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Photos ©: Publication with kindly permission of Mat Jacob
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Interview with
Mat Jacob
by Marcel Bieger
Tribal Fusion is a very fast paced art form, new styles, new intermediate forms, new worked over styles appear every demi-year. New stars are borne and sink back; but some names stay, stubbornly. Maybe because they work very hard on themselves and maybe because they are responsible for the changes in style. One of these is Mat Jacob, a somewhat mysterious artist, who is at home all over the world and has worked together with some of the heroines of this art…

Mat Jacob will perform and teach in Offenbach in the Frankfurt/M.area at Eliana's Tribal Passion  show. It will be her first time in Germany at a major event (September 24th 2016) and she is vey exited about it!

Check out, what she has to say.

In your bio we learn that you have worked with some of the most influential and important tribal fusion icons of our times - but how did it all start, what lead you to tribal fusion and what made you stick to it (do you have any training in other styles, by the way?)

I have been very lucky and blessed along the road is a conclusion to start answering your question. How did it all start… It started with a friend showing me a clip on You Tube in 2006. It was Rachel Brice’s performance at Tribal Fest 06. As a person I always have been very adorned, wore a lot of rings, necklaces, jewellery in general… so first, her aesthetic and the costuming caught my eyes. Then the dark aspect. Heavy, powerful, determined, highly feminine… almost sacred. I loved the performance. I had no idea people could move like Rachel and even less that it was a style. I let it sit in my mind, unconsciously, for a few weeks, until I came across the same clip again. I then searched for classes and found some in Montreal. I started learning but very fast, I understood that this was a passion bigger than me and after a few months, I started travelling to learn. A lot. I personally had experience with Tango, which I studied for a while and was always drawn to dance. Tribal Fusion is the first style I studied this seriously, tough.

I think what made me stick to it, hands down, no doubt, is the immense love that is present in this community. I have never felt as supported from teachers and peers than in the Tribal Fusion community. I met people, throughout all my journey, that believed in me more than I do and who have pushed me with care and love on this road. Thanks to that I was given confidence to try and fail in a secure environment. I have built my artistic personality being constantly told that I could succeed. Even if not said in those words, it was said in other loving ways. Of course I am also in love with the style and it really resonates with how I love to move.

I am also sticking around because there are a lot of very creative people in this art form. Some forces of nature that are life changing, personally and in art. I have to mention, from the past, the present, and the future, extremely important figures to me: Amy Sigil, Illan Rivière, Rachel Brice,  Orchidaceae Urban Tribal, Violet Scrap, Lamia Barbara, Mardi Love, Mira Betz, Zoe Jakes.

Like many other tribal fusion dancers Rachel Brice blew you away; but you not only admired her, like so many others, you also worked with her and have been at her side. What exactly did you do and how is it working with Rachel?

I worked with Rachel in two projects, one a lot more serious than the other, which is her Datura Dance Company. The other one is my lipsynchin /video clip impersonation project called Megahen.

So let’s talk about the serious. Early 2012, I received an e-mail inviting me to be a part of the very first Datura Company performance, at Tribal Fest 12. At that point I had just graduated from Rachel’s 8 elements level 2. In that training, there is a section with 16 spins that Rachel had me and lovely dancer Shanti Bardot from L.A demonstrate for the class. She told me later on that seeing us spin she wanted us to be a part of her piece. So she invited both of us (the only 2 dancers not living in Portland).

That’s basically it. I said yes, was very excited. Rachel became my close friend pretty early in my path but I had never imagined working with her. I have always loved her and she has a fantastic personality but I naturally separated the dance aspect from the friendship I had with her. I desacralized her in other words. So when the time came to work with her, it was pretty surreal and I felt very lucky.

I want people to know, but most do, that Rachel is one of the most generous person there is. I have learnt so much with her. She gave me, us, so many tools about costuming, dancing and so much more. She is a true leader. A very patient one. Disciplined and compassionate. Hard working and incredibly loving. She is one, we want to follow. I felt confident in her project and it’s one of my most beautiful memories so far.  

You are also a guest dancer with Kami Liddle's Gold Star, now what an experience must that be?

I also have been guest dancer once for Kami, true! Kami invited me in late 2012 to do a duet with her. I was terrified. I didn’t know her well at all and of course, thought she was a beautiful dancer. And a much much more advanced, experienced dancer than I was. We first built a little duet that we performed both in Paris and Las Vegas in 2013.
In all honesty I was very impressed and shy. Then, she also wanted to include me in the first performance, at Tribal Fest 2013 of her brand new dance company, Gold Star. At that point I had moved to San Francisco for 5 months which made me available for almost weekly rehearsals with them. It was amazing. I enjoyed very much meeting the other dancers and seeing how Kami built such a pretty dance from the inside. We had a lot of fun and worked so much in rehearsals that the actual performance was filled with only pleasure and letting go. A great experience.

You not just travel a lot to meet artists and teachers, you move around the world have lived in Canada, France, and now Spain (alltough you spend a lot of time in Portugal, recently). Is this just some sort of unrest or is it a big curiousity for the world. And how does this influence your art?

