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Photos: if not mentioned otherwise, all © Dan Fullard, map of Great Britain, PD, source: Wikimedia
graphics and layout: Konstanze Winkler

by Hilde Cannoodt & Philippa Gebhardt

So how would you say Tribal started in the UK?

It’s hard to say where it all started, but a common trend in the late 90’s through to 2005 was that Cabaret dancers found out about Tribal through the internet. There wasn’t any classes or workshops to offer so people learnt from the internet from watching video’s or finding information. Janet Keates, Dawn O’Brien’s teacher (find out more about Dawn later on) fell in love with Tribal in ’97 and brought Paulette Rees Denis over in ’99 and 2000.

From the millennium onwards different tribal dancing started to pop up, such as Barefoot Belly Dance and Khalghani.

Wendy Marlatt played a mayor role in the UK tribal scene. Around 2003 she started teaching in Ireland. Originally from San Francisco, Wendy was part of Fat Chance Belly Dance and started teaching ATS in Dublin. Over the years her style changed quite a bit, as she found inspiration with numerous other teachers as well as Carolena Nericcio. She started her dance troupe Rashani International soon after she started teaching and bringing dancers together from around the UK.

One of these dancers was Samantha Emanuel (formerly known as Samantha Hasthorpe)  who had been studying from Fat Chance dvds’ up until that point, after watching Fat Chance perform at Majma.

So what would you say are some of the Tribal Hot Spots?

Most areas where a lot of tribal dancers are based often have one or a few dancers that has been in the scene for a long time.

In the Midlands, there is Dawn O’Brien with her dance troupe Khalgani” who has been organising tribal events since 2005. --Also based in the Midlands is Donna Gardner and her dance troupePedralta”. Donna and her dance partner Lesley Hogg also danced as part of “Rashani International”. -- Alexis Southall, another dancer in the Midlands, has been involved with Tribal Fusion since 2006 and is one of Dawn O’ Brien’s ATS students. Like most students that started around that time, she has done most of her training from working with DVDs and going to workshops abroad. Alexis is currently hosting international teachers to bring more Tribal Fusion teachers to the local dance community in the Midlands. -- Bex Priest, also based in the Midlands and a student of Dawn O'Brien is specialising in teaching and performing Dark Fusion.

In the South West of England of course the main influence has been Samantha Emanuel who is based in Devon. Apart from touring the world, she often teaches local intensives which bring students from all over the UK to study with her in her area. -- In Bristol, Victoria Pearl Boheme is teaching and performing Tribal Fusion and bringing different international teachers to the Bristol scene.
In Scotland, Deirdre McDonald was a major influence, before she moved to the US. She studied with Paulette Rees-Denis from “Gypsy Caravan”. -- Also based in Scotland, Laura Monteith used to dance with Deirdre and has been teaching Tribal Fusion since 2005 and is troupe director of “Sarasvati Tribal”.
The London scene has been flourishing over the last few years. The London Tribal Fusion scene started with Lily Tsai and Hannah Mi, who formed a duet called
back in 2005 and both taught classes in London. Hannah Mi then moved on to form a troupe calledAtalanta, together with two American dancers, Jesse Stanbridge (New York) and Kimberly Mackoy
(San Francisco). Kim taught Tribal Fusion classes in London until 2011, when she moved back to the US.
In 2007, Jesse became part of Moirai, together with Philippa Gebhardt and Laura Dunne (originally part of Rashani International). “Moirai” is an ATS troupe and Fat Chance sister studio and teaches all over the UK and abroad. -- Kerry Darkstar, originally one of Hannah’s students is one of the pioneers of dark fusion in the UK and is mainly inspired by Ariellah.
Hilde Cannoodt (Photo © Polstar Photography)
Philippa Gebhardt
Samantha Emanuel
Wendy Marlatt and Rashani International
Alexis Southall
Dawn O'Brien and Khalgani
Bex Priest
Hannah Mi (© Maani Photography)
Victoria Pearl Boheme
Kimberly Mackoy
Kerry Darkstar
Moirai Tribal - Jesse Standbridge & Philippa Gebhardt
In the South East of England, Hilde Cannoodt has been teaching ATS and tribal fusion since 2006. Originally from Belgium, she moved to Brighton in 2004 and started teaching, performing and hosting events not long afterwards. She is the director of Masmoudi Dance Company and currently teaches and performs in the UK and abroad.

