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Graphic & layout: Konstanze Winkler
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Interview with
by Mareike Beiersdorf
Can you tell me how, when, and why you started with Tribal/Tribal Fusion belly dance?

Funny story! I took my first Tribal belly dance workshop on a misunderstanding, ah! My belly dance teacher booked 2 different workshops at the same time. When she realized her mistake, she offered me her spot for the Sharon Kihara work shop in Paris. This is how I first met Tribal, it was in November 2005. It was love at first sight!

As a belly dance student and performer at that time, I could always feel that my western roots were kind of inappropriate with the Eastern attitude and feelings. I could feel I would never be a Raqs Sharqi belly dancer, and I was still searching my way to express the love of dance and Eastern rhythms and moves.

As a child, I grew up travelling a lot. I was away from France for several years and I met so many different cultures. All these people inspired my whole life and I felt I’m from the Earth, not from a specific country. I have no real home, my home is the world.

This is why, when I met the Tribal belly dance, it appears obvious to me that this was my way. Now, I can say: “I am a tribal belly dancer through and through!”
Do you have any role models or favourite teachers and equally important who and because of what?

First Sharon Kihara and Rachel Brice, who I met at the very beginning of my tribal belly dance experience. They taught me the main point: humility and generosity. When Rachel held me in her arm after her 4 hours class, this was not only sympathy. No! She connected me to the tribal world, she physically told me: Welcome to this world, it’s amazing and I know you’ll love it.

„Umrah“ is the Arabic word for "pilgrimage". And so it is also with the festival carrying this name. It never takes place at the same city twice, but instead travels through Europe. Djeynee Bodson, the inventor, promoter and organizer of TRIBAL UMRAH told Mareike Beiersdorf, a German dancer,  how her personal Tribal career started and how everything came about  with her annual Festival.
Then I met Amy Sigil (from “Unmata”), in 2007. She is my main inspiration, now. She is the one who taught me all about Improvised Tribal and this means a lot! Improvised Tribal is the origin of Tribal belly dance. It’s a dance technique, created by Carolena Nericcio that allows dancers to improvise on stage in a synchronized dance. It’s an improvisation but the audience believes that it’s a choreography, and that’s fun!
Djeynee and Ami Sigil
the first tribal workshop with Sharon Kihara 2006
In fact, Improvised Tribal is more than a technique, it’s a way of life! To be able to communicate with your sisters on the stage, you definitely need to be generous (the leader always dances for her partner, doing clear and proper cues). You also need to be intuitive (the followers need to watch and sometimes guess the leader’s cues), you need to be aware of what’s happening in the troupe. But also you can be fun and tricky because it’s dance! In another world, the qualities that are requested for Tribal Improve are definitely beautiful human qualities. In general, tribal sisters are the same in their everyday life!

Second, Amy Sigil has no barriers. She is an incredible open-minded person. I never heard her judging someone, even if she does not agree, she always understands her/him. Her opinion on people is so soft (compared to mine sometime!).
In her dance, Amy is definitely a tribal belly dancer inspired by the “street”. She puts together old traditional moves from Indian, Eastern and other dances in a new way without false shame about it! Amy Sigil is the one who supported me on finding my way. “You have emotions and dreams ... go!” That’s Amy Sigil.
Ami Sigil at her Hot Pot Studio in Sacramento
Also, since 2008, I’m one of her students and I learn her ITS format. I’m part of an UNMATA ITS pilot program which allows me to teach and share it with others. I have this dream that one day, Amy and her Unmata partners will come to Europe, jump on stage and dance ITS with hundreds of European dancers!
Photos © Djeynee Bodson
the interviewer Mareike (middle) and "Verbatim", TRIBAL UMRAH 2010