Amanda Pittoreska: Tribal Fusion vs Fusion Belly Dance

Tribal Fusion Sofia - Amanda Pittoreska

Amanda Pittoreska from Switzerland dances and trains Fusion Bellydance passionately for over 13 years – accompanied by other dance styles and forms of movement such as Yoga, Pilates and Fitness.

Her development as a dancer has taken her across Europe and the US to study with the most prestigious representatives of the scene such as Samantha Emanuel, Anasma, Rachel Brice, Kami Liddle, the Orchidaceae Dance Company, Zoe Jakes or Mira Betz.

 

Sandra: You have a very interesting background. Would you tell us how you started with Tribal Fusion?

Amanda Pittoreska: Oh, I don’t think there is anything unusual with my story. I used to practice Belly Dance for a little bit before. And then I saw a video of Rachel Brice, which inspired me to move in the direction of tribal fusion belly dance.

However, back in those days, there weren’t any tribal fusion classes in my area in Switzerland (or at least I couldn’t find any around).

Hence, I trained with the help of videos. I have also tried to find as many workshops as I could. I traveled a lot, participated in various festivals. Little by little, I developed my technique in tribal fusion dance.

And, in all that time, I never planned to actually start teaching. However, people started to approach me, asking me to do a workshop where I would demonstrate to them the graciousness of the tribal style dance.

So I held that workshop, and right after it ended, the students asked me to continue with regular classes. And…as you can see, one thing led to another.

Still, I didn’t really know where to go with my dancing, for my personal training I never had a proper space and at some point I even considered quitting. But before that I traveled to San Francisco for a couple of months to train and feel the home of tribal fusion belly dance. Of course, I just couldn’t keep myself apart from tribal fusion. Soon after that, everything seemed to fall in place and I established my own studio. Now I have all the space and a wonderful community that I wished for!

I realized I love teaching so much, it is such a fulfilling and purposeful profession! I think I only once made a break of teaching, and that was back in 2013 when I was visiting the States. That was the time when I became one of Rachel’s students.

I am also overjoyed about the community that built around my studio and that it is growing little by little. I am not alone anymore in my passion for tribal fusion dance!

Tribal Fusion Sofia blog - Amanda Pittoreska

S: You studied Datura Style under the mentorship of Rachel Brice. How did you feel during the whole experience?

A: The whole program – the 8 Elements, was life-changing for me. There I wasn’t learning only about the 8 Elements of belly dance. Sure, there was that, but then there was also so much more!

For example, I learned so much about growth-mindset, motivation, consistency, team spirit, community, about the importance of honoring our core – original style (i.e. where we started from).

Datura is one of the styles, but to me, it is so much more. It is the spirit of it all that I believe truly matters in developing and pursuing a fulfilling and consistent dance practice – or any passion even!

S: Tribal Fusion Belly Dance, fusion dance… There are many terms out there - how do you tell the difference?

A: The style I teach – I call it Fusion Bellydance. I don’t have an Oriental nor ATS background. And I feel Tribal Fusion Bellydance is closer to ATS and the start of its whole development.
Datura Style is also close to Tribal Fusion Belly Dance, though, since it is also rooted in the ATS.

Personally, I don’t put that much of ATS in my style and classes apart from Datura Style. So I believe I am much closer to being a Fusion Belly Dance instructor. However, sometimes I would label my classes as “Tribal Fusion” since that is the term better known to beginners. 

Frankly, I feel I don’t want to debate about names too much. Everyone may have their own understanding and their own style as in every art field. Of course, naming things helps and asks for appropriate consideration. However, for myself I like to keep the naming quite open and let the content speak for itself.

S: You also teach fitness and pilates. Do you feel these help your belly dance technique?

A: Any training – e.g pilates or fitness, helped me a lot to get to know my own body better. The general understanding of body and anatomy – I feel this is often missing yet needed in Bellydance classes.

Pilates and fitness have influenced my teaching of fusion belly dance as well. I am now looking at the body differently than I did before I was introduced to anatomy. It helps me understand movement better, as well as to describe it more precisely. Moreover, cross-training is highly beneficial for my dance technique as well as a counterbalance for daily life.

S: When did you start your studio Pittoreska? How is it like to manage your own studio?

A: I started it just 6 years ago. Managing a studio takes lots of my time. And even though it is not my only occupation, I feel like most of my passion and energy goes there.

Creating a space – I didn’t want to create a mere training space but I wanted to add spirit and atmosphere. So I put a lot of thought, personality and love into the arrangement of the interior.

