Susan's Blog

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

From Tribal Fusion Bellydance to Tolstoy

I’ve always been fascinated by extreme opposites working together at the same time. I love the way classical, orderly Enlightenment Europe morphed into its opposite, stormy, histrionic Romanticism. In philosophy, music, poetry, and painting. Late eighteenth century rationalism caves into moody sturm und drang of the early nineteenth century. The symmetry of Mozart into the surprises of Beethoven. Voltaire, Rousseau and then Hegel to Marx.

Whew. That was a long time ago, in history and in my life. I thought those interests of mine had gone underground in the last few decades of my life, disappearing into autism advocacy and public policy, mountain biking, and bellydance. For me, one opposite pursuit slowly bleeds into the distant other. Until I recently realized the connections my subconscious makes between one and the others, I hadn’t understood the obsession I have with Datura online Tribal Fusion bellydance classes. Tribal Fusion is an amalgam of two streams of bellydance: American Tribal and Classic Raqs Sharqi (Dance of the East, or what we normally think of as bellydance). American Tribal Style (ATS) originated in San Francisco in the 1970’s — hippie-like and organic, round and flowing — a completely new branch of bellydance that incorporates a lot of ancient folksy styles and traditions along with a whole new vibe of relaxed group dance, following a leader.

Fusion is a spinoff of ATS in that it adds in more of the Golden Age cabaret style of bellydance combined with a kind of steampunk/new wave thing.

Tribal Fusion is earthy-metallic. Black lace and pewter. Big ruffled skirts with black and white striped tights showing through. It is not sparkly and pink. There is a return to the good old Lebanese-style relevé, but also the traditional flat-footed country Saiidi style.

I can’t understand why I am attracted to Fusion but I guess every passion evolves over time, and I’ve been bellydancing for thirteen years. I sew sparkly girly Egyptian-style costumes, but these days I dance Tribal Fusion.

Lately I’ve been dancing for an hour or more to this stuff. Tired, aching, but in the zone. Arms almost straight out, shoulder height, bellyrolls up-to-down, down-to-up, body figure 8’s, and 3/4 shimmies on relevé. When you’re doing Fusion it sometimes looks like your body is a Hydra, composed of many snakes moving in all sorts of directions. You simply boil with movement.

My body is 56 years old and I feel very proud of the moves I can make these days. Just today I mastered belly flutters and 3/4 shimmy Arabic style. Hips shaking at one speed, torso rolling at another, feet on tip-toe stepping delicately one behind the other, arms waving as gracefully as possible.

Why am I going on and on about this? Because dancing it is not even enough of an outlet for what I’m feeling. And I’m glad that I can finally kvetch out even this erratic blog post, because all I have been able to do lately is dance and then stare at my screen. And write about autism? I can’t, I just can’t. More on that later. (I hope)

Dance for me is the opposite extreme of me as autism advocate. No thinking involved. It is just movement born of brain energy pushed into one area of the body and then another. The music doesn’t even make sense (to me, a North American) the way Western music does. The ribbony melodies, the exotic instruments, the trance-producing drumming — they are the antitheses of writing about autism. Which is the antithesis of writing my Master’s thesis which was, of course, about one particular symbol of Rational-to-Romantic thought, Leo Tolstoy.

And yet you will find that my website’s tagline is a quote from Tolstoy, turned on its head.

But — that quote was Tolstoy during his Rational phase, before he became a mystic.

I wonder what Tolstoy would have made of bellydance?

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