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Every once in a while new stars light up and are hot enough to shed their own light. Usually it takes some time until these artists come to Germany. Deb Rubin is such a sun, not only a sparkling dancer but also a brilliant teacher. And now the moment has arrived, Deb will come to Germany in September. But this time not one of the great festivals has managed to “catch” her, but Eliana’s not so big, but exquisite “Tribal Passions” is the lucky one. Without question, we just have to go there.

Interview with Deb Rubin

by Marcel Bieger

Tell us please about what you did before tribal hit you and why you did stick to it afterwards. 

I feel very lucky to have been living in San Francisco during a very potent and exciting time for Tribal Fusion. I have been a dancer almost my whole life. Dance and movement has always been my passion, since about age of 3. Lots of different styles. I was a gymnast until I was 18. I was a springboard diver through university until I was 21. I was in musical theater for 7 years as a child/teen, and in jazz dance companies both in high school and college. Then, I took a long break from dance, to pursue other things.  

Before tribal hit me (as you say), I was working full time as a certified massage therapist in San Francisco. I was deeply studying Yoga, and training to be a Yoga teacher. I had left a job as a neurology research assistant in Chicago, and plans that I would be going to medical school. I had moved to San Francisco, was deeply invested in my path as a healing artist, and exploring different holistic and complementary avenues of 'healing'.  I was just kind of living my life in San Francisco, in the Haight/Ashbury area, going to drum circles in Golden Gate Park and music festivals up and down the West coast, playing music with friends, travelling, and taking different dance classes as a hobby. I was coming back to dance, as an adult, with a very different body and different interests. I saw Jill Parker and 2 of her dancers perform at a party, and I was completely mesmerized.

I started taking weekly classes with Jill, and immediately fell in love with the whole experience of Tribal: The music, the movements, dancing with women of all shapes, sizes, the comradeship of the tribe, and the sisterhood I felt with other dancers.

I was hooked! (I think this was in 2002?) Soon after, Jill invited me to be in her student Troupe, Djun Djun, and then her professional troupe: Ultra Gypsy. The rest is history! Those early experiences learning from and working with Jill and all of the dancers in UG really shaped my foundation of tribal, and solidified my love for the art form. And I just kept going back to class. It became the highlight of my week. And I always left feeling inspired and happy. I would practice in the shower. I would practice in my living room. I would practice in my kitchen. I just loved it.

Looking back on it now, I can see that it allowed me to access a very deep feminine power and confidence, from within, that I had been seeking in other dance forms, but not experiencing. It allowed me to heal some body image issues I had at the time. It allowed me to express what felt most 'me' through dance, and it gave me a wonderful sense of community, tribe, and sisterhood with other like-minded, artistic, vibrant, creative women. But at the time, all I was really aware of was that I just liked it. I felt such a deep soulful resonance with both the music and the movements. It's in my blood. Eastern European and Middle Eastern music and culture is in my ancestry, and I grew up listening to that style of music, and also playing the violin.

Tribal fusion was exciting for me also, because it also pulled in contemporary concepts and cutting-edge artistic flair that was really reflective of our community and counterculture in San Francisco, and on the West Coast, which was a huge part of my life. I was inspired by the opportunities to learn from and dance with so many really amazing, innovative, inspirational artists in the Bay Area. It really ignited my creativity.

All that being said, I never dreamed this would become my career. It was more like my moonlighting passion, as I pursued my career in health care. Back then, although I was in the professional company of “UG”, with all of the classes, rehearsals, and performance gigs that includes, I still had my "day job". I went through Graduate School, and got a degree in holistic health education, and I had a massage therapy and health coaching practice during the days, and I danced at night.

I decided I just wanted to dance, and commit 100% to the art form - to training as hard as I could to become the best dancer I could be and sharing my passion for tribal with others, all over the world. That was my dream. From that point forward, it kind of just took over my life, and everything else aligned. I feel very very lucky to have 'come of age' in the SF Tribal Fusion community, learning from and dancing with some of the most talented musicians, dancers, artists, and visionaries in this art form. I have had such generous and inspirational teachers,guides, and friends along my dance path that really encouraged me and showed me what was possible. Jill is definitely one of those women. I owe her a lot. Sharon Kihara is another. Amy Sigil. Kami. Carolena Nericcio has also been an important teacher of mine, and a big support. Rachel Brice is another. Rachel was very influential to me along my path, and someone I consider the primary influence of my style and dance. I was addicted to her classes, and studied with her whenever I could. She would gently nudge me to get out there and teach more, dance more. I have studied with her since about 2003.
I used to take Yoga Classes from her (pre-BDSS), and have always felt a deep resonance for her artistic expression of tribal, her aesthetic, her inclusion of Yoga (which is paramount for me as well), and just who she is as a person. I have so much gratitude for those ladies for paving the way, pushing the edges, and showing me what is possible if you fully commit to your art. I am forever a student!
Who is your favorite dance artists at the moment, your inspiration?  

I am inspired by so many (laughs)! Right now, I am looking outside the belly dance genre to push myself to grow as a dancer. I am very inspired by my friend and teacher: Anandha Ray. She is an amazing contemporary dancer and choreographer, with 30 years of mastery and wisdom in even her subtlest of nuances. I'm inspired by her choreographies, what she draws out of dancers, and who she is as a person. Some of her works I have seen move me to tears.

My good friend, Sofiah Thom, ( is one of my movement muses. She is an incredible dancer and also an inspiration for me.  Within tribal fusion, it's so hard to pick just a few, because I find everyone to be inspiring in different ways!  

Right now, I'm really inspired by Samantha Emanuelle and Tjarda's new project. They are exquisite together. I'm also inspired by both of their solo work and the direction they are each going with that.  As always, Mardi's performances consistently leave me with my jaw on the floor and a 'pang' in my heart. She is the real deal, and she captures the essence of a nostalgic era that I, also, really resonate with and feel connected to. Kami Liddle. Olivia Kissel. Donna Mejia. Carolena Nericcio, Heather Stants. Aubre Hill. April Rose. Auberon Schull. All these ladies are huge sources of inspiration for me. Lee Kobus and the Solame Suitcase Ladies are endless sources of talent and inspiration for me in design and costuming.  Illan from France: Wow! Can't wait to see him again in October. Frank Farinaro inspires me with his crazy talented isolations and layering. There are some newer, up and coming dancers that I have my eye on like Nagasita, Katy Swenson ...

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Photos ©: 1 Kristine Adams, 2, 3, 4 and 5 Scott Belding
Graphics and WebDesign: Konstanze Winkler
There became a point when I reached a turning point in my life. I remember getting an invitation right after graduate school for an opportunity to lecture at medical schools on the East Coast (USA), and I said no. I didn't want to pursue that at that time.