Dark Fusion Dance

Jareeda Magazine costuming issue 2011
Dark fusion bellydance costume

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul.”
~Martha Graham

“Belly dance is my prayer, my religion, my sensuality, sexuality and power all rolled into one.  Belly dance is healing, cathartic, and as necessary as breathing.  Like Zorba the Greek, who cannot talk about the death of his toddler son, but can only dance in grief; I have danced on stage with tears running down my face and I have put my rage into my shimmies.”
~ Selena

Belly dancing, which proved to be a blessing beyond my expectations, taught me how to listen.  My swaying hips, tracing invisible circles – my belly vibrating, my entire body shimmying – awakened my second chakra, the area that called for my attention.  I listened and wept; I began to heal.  There exists something transformative and healing about belly dancing I cannot fully explain with words.  This ancient dance and a fresh mind-body awareness rescued me, gradually lifting my spirit like a billowing veil.”
~ Martha Elena Burns

“Gothic belly dance is a journey of self discovery…it is about a courage to show yourself in raw emotion, to dance in shadows where others fear to tread and to see the beauty in those aspects.”
~ Dani Graczyk

“…where, these days, is Heathen sacred dance?  Our gods, our ancestors, and ourselves all deserve to share in such a sacred representation of our embodiment…I fear our rituals do not always reflect the love that brought us to our faith.  Heathen ritual forms are often quite austere – is there a joy here that we might be missing?  Heathenry is often marked by a forceful seriousness, and the desire to be extremely historically accurate seems to make people afraid of enjoyable innovation, or, ironically, of accurately reconstructing and reliving the joie de vivre that graced our ancestors’ lives…Dance is not as frivolous an activity as it is often depicted – it offers a profound doorway into the deeper recesses of our selves, into the living spirit of our faith.”
~ Salena Glassburn, “The Gods in Our Bodies: Dance as a Voice of the Heathen Spirit”


I’ve been dancing since I was an adolescent.  For a short time in my youth I performed ballet, jazz, and modern in a student troupe.  Not until my late thirties, however, did I discover belly dance…and in particular, tribal, gothic, and dark fusion belly dance.  I have long been attracted to dance in general and to the darker side of the human experience, but there was something profound about the combination of this dance with the artistic sensibilities of the gothic/industrial subculture that made me fall madly, passionately in love.  Dark fusion dance is one of my most driving passions, and has become a central part of my spiritual practice.

For me, dance is primarily about expressing emotion and exploring bodily ways of knowing.  Dark fusion dance is one of the ways I honour the numinous and express my devotion through movement and connection to the Earth.  Although I have had to make certain adjustments for the sake of my aging knees, belly dance is a dance that can be done for life.  Gods and spirits willing, I will never stop dancing.

Shrine of Skaði
This is my own dark fusion ritual dance project.  My main piece (not yet posted – it’s still in the works) is a choreography to a track called “Wake Skadi” (the shorter version – there are two versions on the album Volven!) by Andréa Nebel Haugen, aka Hagalaz’ Runedance/Nebelhexë.  Andréa’s work is one of my biggest inspirations.

I also choreograph ritual dance pieces to rhythmic noise, neofolk, industrial, and dark ambient music.  The dance I do is focused on devotion, prayer, emotional catharsis and healing rather than entertainment.  I dance for my Serpent Muse, the gods, the spirits, the ancestors, the land…and just for myself.

Following is a collection of links to projects that inspire me in dark fusion belly dance.  It interests me greatly that so many of these dancers in the dark fusion style are Pagans, occultists and polytheists of various stripes.  For years, I was incredibly intimidated and awestruck by the spectre of some of the dancers I idealised – I considered them unreachable, cool in a way I could never be no matter how hard I might try, and way, way out of my league.  Now – after six years of bellydancing – I’m able to see them more straightforwardly as fellow dancers whose work I admire, and I’m happy to count myself as a dark fusion dancer as well (albeit one who is not a performer.)

Dancing Darkly: The Phenomenon of Gothic Belly Dance
This is the article that started it all for me.  This, and the first Gothic Bellydance DVD

Sacred Woman, Sacred Dance – Awakening Spirituality through Movement and Ritual

The Case for a Dancing Heathenry
The Case for a Dancing Heathenry, Part Two

A young devotee of Freyja offers her inspiring thoughts on bringing the joy of dance to Heathen rituals.  Also be sure to check out her article “The Gods in Our Bodies: Dance as a Voice of the Heathen Spirit” (quoted above) in HEX magazine.

Aepril Schaile
Aepril is a belly dancer, musician, excellent costumer, witch, and priestess whose work was one of my earliest inspirations in dark fusion dance.

Check out this performance on YouTube for a tantalizing taste of Aepril’s work, and her Snow Queen performance for even more.

