. Why??




I do not for one second think this is what is termed tribaret, which is a horrible name honestly. It’s totally tribal fusion which has hello! CABARET! in it to begin with. That is why it’s called fusion for a reason. Tribaret is a nonsensical name and someone had a good point when they said we need to remember we are representing a culture and a their customs. Do not ever dance like this for a middle eastern audience ever! It’s disrespectful to their culture and what this beautiful dance stands for!




    Keeping in mind that this post is going on three years old, and the evolution of “tribal fusion” has changed a lot even since this original post, I would like to say that the third video, mine, was with an Arabic band, and I do dance like that for Middle Eastern audiences, and they DO appreciate it. I have performed for many Persian, Turkish, and Arab audiences in my own personal style, and they very much appreciated it. I think we should leave it up to people of Middle Eastern descent to determine what they think is disrespectful or not.




[…] years ago I made a prediction in this post, titled “The New Face of Tribaret“.  I saw the “big name” dancers in the fusion belly dance scene starting to […]



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