Paulette Rees-Denis, the founder of Tribal belly dance in Portland, OR, was kind enough to let me read a copy of Tribal Vision: A Celebration of Life Through Tribal Belly Dance (Cultivator Press, 2008).
I’m primarily a fusion belly dancer: a little oriental, a little salsa, a little Turkish, even a little ballet here and there. I realize my own fusion comes from my main teacher and HER penchant for fusion, but part of my satisfaction with my current group is the ability to try new fun styles as they come up and encouragement to learn everywhere. I suspect that’s why I so thoroughly enjoyed this book. I wasn’t sure where it was going at first: the beginning chapters are an intertwining of the author’s life as well as the evolution of Tribal on the West Coast. As both stories unfolded, however, it became clear that her life in dance was one of the driving forces behind the development of Tribal belly dance, and that both were a journey of exploration and experimentation.
The real connection for me came through the author’s desire to create a safe, sacred space for herself and her students. The ability to let go of the real world and just be is difficult enough, but to be able to do it in front of/with a group of women takes a special level of comfort, and I appreciate her desire to give that to her students. I also loved that every aspect of dance is covered, from troupe origin to costuming to watching a student have that “aha!” moment when her body does exactly what she’s trying to get it to do.
The photos were fantastic: a visual history of Paulette, the dancers, the students, and the myriad of costumes through the years. Cammi Vance was in MN a few years ago doing workshops, so it was fun to see her “back in the day” as well.
All in all I’d recommend Tribal Vision to any dancer who wants to enrich her knowledge and dance philosophy. And you can be sure the next time I’m in Portland I’ll be looking for a class!