And it is certainly not easy. It is hard enough to find a proper space – to have all the right elements (e.g. location, spacing, arrangement), let alone to create classes and build a business around it.
However, once it starts working, to me it became very fulfilling and rewarding in so many ways. It is amazing to see the community grow and to watch people motivate and support each other.

Pittoreska fusion belly dance studio
Amanda's studio Pittoreska
Studio Pittoreska
Tribal Fusion Sofia interview with Amanda

S: You also bring other tribal fusion instructors to teach in your studio?

A: Yes. I personally had many different teachers and was (and still am) visiting many workshops. In my experience, it really helps if you are learning from different people. 

Even if you learn very similar styles, techniques, movement concepts and ideas, each teacher has their unique approach to it, their own words, their own specialities. It can really help you shed more light on what you are trying to learn and what will later on define you as a dancer.

I am truly blessed to have learned from so many people. And when I started teaching tribal, I wanted to provide the same opportunity to my students. They mean the world to me.

S: What is next for you? Any new projects, workshops, trips..?

A: I will continue to teach here in my studio, as well as in some workshops abroad. The next stop is Las Vegas in March where I perform in The Massive Spectacular and teach a workshop at The Mega Massive.
I have ongoing projects with my students, I will produce my next evening dance show in June, I will host Kami Liddle for two intensives this year and I have several dance training sessions and programs on my personal list – it’s going to be a full and exciting year.

And Of course – Sofia Tribal Fest is big on my schedule, so I am looking forward to seeing you all there!

Amanda will be one of the teachers at our Sofia Tribal Fest 2020. Make sure to reserve your spot here 

Until next time!

Tribally yours,

Sandra

Tribal Fusion Sofia: Hello world! (how & why I started)

Tribal Fusion Sofia group (Бели Денс в София, България)

Hello, my dear, and welcome to my first post on Tribal Fusion Sofia Blog!

I am very happy to “see” you here and am very excited to have a chance to tell you our story. It is about how a group of enthusiastic and dedicated girls started a grassroot Tribal Fusion Belly Dance community in Sofia.

But, before getting there:-

I have to admit that, at first, I was a bit undecided about what this first post should be about. I have never written before! :). After some thought, I feel it may be a good idea to set the stage (no pun intended).

So, for starters, (so that you can get to know us a bit), I will tell you something about Tribal Fusion and American Tribal Style Belly Dance. Following that, you will find out about how and why I fell in deep love with Tribal Style dancing. Finally, I will share with you what we have done in Sofia over the past few years.

What is Tribal Fusion and American Style Belly Dance?

American Tribal Style ® (or ATS, for short) is a group-improvised dance. In ATS, a leader cues the next moves by certain hand or head movements. The cues are known by everyone in the group, so they “improvise” simply by watching the leader for cues. This format usually involves rotation, so that dancers change places in the formation. That way everyone gets to lead the group improvisation at some point.

ATS borrows from various folklore traditions, in addition to belly dance, and Spanish dancing. The idea is that dancers from different countries, dance and cultural backgrounds, can join together and dance, by following common cues. They don’t even need to speak the same language, they can still dance beautifully together, as the ATS cues are well-recognized across the globe. In American Tribal Style ®, cues are the language, and dance is the platform to feel the joy of companionship. Astonishing, isn’t it?

(you will have a chance to read more about ATS in some of following posts)

Tribal Fusion, on the other hand, is a Western style of belly dance that fuses different dance styles. It draws on ATS and belly dance as its core pillars, yet often incorporates Middle Eastern, Indian, African, Andalusian and Flamenco dance styles, even adding contemporary dance into the mix.

Although Tribal Fusion recognises traditional belly dance as one of its founding mothers, it differs a lot from oriental belly dance. One very recognisable difference is in the music used, for choreographies and performances. Belly dance often takes oriental music as its base. Tribal Fusion relies much more on western, contemporary music ( jazz, dubstep, electro, etc.). More on that in follow-up posts.

Teambuilding in Nis Fortress _ Tribal Fusion Sofia

Who am I and why do I love Tribal Style Belly Dance?

I come from Serbia, and have lived in Sofia for the past six years. Earlier, I graduated in Law, and worked in the public sector. Nowadays (ever since I discovered Tribal Fusion), I am a dancer, choreographer, instructor (and also a student!) of tribal dance and related styles. I live with my significant other and two toddlers.

Oriental Belly Dance classes were my first contact with belly dance. Tamara, my oriental belly dance instructor, introduced us to Tribal Style dance in 2010. She suggested us to watch videos of Rachel Brice. As soon as I watched those, I just knew Tribal Fusion was THE belly dance style that I want to pursue.

