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Tribal becomes ten years old in our neighbouring country, Poland. We like that. The community there seems to stick together very well, because they will celebrate this anniversary with a big festival in the old residence city of Krakow. We asked our “Hagalladies” and “Nakari” the duo simpatico from Vienna said yes, spontaneously. So they will go there and write a report about it. An anniversary like this cries out for more, an interview, for instance and we were lucky to find Yolanda, the big mother of Polish Tribal, as well as Yaten Kou, who is with the community only for several years, who is male, and who is one of the organisers of the big festival. We are happy to got hold on these two, but read for yourself ...

Interview with Yolanda and Yaten Kou

by Marcel Bieger

How did Tribal find you and why did you stick to it?

Yolanda: In 2004 I discovered, quite accidentally, belly dance. In these times belly dance in Poland was completely new and unknown. There were only few teachers in the whole country, most of them in Warsaw and other big cities. I started to learn belly dance from Alaya Shirin. She was the first teacher in the Silesia region, the part of country I come from. One day, maybe a year later Alaya showed us the first “BDSS” DVD, the one we for sure all know and have seen multiple times - with Jillina, Rania, Ansuya, other belly dance stars and... Rachel Brice. And, how predictable of me, I was yet another dancer to follow the same old pattern: "I saw Rachel Brice, I want to dance like her".

I was so charmed by what I saw. Rachel's dance was soooo different compared to other belly dancers. It seemed to perfectly match my introverted personality and sense of aesthetics. I was so attracted by this! I came back home and started to search the internet for more. In that time (2005) there was almost nothing to be found. Just a few videos of a very bad quality, some photos, and tribal groups’ websites.
I devoured them all immediately and wanted more. My first attempts of dancing tribal were funny and intuitive, mostly based on what I saw on the internet and DVDs. However, a few months later, in the beginning of 2006 I started my own tribal group, called “Zaghareet” (which still exists today as “Samarkanda Tribal Bellydance Group”). We had our debut at the Nova Orient Festival in Katowice in April 2006. It was the very first tribal performance in Poland. After the concert we got some feedback from the audience, asking us what kind of "strange flamenco" this had been.

I didn't want to do "strange flamenco", I wanted to learn, create real opportunities to grow and develop the "real" tribal belly dance in Poland. So I started to travel abroad to multiple workshops, festivals to learn from the women I have been mesmerised by. Meeting them face to face and learning from them in person was a refreshing and almost unreal experience. At least once in a month I travelled across Europe to soak up all the tribal knowledge I could possibly find. A real breakthrough was a journey to the USA, the very home of Tribal - the San Francisco Bay Area, to be specific. I have even written a BLOG about that (and it's still somewhere on the web). In the beginning of 2007 I started to teach tribal in the Nova dance school in Katowice. And so it has all begun!

What brought the idea into your mind to start Tribalin Poland and to spread it around in Poland - or in short, how did the story continue?

When I travelled abroad it was not only dance that attracted me.
Another, maybe even more beautiful thing was the tribal community. The sisterhood, the feeling of being together, sharing the same passion and supporting each other was something I longed for. I was a stranger, a foreigner among those dancers, but yet I felt like I had found my family. It gave me a strong feeling of being a part of something amazing, something really huge and wonderful. And Poland, during that time was like a tribal desert. We had completely nothing. I wanted to us to have the same community, the same feeling of sisterhood and the feeling of belonging to one big family, which respected and supported each other in such a difficult task.
I wanted them to have a common goal, make friendships and just... be. It may sound like a utopia, but I am a dreamer. Otherwise I wouldn't be doing this for such a long time. But I understood that travelling abroad isn't something everyone can afford. That's when a new idea came into my mind.

I started to invite foreign stars and teachers to Poland. The first time this happened was in March 2008. I brought to life the first polish tribal belly dance festival called Raqs Tribal. Why March? Because I thought that it's spring time, and it's like a new beginning. So, I couldn't find a better time! My first guests were Bri Hurley and Elizabeth Strong.

