Interview with TribalDiva

Interview as recorded on 09/11/2013
Altearoa:td7
How did you get started with belly dance and TribalDiva?

Aaralyn:
I saw a video of my friend dancing and I thought it looked really cool, so I started taking some classes, and then TribalDiva formed out of senior students at the school of contemporary belly dance.

Nova:
I think originally we were sick of performing under the name of “School of Contemporary Belly Dance Level 3 Tribal Students.” So named ourselves and that’s how that started. I guess I got interested in belly dance because of my grandma. As a kid I saw her belly dance and then some time in my 20’s I decided to do it.

Altearoa:
How would you define what TribalDiva is all about?

Aaralyn:
Sparkle, sparkle and spikes.

Nova:
Yea pretty much, a group of women having fun dancing together, basically having a lot of fun.

Aaralyn:
We like working hard, we like to do a lot of practice, to perfect our dancing and everything like that, but it’s got to be fun as well.

Altearoa:
Tell us a bit more about your main dance styles.

Nova:
Okay, so tribal that we do is American Tribal Style (ATS) and Improvisation Tribal Style (ITS), which was made in the 80’s in America so it’s probably not what you think of, being Middle Eastern. It’s based on the traditional belly dance that everyone thinks of but it’s a bit stronger, a little bit arrogant, and its combo’s and not choreographed, improvised follow the leader style. So the whole dance when you see tribal dance is not a set choreography its follow the leader and there a little cues that the leader does so the followers know what happens next. The costuming is very big, there is a lot of skirts and pantaloons and layers of fabric and layers of fringing and tassels and colours. Like a coin bra and little top so you have your midriff bare and then big hair and flowers and masses of metallic jewellery, so that’s tribal. There is ATS which is a registered trademark of Fat Chance Belly Dance and that’s got a set of movements which any belly dancer that does that set will be able to dance with any other belly dancer even if they have never danced together before. ITS takes ATS and changes it a bit too how you want and lets you make it your own but its still leader/follower. That’s what we do more; make our things up, how we want to do them. There is another style, called gypsy caravan, which is a bit softer and not so proud looking.

Aaralyn:
You know the flamenco dancers are very up and lifting the chest, that’s the tribal posture, lifted in the chest, very proud.

Nova:
Yea the posture is really good, makes you think about your posture all the time even when you’re not dancing. So that’s pretty much tribal, leader follower, rich costuming, lots of costuming compared to the slimmed down sparkly sparkly that oriental wears. Tribal is much wow and in your face.

Aaralyn:
Another style that we specialise in is tribal fusion, it’s an off-shoot of tribal, but it doesn’t have the cues and the same vocabulary. It incorporates some of the oriental style so it’s a mix between the two of them. You’d normally have a choreography if you have a group or if you’re dancing by yourself you can have a choreography or improvise. That’s what makes it different from tribal, you’d never dance tribal by yourself, and you can dance fusion by yourself. The movements themselves are characterised by quite sharp locky hip-hop looking movements intermixed with sinuous snake-like movements. It’s got the same proud posture as tribal and if you are a tribal fusion but you happen to know a lot of flamenco, or hip-hop, or Balkan dancing then you can incorporate that. You can really incorporate anything as long as you keep the same sort of style. The costuming is a bit more slim-line and a bit more modern looking even compared to tribal which is more earthy and gypsy sort of style.

Nova:
That’s kind what it was for my cybergoth piece, it was fusion but I was pretty much cybergoth looking with a bit of belly dance as well like fringing and belly art.

td4Altearoa:
So how long has TribalDiva been around?

Nova:
Probably five or six years, but it’s only been in the last year or so that we’ve become quite professional, proper paid gigs and people getting in touch with us to be performers rather than it coming through the school.

Aaralyn:
The school that we used to dance with has closed, so we have taken over classes and things, so it’s up to us now to organise events and make sure students are still getting good training. So that’s totally changed for us in the last year or so.

Nova:
A lot more work, we’ve both reduced hours in our work as well. So instead of doing 40 hours a week I now do 30 hours a week. Plus sorting out notes and stuff for class, finding music, organising playlists, costuming, everything.

Aaralyn:
Lots of costuming.

Nova:
Sometimes we get carried away with the costuming and it’s like “hang on; we need to do a dance for this too.”

Altearoa:
When did you first know this was something that you wanted to do?

Aaralyn:
I knew it as soon as I saw my friend’s video. I saw it and was like “that is what I’m looking for”, then I found our teacher, Pip. The class didn’t start for like three days, but she had a gig on the Friday, so I went to the gig and I was looking at her like some kind of creepy person, I’m sure that she thought I was a stalker. (laughs) Like “oh my god, I’m coming to your class tomorrow, I can’t wait.”