It was as if I have discovered my next calling. Absolutely love at first sight!

Hence, in 2011, I began my Tribal Fusion Belly Dance pilgrimage throughout Europe. I attended various workshops, trying to soak up as much as I could about it.

To date of this writing, I have learned from following Tribal Fusion instructors:

Rachel Brice (United States), Mardi Love (United States), Susan Frankovich (United States), Mira Betz (United States), Melli Sarina (Germany) Piny, Leo, and Silvia of Orhidaceae (Portugal), Manca Pavli (Slovenia), Olga Meos (Kazakhstan), Michelle Sorensen (United States), Doro Altenburger and Michaela Mab Hamajova of Nakari (Austria), Mat Jacob (Spain), Violet Scrap (Italy), Dud Muurmand (Denmark), Dominika Suchecka (Poland), Agata Zakrzewska (Poland).

In 2012, I met my great friend (and mentor) Nela Kalodjera (aka Nela Tribalica). She has shaped my dance style, and really helped with my learning.

(Nela, if you are reading this – I could have not made it without you and I owe you a  great debt of gratitude).

Nela is one of the Tribal Fusion Belly Dance pioneers in the Balkans. She has been practising, teaching, and choreographing Tribal Dance, since 2005. Nela has organised many Tribal Fusion events in Belgrade and hosted Tribal Fusion instructors from across the globe. Nowadays, Nela is a full time yoga instructor, while still dancing ATS (which is her great passion).

In short – Nela is my mentor, my teacher and a great friend.

What is Tribal Fusion Sofia and why did I start it?

In 2013, I moved with my family to Sofia, and became a mother to a cute little girl who means the world to me (we named her Sofia, as both parenthood and moving to another country meant a new life chapter for both my husband and me). Two years later, I became a mother of a boy, whom we named Martin.

With Sofia and Martin around, I have dedicated my next few years to my children, and to Tribal Fusion. I have found inspiration and strength in both. My children drive me to push through when the going gets tough. Tribal Fusion is what I love, and it inspires me to seek perfection, and express myself in a way that only dance can achieve.

So, naturally, I turned to Sofia (the city, not my daughter 🙂 ), trying to find a local Tribal Fusion dance company. I have been practising online with Nela, yet wanted to dance as part of a group. The only problem – I wasn’t able to find a group in Sofia that would practice Tribal Fusion.

And this is what I have decided to change 🙂

Our journey, vision, and where we go next

“Sofia deserves to learn about Tribal Fusion, ATS, and their culture” I thought. Hence, I set myself a goal to start a local Tribal Fusion Belly Dance school. It was, and still is, my mission – to spread passion and love for these dance styles. In 2017, I opened Tribal Fusion Sofia. It is a place for everyone who wants to experience the power of tribal moves, music and culture. A few energetic and enthusiastic girls joined me at the very beginning, and together we started our first classes in the fall.

Sofia Tribal Fusion Nights

Already, by early 2018, we had organised Sofia Tribal Fusion Nights. With this event, our goal was two-fold:- 1) to show what Tribal Fusion is about and what we do and 2) to demonstrate that, with a few months of focused work, a beginners’ group can be stage-ready.

Our first public performance

I was very proud of my girls that evening. Clearly, the group had a long way to go in terms of technique, strength and power. But, starting from zero and getting to their first performance was not a small milestone, and it worked wonders for their individual and group confidence.

(It was right there that I learned that one of the best ways to help beginners advance rapidly was to put them through their first performance…)

Likewise, I was happy to have other great artists join and support Sofia Tribal Fusion Nights with their skills and passion. The list of performers included Maria Rodriguez, a yoga and tai-chi instructor and dancer; Fire and Light club Divinitas (they literally fired-up the stage); and the band Eriney, performing some of their best tunes, in between dance performances.

(Once again big thanks to all participants at our first Sofia Tribal Fusion Nights. You have all done amazing work and the evening wouldn’t have been the same without you. Looking forward to our next gig!)

Tribal Hafla Festival in Warsaw

A few months later, in mid 2018, I attended Warsaw Tribal Fusion Fest. During the workshops I had a great opportunity to meet and learn from renowned Tribal Fusion instructors. Manca Pavli, Mira Betz and Melli Sarina are among the best, and they shared their best tips without hesitation.

International workshops are always a great opportunity to learn something new and interact with amazing people, skilled dancers, and great teachers. I decided to invite those teachers to Sofia, from time to time, to enrich our local teaching programme.

Local and international guest teachers

Therefore, Tribal Fusion Sofia will invite guest teachers. These teachers come from the locale, or from abroad, and all will bring different dance styles and skills to our Tribal Fusion group. I learned, early in my dance career, that diversity is key, so I always keep my eyes open for new dance trends and try to convey the same message to my students.