Since then, it kept on going like a real rollercoaster!! I have then organised at least once (sometimes even twice) a year a festival with stars like Ariellah, Samantha Emanuel, Mira Betz, Sharon Kihara, Mardi Love, Philippa Morai, Violet Scrap and Morgana just to name a few.

I also did summer camps in Ustka (which is located on the polish seaside). It brings so many memories, so close to my heart, because I have seen this community growing from scratch! And I was one of the bricks that is the foundation of it! You won't believe me, how happy I was!

When did you stumble over tribal and how did you become part of the community?
Yaten Kou: I remember, when I still was a dancing baby, I wanted to imbibe as much of all possible belly dance I could. Therefore in between my oriental classes I did watch countless videos via You Tube. And so I came across several dancers that looked and danced a bit... odd. I found it weird but somehow intriguing - and so I have watched Rachel Brice, Sharon Kihara, Zoe Jakes, Kami Liddle to name a few (and at that time I wouldn't believe that one day I would meet some of them them in person (like Kami or Sharon) and participate in their workshops!!). At one of the few belly dance events in Poznan (the city I've been living in at that time) I have seen a tribal fusion performance (by Iza Łogonowicz), and I was so happy that this dance form is in my country and my city, that I decided to go to a workshop and suck, of course but try to do my best and learn as much as I can.

After this experience, with sore muscles and a brainwash I knew one thing! I wanted more! And so I have studied both oriental and tribal and began studying ATS® after FCBD®. I wanted to share my love of belly dance as well as meet other dancers and performed at numerous events. After some time I got to know many other Polish dancers and organised some workshops in Poznan with them.

At one point of my dancing life I have met Yolanda, the legend I had then only heard about. I took part in a stage project, which she had co-founded. She was one of the people that had a major influence on my life, both as a dancer and as a person. Today I am honoured to call her my teacher, inspiration, friend, and even dance partner -

which is a dream come true for a humble person like me. Although I have moved to Glasgow, UK - I am still strongly connected with the polish tribal scene, and can't wait to perform again in Poland!!

What did the tribal community look, then?
Yaten Kou: As I have just said - I didn't know much back then. So whatever I have found on the internet - I was eager to try. The community was rather small and still developing. It seemed as if everybody knew each other and they were all so passionate about what they were doing. That was really inspiring - as I finally knew that there were more "weirdos" like me!

Is Tribal in Poland one style for all or did it diversify through the years (for instance into ATS, ITS, Gothic and so on, you name it)?

Yolanda: Of course not just one! It was never a closed form, and it followed many paths. Polish tribal started to develop much later when compared to other European countries, but it immediately attracted many dancers, with different needs and personalities as well as different backgrounds.

As easy to predict, the biggest interest divides into the two main tribal branches: ATS and tribal fusion, but fusion in Poland has taken many shapes and colours. We have dancers who are faithful to the beautiful, classical "old school" fusion, and on the other hand we have experimenters mixing tribal with all kinds of modern dances, we have dark souled dancers inclining into Gothic styles.

But what I can say for sure, polish dancers are very versatile and as I observe them, they don't like to limit themselves to one style or flavour.
For example, the best polish tribal dancers still dance and perform classical, oriental belly dance, the style most of us began with.

Is there a special Polish brand of Tribal, maybe in combination with your folklore?
Yaten Kou: I don't think that any Polish folklore has been excessively used, or incorpoated into any form of tribal belly dance. I know some dancers and groups, who experimented with using some of the songs and I know that the Polish band “Dikanda” is really popular among ATS® dancers worldwide.

As for a specific style - there are lots of dancers, who have their personal, unique style based upon their experience and research in dance in general. As for example Yolanda is famous for ATS® old school, Indian, Gothic and glam fusion (where as for the Indian fusion genre I would say that she is one among the 2 (or 3) top dancers that are capable of doing a proper one!! Me for example - I love old school, however during the years I have started to incorporate (as a sort of back to basics) classcal belly dance and folklores into it. The other part of me is full of experiments with modern/contemporary fusion and exploring performances inspired by dance theatre. So by even looking at the two persons - you can see a large diversity. Many of the polish tribal dancers are very creative and have something that makes their dance their own.

