Me vs. The Salimpour Formats – by Sally Myrfield

SALIMPOUR! Let’s understand and relate to this name.

In a nutshell – Jamila Salimpour is a living legend. She is the originator of tribal belly dance in America, and has been influential in North American belly dance for over 50 years. Jamila is also the first one to solidify a format of terminology in belly dance still used today; her format is taught and applied to dancers’ movements worldwide as what most would call “Good Ol’ Fashioned Belly Dance”.

Jamila created her format in the 1960’s, gathering and codifying a collection of belly dance movements by watching dancers all over the Middle East and in her home state of California, and organized them into “step families”, giving them their names that dancers still use today.

Then along came Suhaila, Jamila’s daughter. Suhaila then took her mother’s “moves” and broke them down muscularly in order to better explain them to students. From there, Suhaila’s format exploded giving birth to the concept of infinite possibilities, with the body parts and muscles having the ability to work independently along multiple movement pathways – this is why I call my Suhaila format based classes “Geometry In Motion”!

From that independent muscle work, many of the moves we see in bellydance today – specifically in Tribal Fusion with all the locks and pops – all came from Suhaila breaking things down muscularly and giving dancers a palette of movement with which to create their own dance. This approach to teaching and exploring the movements involved in belly dance paved the way for fusion, as no one before Suhaila had examined the movements in such detail before. It became a useful tool for dancers all over the place, and stimulated creativity in the dance. SO! Is technique freedom?

If you have followed a similar path like myself, you have approached the Salimpour formats in reverse. As a new bellydancer I began training as a “tribal fusion” dancer. Immediately I was drawn to Suhaila’s format of drilling and isolated muscle contractions with the option of unlimited combinations. As I developed as a dancer and artist, I became thirsty for the “how” and the “why” this was all happening. I began to dive in to the Jamila format, working through the step families, and discovering the precise lineage from these moves to the movement in not only my particular style, but the styles of all the dancers around me. This added such a rich quality to what I was producing. Jamila’s steps flowed from one to the next, facilitating improvisational dance within the context of the format, and I soon noticed this progression and “seamless transitioning” in my own dancing. I very quickly realized that this regimented training was ultimately what would set me free as a dancer. Technique IS freedom!

I will continue my studies in these formats because I know it is making me the best dancer I can be, no matter what “style” I choose. As a teacher, I’ve noticed that incorporating these concepts in to my own classes has stimulated positive growth in my own students. With Salimpour technique, you can do anything, it is so freeing! Jamila format is both improvisation and choreography. Suhaila Format unlocks the body to unlimited movement. Through these formats I am feeling stronger as a dancer, more comfortable with improv, and I find learning choreography much easier – within bellydance and beyond.

The Salimpour formats are incredibly accessible. As students of this dance form we are so lucky to have all of this information bundled up in to one neat little package. Salimpour training is the accelerated track for your dance journey.

If you are interested in studying these formats with me, come try a class!
For more information on the Salimpour legacy visit:
Happy dancing!!


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