In 2018, we opened Tribal Fusion Sofia guest lectures with Katerina Borisova. Katerina is an oriental belly dance instructor from the “Shahira” school of dance: she has taught us about her Fan Veil techniques. We were charmed by her energy and will certainly invite her again.

A few weeks later, Nadia Peeva, from Sofia, gave us a classic ballet lesson. I believe every dancer should have at least a basic understanding of classical ballet, as it is often a core foundation for other dance styles.

We finished last year’s’ guest lecturer season with Maria Rodriguez from Brazil, who taught us about Flamenco, the beauty of its costumes, and the energy that radiates from Flamenco dancers.

In 2019, we began our international line-up with the renowned Gudie Mido, from Berlin. Gudie taught our Tribal Fusion group about her belly dance fusion technique, with a blend of Popping. She is at the top notch of her field, and we were both blessed and happy to have her.

The day after Gudie’s workshops, we had a chance to practice Classical Cabaret-style, with Lily and Danica, our great friends from Nish, Serbia. It was a challenging, but very useful workshop, filled by many jazz and Latin dance elements.

(Stay tuned for other guest teachers throughout 2019…)

Other Fest participations

Last year in April, Tribal Fusion Sofia’s performance group, known as “Sighreen”, took part in the Sofia NUR Fest, presenting one of our latest choreographies. We have also attended a Tribal Fusion workshop, led by Dominika Suchecka.

Later in 2018, our group had two field trips to Nis (my hometown). In June, we held a few dance classes there, in the open air, as well as a group photo session in the fortress. During our second trip to Nis, in July, we attended a Tribal Fusion class, with Grazia Manetti (from Italy) and Bollywood dance workshops, with Pili Rubi (Argentina). We also performed at the Nis RAKS Fest’s Open Stage and Gala Show events.

Overall, we finished the dance season with five completed choreographies, three group costumes, and five stage performances (in Sofia, Nis and Warsaw).

Care Dance March Fundraiser

Recently, on the 2nd of March, 2019, we organized, co-hosted, and did the finale at the very first edition of Care Dance March. Care Dance March (CDM) is a non-profit charitable dance project that we plan to turn into a regular event. CDM gathers dancers of various styles, to raise funds for those in need, while presenting the beauty of dance.

The first Care Dance March edition involved performers of Tribal Fusion, contemporary, cabaret, Popping, and Fusion Dance styles. More importantly, it fulfilled its fundraising goal, and all the profits went to help a little girl preserve her eyesight.

(Care Dance March was a small step in fighting for this cause. However, we have helped at least a bit, both by raising awareness and by contributing the Care Dance March proceeds…)  

We plan to keep on growing the Care Dance March movement, as we firmly believe in the pay-it-forward culture. We will play our part, and help where we can.

Sighreen at Care Dance March 2019 in Sofia | Tribal Fusion Sofia

Sofia Tribal Fest

And now a look to the future:-

In October 2019, we are organizing the very first Sofia Tribal Fest. In line with my goal of bringing amazing international teachers to Sofia, I have invited the fabulous Silvia Orchidaceae and Melli Sarina to hold some detailed dance workshops. It is not often that such Tribal Fusion superstars are in Sofia, soI am very excited and looking forward to hosting them. In addition, we will have a gala evening as well (details to follow).

We have limited attendee slots at the workshops, so make sure to follow our Facebook Page, our Instagram profile, and subscribe to this blog. That way you will be among the first to learn details and secure your spot at the workshops.

Why I decided to start Tribal Fusion Sofia blog

As you can see, we have had a very eventful year, and plan on keeping up the pace. Through my work with various instructors and students, I realised how great it feels to share knowledge, interests, and the passion of (tribal fusion) dance.

I have always wanted to gather a group of enthusiastic, like-minded people, and to enjoy choreographing and dancing together. The very thought of passing on everything I know (and everything that I learn) excites me, and fulfils my purpose.

And that is what I have already started to accomplish with Tribal Fusion Sofia. But then it dawned on me – sharing doesn’t have to end in our dance studio!

This blog is designed to play a part. In this blog, you will read about Tribal Fusion belly dance, American Style dance, costumes, and music that are part of this culture.

Finally, it will be my pleasure to use this blog to connect with my colleagues, dancers from all over the globe. I will be delighted to show that Tribal Fusion is growing and developing in Sofia and the whole of Bulgaria too.

Until the next time, stay well, and dance with passion!

Tribally yours,

Sandra