Charlotte Wassell and Nicola Harding, 2 students of Hilde and part of “Masmoudi DC”, are teaching ATS at her school and started “Ter'zím in 2010, an ATS based duet and now also a sister studio of Fat Chance.
Are there any major Tribal festivals in the UK?

The first festival that was focusing on Tribal was “Tribal Ford”, which was an annual festival organized by Lindsey Mac Queen and held in the North of England. Tribal Ford had its last event in 2009. In London, the Belly Dance Superstars organised “Tribalondon” in 2008 and 2009, which hosted international and UK Tribal Fusion dancers as well as the Tribal contingent of BDSS.

In Aylesbury, there is “Tribal Vibe”, organised by
Steffi Colbert of Red Tent Tribal and Barefoot Belly Dance. “Tribal Goddess Retreat” organised by Angela Noble of Tribe Zuza is an annual festival held in Northumberland. In Leicester, “Gothla UK” is an annual festival that hosts international and UK Gothic Belly Dance teachers organised by Akasha and Bridie.

There are many other festivals that started to include Tribal Fusion as part of their program, such as Majma, Sirocco, Fantasia, Bellydance Congress, … We should also mention the “Tribal UK Magazine”, which was under the direction of
Nicola Kilbane of Bodhaia Tribe”.
It has since been discontinued but back in 2005 – 2006 gave a good overview of the Tribal scene in the UK.

What about the Tribal Fusion music scene in the UK?

Well, there are so many to mention really, so we will focus on bands that have included tribal fusion dancers during their live sets. Oojami - Over the last 8 years Oojami has produced 5 albums and featured many Tribal Fusion dancers such as Hannah Mi, Moirai, Masmoudi DC, …

Phil Thornton – Phil recently brought out an album called “Nexus Tribal”. Many tribal fusion dancers, such as Nyoka, Kimberly Mackoy, Hilde Cannoodt, Moirai, Hannah Mi, Beatrice Flowers,… danced to some of the tracks on this album during festivals, such as Glade

Phil Meadley -  DJ Phil Meadley has been a name on the UK global beats scene for quite some time now. He has compiled 30 compilations up to date, such as “Waltzes, Glitches and Brass: the new sounds of Vaudeville”. Dancers such as Samantha Emanuel, Dawn O’Brien, Hilde Cannoodt, Kerry Darkstar, Hannah Mi,… have all performed during one of his sets at various Tribal Fusion festivals.

Chaos Carousel – Formed in 2011 by Hilde Cannoodt, Brighton based tribal fusion dancer and Merlin Shepherd, one of the UK’s finest Klezmer Klarinet players. Chaos Carousel blends Music of Eastern Europe and the Balkans with mesmerising Tribal Fusion.

left: Hilde Cannoodt (Photo © Konstanze Winkler),
right: "Masmoudi Dance Company" (© Polstar Photography)

Phil Thornton and his album
"Nexus Tribal" (Abb. © Phil Thornton)
Hilde Cannoodt & Chaos Carousel (Photo © James Hedley)
We met Hilde Cannoodt this spring at Beyond Bellydance III in Utrecht (NL) and were impressed not only with her dance but also with what she has to say. Together with Philippa Gebhardt of “Moirai Tribal” she collected worth knowing facts about the British Tribal scene, but see for yourselves...
Donna Gardner and Pedralta
In 2005, Sam went on a trip to San Francisco to study with many masters in their field such as Suhaila Salimpour, Carolena Nericcio and Rachel Brice and two years later she joined the Belly Dance Superstars, the only UK member to have done this so far to date. Needless to say she has been a massive influence and inspiration on many UK tribal dancers.