(This article was also tweaked and posted to NWBellydance.com)
We tribal dancers are well known for our ongoing debates about what is and is not tribal, but beyond that we debate the minutiae of what sub-set of tribal best defines what we do or see: ATS, ITS, Tribal Fusion, Gothic Tribal, Modern Interpretive Slapstick Gymnastic Dark Theatre…?? So it should come as no surprise to anyone who has studied bellydance any deeper than the shallow surface that cabaret isn’t “just cabaret” any more than tribal is “just tribal”. Cabaret is a simplistic term which for many encompasses a rich and varied collection of artistic choices. Turkish, Egyptian, Goldern Era Nightclub, American Cabaret, Lebanese, Greek, not to mention a plethora of folk dances for both social dance and stage performance, all get lumped unceremoniously under the term “cabaret”.
This article doesn’t necessarily offer any suggestions or resolutions to the question “So what do we call it, then?” but it gives some succinct and thoughtful insight into the issue, and I think provides some perspective to dancers of all styles on the question of names.
The word Cabaret no longer refers to ‘All bellydancers performing ethnic styles in sparkly costumes’ — but many dancers who haven’t kept up with the changing scene still use the term that way. Dancers who have never studied or performed in the American Cabaret style are often referred to as Cabaret-style dancers, which is very confusing to everyone involved.