This question is a huge one. I’ve had parents who travelled all the time and as a result have always moved. Growing up, I never spent more than 3 years in a country. So yes, I do have a big curiosity for the world but I think it’s just what I am used to. I’ve never been used to routine and travelling around is part of how I function. Starting over all the time is what I do. I feel nowadays it’s much more common as travelling is sooooo easy. Sometimes it scares me because on a larger scale, I’m afraid it doesn’t mean anything anymore. I never wish to consume travel, like a product. My travelling, fortunately, has most of the time been living in the places for more than a year.

It influences my art. For sure. The first thing I would say is that travelling so much and the way my mom made us do it, gave me awareness and respect for other cultures. In a globalized world, where everything moves fast and is accessible, I try to use my experience to always respectfully borrow what I discover from other cultures and never use things for solely an aesthetic finality. I at least keep it in mind and do my best to live with those values.

On a more conceptual level, I like to think about distances meaning nothing, people getting closer (or further), cultures mixing to create new ones, the notion of traditional VS classic, the loss and disappearance of primitive cultures, the emergence of new forms of art or commercial products highly influenced by ethnic looks… And so on.

Your latest professional interest seems to be in Piny & Orchidaceae Tribal. Now is this pure coincidence or is there any logical development in this evolution, starting with Rachel Brice and ending (for the moment) with Piny?

There are no coincidences (laughs).

I heard about and saw Orchidaceae for the first time at Infusion Emporium 2015. I had just moved to Europe and was completely losing inspiration and interest for what I was doing. My flame for Tribal Fusion was slowly, but surely, shrinking. The piece they presented, ‘’Forget the nightmares’’, was what I needed to see. I was completely blown away. They mix contemporary dance with several Urban styles (Hip Hop and clubbing styles like House, Waacking and Vogue) and Tribal Fusion. What they do is so rich.

Who they are and what they do relates with where I am at the moment. It is a logical developpement because I am in search of meaning in what I do. Not that there is no meaning in Tribal Fusion but it’s not a dance whose first purpose is to express intellectual concepts, messages or emotions. I made peace with that conclusion.
And it’s also only my opinion. I like Tribal Fusion when it’s classic and almost untouched. I realized that. I can watch Mardi Love or Rachel Brice move for hours. Their style is what made me start and I am in love with it so much. There is just another part of me, that started developing with the help, guidance and teachings of 3 major influences (Mira Betz, Amy Sigil and Illan Rivière) that needs to live. I am now in need of more exploration, of continuous hard work, of reflexion and thinking and I am able to find that with Piny and her incredible family. I could talk about them for hours. I respect them and their work very much.

 You are one of world's leading ITS dancers (Unmata style), what makes your style so special?

That’s too big of a compliment… I don’t know if that’s true! I don’t know if I have a special style… ITS, because it’s a format, teaches you to have the most homogenous way of moving possible. I remember when I first started, Amy came to me and said: ‘’You’re doing amazing but I need to see less Mat Jacob in your movement quality.’’ So maybe I just managed to become a good soldier.

If we aren't completely wrong, the performance in Offenbach will be your first one at a major German festival. What do you expect from it and what will you show us on stage?

Yes! The only time I danced in Germany was in Berlin, for the Orchidaceae Berlin week end may 2016. I will be doing a trio with Josefine Wandel and Eliana Hoffman which I am very excited about! They will learn my choreography so that should be fun.

I will also present a solo but it’s too early to say what it will be about! Best way to find out is to come out and see!
What will we learn in your workshops?

I believe I am teaching two workshops : A choreography that is not classic tribal fusion, meaning I will play musics that are more urban, electronic than folkloric. The dance itself has technical moves from classic tribal fusion of course, but the quality of movement will be much different: less poised, feminine. More active, masculine even maybe, sweaty and challenging. It’s gonna be fun I guarantee it.

The second one is called Mechanical Weightlessness. This one is an old one that I love. It’s movement exploration. We will explore the possibilities of movement as if we were walking on the moon basically. Floating. Playing with axis change, directions, weight etc… then mixing those qualities with tribal fusion moves or drills and a combination to finish off.

See you there!

Mat Jacob is guest at Eliana's
Tribal Passion,
24./25. September 2016, in Offenbach
Infos here: or at facebook
Mat Jacob and Illan Rieviére
Workshop I
Mechanical weightlessness
Saturday, 24. September / 12.00 - 14.00

In this dance concept workshop, we will approach a few techniques having the goal of extreme fluidity. Our whole body will move and seem to liquefy. It’ll move suggesting suspension and lightness, two concepts that however require great strength and control.To our flow, we will add sharp and dry moves... in harmony.

Workshop II
Dance it out!
Saturday, 24. September / 14.30 - 16.30

This choreography is a joyous elixir full of surprises! In our large pot, we will mix ingredients of traditional tribal fusion as well as others coming straight out of Mat’s laboratory. We will go as far as possible in the dance keeping a balance between the decomposition of movement to reach a good technical execution and the simple pleasure of dancing.