I love her evocative musical choices, her elaborate costuming, the lighting, the choreography, everything.  Her performances are so mystical and packed with emotion that they give me chills.

Aepril’s instructional DVD, “Theatre of the Dark Goddess,” was scheduled to be released in 2013, and the promo video for it features music by Andréa Nebel of Hagalaz’ Runedance/Nebelhexë.  I was one of Aepril’s crowdfunding backers for this project.  Sadly, Aepril ran into problems, and the DVD was never released.

Here’s an inspiring piece of writing from Aepril:

Bellydance: Ancient Art and Spiritual Practice
“I use dance to make my inner world visible.  The act of creation is a ritual and a prayer.  I pray to Thee, Great Goddess, that I might be a perfect conduit for your Divine Spirit.”
~ Aepril Schaile

The Gothic Belly Dance Resource
Tempest, the “GothMutha” and the dancer responsible for Bellydance for Beautiful Freaks, put together this wonderful resource.

I’m excited to see that interest in dark fusion dance seems to be increasing.  The first Gothla that I knew about took place in the US in 2008; there are now Gothla events in several countries:

Gothla US
Gothla UK (organised by my friend Bridie Przibram of Black Veil Tribal)
Gothla Italy
Gothla Germany
Gothla Spain
Gothla Brazil

Lumen Obscura
A dark fusion & theatrical bellydance event in San Jose, CA.

Their site hasn’t been updated for awhile so I’m not sure they’re still active, but their website inspired me in the early days after I discovered gothic bellydance, so I wanted to include them here nonetheless.

Ascend Tribal Dance
The home of Sashi, whose dance to The Retrosic’s “Storm” captivated me on the Gothic Bellydance: Revelations DVD.

Ariellah Darker Still
Ariellah is an amazing dancer and a Pagan as well.  (Check out this cool interview with her!)

Mortifera Fusion Dance
Gothic fusion dance and dark art performance troupe from Washington, DC, specialising in horror and deathrock performances with a touch of camp.

Chthonia Bellydance
“Chthonia is thought to mean ‘the subterraneous or the goddess of the earth’.  Bellydance is inextricably connected to the Earth; you cannot perform the movements safely without a strong posture with your weight firmly rooted into the earth.  Dance posture starts with your feet and your connection with the Earth beneath you and in bellydance you very rarely leave the ground!”  Check out my favourite performance by Lyza.

Raqs Gothique
Australian Gothic, Steampunk & Dark Cabaret Fusion Bellydance.  Features Ma’isah, one of my all-time favourite dark fusion bellydancers.  Check out her amazing solo improv performance (at a private monastery!) – I am completely mesmerised by the way she moves, especially her hands.  So gorgeous.  She’s the only other dancer I know who likes to dance to dark ambient music.  She’s now teaching online classes, and will be releasing a DVD soon!

Nouveau Devadasi
A Temple Dance Performance Salon at Om Shan Tea (SF).

Hands of Kali
Dark experimental bellydance.  I briefly studied with Kendra in early 2007 during my short stay in Seattle.

Desert Sin Theatrical Dance Company
“…embracing the beautiful & grotesque within.”  Incredible dancers!  Their Mermaids piece, featured in Bellydance-O-Rama Vol. 3, is one of my all-time favourite performances.  Even after years of watching it, it still moves me to tears every single time I see it.  (The link is only a clip; the full-length performance must be seen to get the full emotional impact.)

Transfusion Dance – Deviance, Evolution, Variance.  I just love these dancers!  Don’t miss their performance on the Gothic Bellydance: Revelations DVD.  See their The Fourth Wall performance at Gothla 2009 for a taste, and see their performance at Tribal Fest 2007 for an energetic and inspiring industrial fusion dance with attitude.

Amazing dancer, thinker, and writer.  She was my first dance crush.  Her emotionally dramatic performance at Tribal Fest 8 – to a very intense breakcore track called “Grist” by Drumcorps – is a perfect example of how to do strong dark emotion in bellydance the right way.

Raqs Fusion Factory
These three dancers from Italy captivated me with their “Fusion at the Opera” performance in 2012.  Great choreography, beautiful veilwork, lovely costumes, and exceptional interpretation of the music.  I particularly love their fusion of jazz dance moves with belly dance.  I hope to have an opportunity to study with them someday!

Other performances I love:

Sera Solstice dancing to “Walls” by Apparat.  Another very emotional performance.  I love the blue lighting too.

Edenia dancing at Gothla 2009 – I especially love the way she builds anticipation and attunes her movements so clearly to the variations in the music.  The third track, “What” by Amduscia, is one of my favourite industrial tunes.

And last but not least, if you’d like to read some inspiring stories told by belly dancers – with great photos, too – check out How Belly Dance Changed My Life.


“A dancer is not great because of her technique. A dancer is great because of her passion.”
~ Martha Graham



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