Do you see yourself as sort of a leader or mother of Polish tribal?

: Maybe more of a grand mother, considering how many generations we already have. I was the person who started all of this, but I would rather call it a coincidence. I think I was the right person at the right time. I'm sure tribal would have come to Poland without help anyway.
But I hope I made this process faster and easier, by organizing events, inviting instructors who taught us how to develop a strong technique and build confidence and a personal style upon it. I think I tried to give others, what I didn't have. For instance the opportunity to learn in my own country. Those dancers were real, were in our grasp, and not only on the computer screen. I think that was really important. Maybe this made some people start to learn tribal, because they didn't have the time and the money to travel abroad, and started just because they finally could do it without having to travel around the world.

You as a male, what are your special experiences in a female art community?

Yaten Kou
: First of all, belly dance was never a female-exclusive dance form! But nevertheless - my personal view on dance is - that it is gender neutral.

Just as in the Greek theatre - the sex of the actors didn't matter. They had roles to play and that was it. This is the way I perceive dance - as a role-play, a method of conveying emotions, a way of storytelling and taking the viewers into a whole different moment offering them an unforgettable journey and entertainment. This is also one of the main things that I emphasize, whilst creating choreographies. I want to tell a story, to express what I feel, or to show another perspective for any inspiring factors such as art in general, real life situations etc.

How is the tribal situation in Poland today?
Yaten Kou: Today I can tell for sure that the community is growing, and fast! It's great to see that more and more people fall in love with something that is so dear to my heart!

Where will the Polish tribal be at its 20th anniversary?

Yolanda: I don't know! It's developing that fast that it's hard to say where it will be next year. But I can share my hopes with you. First, I would like to work on making tribal more recognizable in Polish society. It's a beautiful art form, giving to dancers strength, feeling on being part of community. I would like to give Polish women (and maybe some men, too) a possibility to come and try. They will come only if they would know about us. So... I hope tribal will become as popular as belly dance one day.My second wish is for this community to remain friends, to be close, respectful and aware of each other. To always treat themselves equal - because we all worked so hard to build all of this.

When I think about how many friendships were made on numerous festivals, how many people got to know each other because of the shared interest - and this feeling of not being alone, but a part (maybe a kidney, or an ear) of a large entity. I would like it all to remain that way.

Looking back today, do you feel proud or satisfied or just happy to have achieved so much?

Yolanda: Yes, definitely! We all did a great work here and this is what we're going to celebrate this June.

a birthday cake and... apart from that we’re having a tribal bazaar, an exhibition showing the history of the Polish tribal scene in pictures, watching old clips together and reliving our memories and more!

Just come and see!


Yaten Kou

Krakow (Poland)
Jun3, 17th - 18th 2016

Infos at facebook
Graphics/WebDesign: Konstanze Winkler
Photos ©: Dariusz Malach, Kuba Cichocki,, Fiona McLaren, margofoto
The Star Guests at RAQS TRIBAL 2016
Yaten Kou at Warshaw Tribal Festival 2016
Yaten Kou
The YY-Team - Yaten Kou and Yolanda
Yaten Kou
Yaten Kou
Yolanda's first Summer Camp in Ustka 2008
Yolanda and her dance partner - Nova Orient 2006
Yolanda and her Tribe Zaghareet - Festival "Nova Orient", Kattowice 2007
Enlighten us about the anniversary festival, what surprises and wonderful things do you have in store?

Yaten Kou: As for the wonderful things, I can assure you that there is only one! The whole festival! And I am not a person that likes to exaggerate! We've got a lovely host, in one of my favourite cities of all, Krakow, we're having Colleena Shakti doing workshops (for the first time in Poland, and one of her very rare visit's to Europe!), we have workshops with the creators of the Polish tribal scene (with Yolanda among them, of course) - each of them will prepare a workshop taken from their unique repertoire
-, there will be a Gala Show, a celebration hafla,