Nova:
I was pretty much the same really. I went to an open night and I saw the tribal dancers dancing and though oh my god, I’m going to do that. Then I saw them in the end of year show thing and they danced to Living Dead Girl by Rob Zombie and I was like oh my god I am so doing that, that will be me, I’m doing it. I knew that I liked the style, tribal, but when they danced to that I knew it was meant to be.

Aaralyn:
That’s the beauty of the style that we do. That you can actually dance to anything, we definitely dance to some traditional stuff, but when we dance to some stuff people are just like “You’re going to belly dance to that?”

Nova:
It’s unexpected as well when we turn up to a gig. We danced at the roller derby and we had some many people come up, even guys, going “we really liked what you did” because we danced to Rob Zombie and “we weren’t expecting it”.

Aaralyn:
We’re pretty much infamous for dancing to Rob Zombie. People just love it, when something comes on that they know and they’re enthusiastic about.

Altearoa:td5
What has helped you take it this far?

Aaralyn:
Passion for it, obsession maybe, slightly, a little bit obsession. (laughs)

Nova:
The support of our students as well, and the girls that we dance with, knowing that everyone is passionate about it.

Aaralyn:
A lot of practice and a lot of sweat. Blood, sweat, tears and glitter.

Altearoa:
What kind of problems have you come up against?

Nova:
The earthquakes, which were a big hurdle, a lot of people just stopped turning up to classes and didn’t want to leave home, didn’t feel safe. There was a group of us though, especially me and Aaralyn, where whatever’s happening, we just wanted to dance.

Aaralyn:
Just danced in people’s garages, on the lawn, anywhere.

Nova:
Don’t care where it is just had to keep it going. I mean having two students turn up to class, it was a struggle just to keep going for a while there.

Aaralyn:
What I find surprising as well is when I keep asking our senior students and our troupe mates. I mean say we’ve got this gig on Friday and everyone knows about it and we ask them if they want to do a gig on Saturday as well, thinking they’ll probably be too tired, then everyone says yes. Then you say “oh that’s cool, we’ve actually got one that night as well can you guys come” and they still say yes. They’re just as enthusiastic as us. I always put a gig out their thinking it’s going to be just us and then it’s not; we end up with 6 people enthusiastic to come.

Nova:
And it’s surprising as well as to whom are the ones coming forward to say yea I want to do that are.

Altearoa:
What has been your favourite moment with TribalDiva?

Nova:
I think travelling places to perform, not just being stuck in Christchurch, but travelling to dance. We’ve been up to Wellington and down to Dunedin to dance. Really there are lots of great moments.

Aaralyn:
What I really like about it is that we got to do so many different types of gigs. We do some really intimate ones; we dance at the Turkish restaurant in town, Topkapi, so that’s really intimate. The contrast is we’re dancing at Christmas in the Park in a few weeks’ time and we did it last year and you’re miles away and there is everything in between you know, dancing at the roller derby where people can see you but there is quite a big crowd. For me it’s just the variety, I really like doing all the different kinds of gigs, not getting stuck only ever dancing on a stage. Sometimes we dance at markets and festivals and stuff as well.

Altearoa:
So what kind of influences have you had?

Nova:
Mine would definitely still be our teacher Pip, Pip E-Lyssah; she’s probably the belly dance celebrity in New Zealand, or one of. She’s massively passionate about what she does and she brings that back to us and she’s really supportive as well. A big influence.

Aaralyn:
As far as teachers that we come into contact with Zoe Jakes is a big one. She’s got really nice style and works really hard. For tribal style it’s probably Devi Mamak from Ghawazi Caravan. Maybe not people that you would have heard of unless you’re a belly dancer.

Nova:
But awesome people though.

Altearoa:
For those interested how you would you recommend people get started in belly dance?

Aaralyn:
Just come along to a class, we’ve got beginners classes on Tuesdays & Thursdays, there are Saturday classes as well.

Nova:
Look us up on Facebook or on our website.

Aaralyn:
There are heaps of photos and stuff on there if people want to see the different styles of dance, because when people think of belly dance there is an image the comes to mind, a reasonable stereotypical image, and you might be surprised.

Altearoa:
What are your plans for the future?

Nova:
Bigger and better.

Aaralyn:
World domination. (laughs) Just more classes, more gigs, more people getting involved. Providing lots of opportunities for the students to do different kinds of gigs and different styles.

Nova:
Yea different styles I’m quite keen on offering more classes in different styles. Belly dance has so many different styles and what we’re doing is a more modern style, tribal or tribal fusion, we also do more traditional like Oriental & American cabaret. Within the tribal spectrum, gypsy caravan, which is not one we normally do. We normally do ATS and ITS, American Tribal Style & Improvisation Tribal Style and different tribal fusions. I am keen to do a lot more cybergoth stuff this year. At our Halloween show (2013) I did my cybergoth bit with a gas mask and all, people were like “oh you’re scary”.

Aaralyn:
And it’s still belly dance.

td1

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