Don’t Miss Inko di Ö’s Sizzling Tribal Bellydance Performances at This Year’s Hot & Spicy Fest (Apr 14-15)

As the vendors sling various fiery wares at the Hot & Spicy Festival this weekend (Apr 14-15), Inko di Ö will be bringing a different kind of heat to the Galaxy Soho stage. The French artist has long been known by fellow Beijingers as one of the city's top tribal belly dancers and instructors. She'll debut some moves from her very own new style of dance on both days of the fest (Saturday, Apr 14 at 5.45pm and Sunday, Apr 15 at 3.45pm). Ahead of her performance, Inko di Ö tells us about what inspired her to create that new style of dance, what students can expect at her upcoming tribal bellydance workshops, and more.

For those of us unfamiliar with the world of tribal belly dance, what does it involve and where does it originate?
Tribal belly dance is a modern art form, born in the 60’s in the West Coast of America, and based on the fusion of very ancient dances such as oriental belly dance, flamenco and Indian dance. Initially, it was a combination of oriental belly dance moves mixed with ethnic, tribal costume elements. With time, this style first evolved to what we call American Tribal Style (ATS), and later on its crazy child, tribal fusion belly dance, was born. Tribal fusion belly dance is an ever-changing dance form, but still, we can very clearly distinguish ATS belly dance from Tribal Fusion belly dance, because both of these sub-styles relate to different mindsets, aesthetics, looks and effects.

From my understanding, American Style Tribal belly dancing is usually performed in a group and is improvisational. What does the added element of improvisation require from the performers? How do you practice improvisational styles?
Yes, American Tribal Style belly dance is a collective improvisational dance practice. It's just like a language: we have a set of moves, a vocabulary of gestures, that we can combine according to a few rules, which I see as grammar. Dancing together, therefore, feels like writing a poem together. In order to improvise, you must be fully connected to the music, to yourself, and to the other dancers, which is incredibly relaxing and rejoicing. It feels like melting together in a “big body” and you truly experience this golden thread of sisterhood.

Tell us more about the differences between tribal fusion belly dance and American-style tribal belly dance.
ATS belly dance is definitely the best style to begin with, since it teaches you everything you need to know in term of posture, basic moves, mindset, and culture. Afterward, depending on your personality and dance skills, you may need to evolve towards tribal fusion belly dance which requires more refined techniques, mainly to layer moves with different body parts on different tempos. It is a kind of mental game aiming at controlling your muscles. My students have a lot of fun during the classes, and are always amazed by how suggestively and beautifully they can eventually move!

How long have you been practicing and teaching belly dancing?
It's been an eight-year adventure for me now! I started practicing in 2010, teaching in 2012 and performing with my own tribe the Lunatic Moires in 2014.

What do people learn during one of your belly dancing workshops?
I'm having two workshops this Spring: ATS on Apr 20-22, and tribal fusion on May 22-24. Both weekends are beginner-friendly and end with a professional photo shoot in costume. These workshops are also possible preparatory courses for my coming show, inspired by ‘the magic of water’! The first workshop is inspired by the Apsaras, the Asian deities of clouds and rain, while the second workshop is an interpretation of the dangerous powers of mermaids.

What are some misconceptions about belly dancing?
People often think that belly dance is a strictly female dance. But men can also belly dance! And without looking effeminate at all! It is actually pretty normal for men to belly dance in certain Middle Eastern and North African countries, and their dance is absolutely gorgeous and magnificent to watch.

What skills do you need to become a top belly dancer?
When you start tribal belly dance, you might first struggle to control your muscles. But to reach the best level in this dance discipline, you must be able to deeply relax your muscles so that your dance looks effortless.

Also, I would say that it's crucial to cultivate your own artistic personality, your own approach of this style, and to actually tell a story through your dance, instead of showing off a set of skills. The technique must serve the poetry. Personally, if I am watching an amazing dancer, I’m not analyzing her or his moves anymore, I’m just lost in the world these moves are sewing for me.

What is one thing that you would say to someone who might want to try belly dancing but hasn’t plucked up the courage?
There is no bad student, but only wrong guides! And: everything is a matter of time and consistency.

Inko di Ö will perform tribal bellydance at our Hot and Spicy Festival on Saturday, Apr 14 from 5.45-6pm and Sunday, Apr 15 at 3.45-4pm.


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Inko di Ö's workshops will be held Apr 20-22, and Tribal Fusion on May 22-24. For more information on those workshops, scan the QR code or see the poster below.

Images: Courtesy of Inko di Ö