What Style of Dance is This?

Who We Are

Luciterra School of Dance and performance company were founded in 2009, as “tribal fusion bellydance”, and since then a lot has evolved and changed. After fiercely running Luciterra for 8 years, the original members Laura, Gillian, Amber and Naomi passed on the torch to Esther and Nikki Mae in 2017, being joined by Maeghan shortly after. This change meant a lot of new beginnings for the school and company, as the three new directors worked to find themselves and the expression of their work in this newfound role. The founders of Luciterra, after thorough exploration of their movement, core values and community research, had decided to move away from the term bellydance as they did not find their art or classes accurately represented the classic styles from the middle east. They had already dropped the term “tribal” many years before, as they found using this word to describe a largely white American invention to be insensitive to the history of colonization and ongoing systemic oppression that people of colour go through. This reasonable change meant years of discussion and conversation around what to call the dance being created, which Maeghan, Esther and Nikki carefully approached since taking charge of the school and dance company. After much consideration of their dance training, preoccupation with social justice and connection with other likeminded dancers, they are excited to have decided on the term Neo Bellydance to represent the art form they create and teach.

 

What is Neo Bellydance?

Neo Bellydance is a modern expression of an ancient time honored artform connecting a powerful, traditional art form with the context of the contemporary entertainment industry. It brings elements of modern dance forms such as contemporary, jazz, club styles and more to the powerful body isolations, undulations and refined musicality of what is known as bellydance. Neo Bellydance honours, appreciates and admires the traditional dances that it is based on, not looking to sever the connection, but to bring new elements to the table.

Neo Bellydance focuses on technique, innovation and adaptability. Dancers engaged in this art form are part poet, part athlete – by developing strong conditioning and technique as well as musicality and expression, a fierce, cohesive product is created. Neo bellydance encourages dancers to know who they are and why they are seeking to engage with art, to find their intention and purpose, and do their best to thrive in whatever their goals are in learning and practicing this dance.

Neo Bellydance means cross-training, “dancing outside the box” and moving in ways that align with our bodies and creative processes. This means focusing on the process rather than labels, and it means being well-informed about the styles which we draw upon and being able to pass on information about them, giving credit where credit is due and honouring the cultures and communities from which they may come. This knowledge empowers dancers to have the courage to speak up about what they do and why they do it without defensiveness, and this courage also means acknowledging when someone from these cultures and communities might disagree with our views, and holding that space for them without speaking over them.

Lastly, Neo Bellydance is not a format. Rather, it is a movement, and anyone identifying with its core values is free to use the term and keep the dance form moving forward and evolving. Neo Bellydance is a cosmopolitan art form celebrating the different elements that artists worldwide can bring to the table.

 

Why Neo Bellydance?

After all of the debate surrounding the term, and following a period in which Luciterra did not identify with the term “bellydance”, the directors Esther, Nikki Mae and Maeghan made a very conscious choice to go back to using the word bellydance to describe the art that they are creating and teaching. While they are in line with the process that lead the founders to move away from the term, they have decided that not calling it bellydance would be even more harmful and appropriative, especially considering their dance training and experience, which so far had been majoritarily in different styles of bellydance. Because bellydance elements are still very much present and recognizable in the dance it seemed to them that removing the term could imply an intent to “white-wash” the dance, and to not give credit and recognition to the cultures and communities from which the dance form evolved. They identify the dance as “Neo” Bellydance to acknowledge that the product being created is not meant to be a pure, traditional representation of “bellydance”, but rather a conscious choice to fuse elements of bellydance with other dynamic forms of movement.

Considering the above, why not simply continuing to call the dance they are creating “(tribal) fusion bellydance”? Our opinion on this aligns with Karolina Lux’s, who is spearheading the term “Neo Bellydance” worldwide. “Tribal fusion” is a style that evolved in the 1990s from American Tribal Style (ATS®), and since we are no longer incorporating elements from ATS® in our dance, the term “Tribal Fusion” seems inaccurate. We feel that, at this point, “tribal fusion” is being used as a catchall term to refer to “any modern bellydance”, and that a revised, new term is necessary to describe what we are doing, while acknowledging and being respectful of our roots.

Last but not least, Luciterra is honoured to be able to live, work and create art on the beautiful unceded territories of the Coast Salish people, and we recognize the ongoing issues of oppression of indigenous tribes, cultural appropriation, racism, xenophobia and misrepresentation of First Nations in our country as well as around the world. We feel that the term “tribal” may misrepresent aspects of these cultures and for this reason we are not comfortable referring to our style as “tribal”. This by no means indicates that people using these terms to describe their dance and their art are meaning disrespect, that they are indifferent to indigenous suffering or that they are purposefully engaging in cultural appropriation. It is simply our personal choice to use a different term which we feel is more in connection with the movement we are creating. Luciterra is open to questions and dialogue, so do not hesitate to reach out to us if you like to know more about Neo Bellydance, Luciterra as a company, our views on the social issues discussed above, how we describe our dance and more. Our goal is to create a space that is inclusive as respectful of all!

Love,

Esther Harty, Maeghan Tuckey & Nikki Mae