Is anyone else in the belly dance world feeling down these days? Like there’s a big hole in our universe and there’s almost nothing that can fill it?
The closer we get to May, the sadder I get that there won’t be a Tribal Fest to attend this year. Sadder still that we didn’t have the chance to say goodbye last year – not knowing that it was going to be the last year. There was so much more to Tribal Fest than just being a belly dance festival. It was a place of community, of feeling like coming home, a place for family. A wacky, fun, creative, and amazing family. A family of chosen peers. And it being one of the largest belly dance festivals left, it was a place where we saw more of that family than we did all year at our local events.
Beyond the family, the Tribal Fest stage was the BEST show I’ve ever seen. Each year, growing and becoming better than the last. All thanks to the performers and the space to show such creativity. The safety of being able to try out something new, or something ridiculous, something funny, something serious or sad. The idea that with each new act that came onto the stage, the audience would have no clue what was about to happen. How much their minds would be blown. How much beauty, grace, and genius was about to enter the stage. Some of the most amazing performances that will stay forever burned in my brain have been at Tribal Fest and in the early after parties put on by Unmata (back in the day). Women with horse bits in their mouths and tails swinging to and fro as they danced. Women dressed in crimson as the most beautiful vampires I’ve ever seen… stepping up on to boxes making them tower fourteen feet over the audience – looming over us with grace and beauty. A stage filled with color, smiles, and quick group improv steps. Dark, eery performances – remember the implanted steel wings?! Gorgeous slinky male performances. Props, fun, mayhem… costume malfunctions… singing – wow, did you know that she could sing too?! Remembering them all is like seeing a huge part of my life flash before my eyes.
And there’s so much more to miss! Arrival day, stopping by the market to pick up food for our vacation rental. Running into all of the other dancers. Spending a week in the forest, surrounded by people I love, admire, and respect. Catching up with old friends, meeting new ones. Impromptu performances at our house for the week. Drinking wine and talking all night. Laughter filling the air everywhere I turned.
The festival is pretty much irreplaceable. I, along with some of my other housemates, have been discussing potential events that might fill the void, might bring us all together from across the country, might give us the opportunity to have a pay-cation (where we make money as vendors to help pay for the trip). Nothing yet discussed has filled that idea… that spot in the universe where all of these things line up. I hope with all hopes something arises. Or that maybe another, older festival might return. Something to fill the void left by the loss of Tribal Fest.
In the meantime, we do have a plan. I’m pretty excited about it and I think it will definitely take the sting out of missing Tribal Fest so much this first year. We’re putting together a trip to San Luis Obispo the same week as Tribal Fest!! There aren’t any belly dance plans yet, but I’m sure if enough of us are there, plans will get rolling. If not, there is still so much to do there. From the quaint small-town shops, to the delicious restaurants (anyone been to Moe’s?!), the farmer’s market, the pubs, Avila Beach, and even the Monterey Bay Aquarium is just up the road a bit! We’ll be there from the 9th to the 16th… and we would love to have any/all of you join us who might be missing TF that week and just want to get together, have some fun, and maybe even do a little dancing!
Hopefully, with friends, laughter, and love all around us, it won’t hurt so bad that week. RIP Tribal Fest… you will be sadly missed.
What will you miss most about Tribal Fest? Leave your notes and memories in the comments!