Afro Fusion Belly Dance is a dance style or form, if you prefer, that fuses the different elements of African Dance culture (from traditional to urban). This dance brings together elements from the “oriental” part of Africa with the rest of Africa. This is about creating bridges that connect Africa diversity. It is about unification.
The frame or canvas of this dance is Africa and the goal is to make it visible for whoever is watching the difference in the dynamic of the movement. People must be able to see that you are using movements from Raqs Sharqui with all that flow and embellishment and then you completely change to another type of dynamics and embellishment depending on which dance from Africa you choose to fuse with.
Since this dance involves vocabulary there are some aspects or if you prefer rules, boundaries, that they have to be followed if one wishes to embrace this dance. Unfortunately, there is still a lack of awareness, understanding and maybe even one can say knowledge about dances from African, their codes and traditions, and as a consequence people can find themselves greatly misconceived about African people and their culture. Ballet, Tap Dancing or even Hip-Hop, all have their own dance code. Afro Fusion Belly Dance is no exception. This dance has its own code too that has to be followed:
- No Choreography: this is a major characteristic of African Traditional Dances as was mentioned before. Every performance had to be based on improvisation or structured improvisation. One has to know the movements, understand their essence and improvise on that spectrum of the dance;
- No movement cues: there are no movements that function as cues, especially when you are going to the stage. If one would like to give a signal to the others, it can be done using a vocal sound, a whisper or even a musical instrument such as for example a drum;
- Music strictly from Africa or from live bands performances using African Instruments. Always remember that Africa has 55 countries which means that one has a lot to choose from;
- Textiles strictly from Africa. Here I am referring to performances (restaurants, stage theaters or other venues) and not what is used for practice or in dance classes. These textiles can be manufactured in one of the textile factories based in Africa. For example, the Kapulana Fabric from Mozambique is made at a textile factory called Nova Texmoque in Nampula Province. They are other locally handmade textiles, for example Kente Cloth, Bongolani, Assuit, and many others.
- Accessories and jewelry strictly made in Africa. From bead works, to cowrie shells necklaces or Fula (Fulani) earrings, silver or bronze work. There are plenty of accessories to choose from.
- Body and face paintings have to be a representation of exclusively African Ethnic Groups and not simply face paintings with dots and colors that don’t even exist in African communities. Always keep in mind that body and face painting is a representation of people’s culture and normally those ethnic groups when they make those ornaments it is for a purpose. One has to know what it is representing from someone’s culture.
- Props are instruments that even today I struggle with in terms of code, because there are props, such as for example, veils and wings, that are not part of what was the traditionally Belly dance, yet now they are part of what is considered urban Belly Dance. The best way to solve this issue I would say is one, by only using the prop based on what is found in the community and one that is recognized by everyone in that community, and always being clever about that choice.
First, to implant the seed of curiosity about African culture in a way that dancers will keep researching to educate themselves about African Dances, whether urban or traditional. This is just the beginning of a journey that will probably never end.
Secondly, to give tools and principles to dancers so they can make their own path with complete respect, honesty, integrity and honor for the culture, history and traditions.
To see more people dancing this Dance Style with total awareness of what it entails in terms of origins, purpose, roots, with complete understanding, respect, honesty, integrity and honor.
To elevate African Dances to such a respectful level that anyone who wishes to perform anything related to African dances would feel obliged to travel to Africa and learn with the masters. By going to the villages and interacting with the elders, the person would feel the energy and understand the essence. Even if you are an African living in Africa, you would feel obliged to explore the continent and learn further.
The main principle is if a person is unsure about using a specific dance, movement, music, jewelry, accessory, it’s better not to use it. Take the time to learn more, and do research before making a decision.
The Second principle is Respect. One cannot choose an element just for liking it, this could mean disrespecting someone else’s culture. Honor traditions and history, while growing and discovering one’s own path. Special reference to teachers (as students will learn the values) and performers (as people watching will acknowledge the respect).