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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Verve: A melting pot of music, dance

Spokane musician and flute maker Thomas Richardson, center, supplies the music for Koreshakti Tribal Fusion, a belly dance troupe that his wife, Nicole, right, and Savannah Demers, left, perform with.  (Colin Mulvany)
Spokane musician and flute maker Thomas Richardson, center, supplies the music for Koreshakti Tribal Fusion, a belly dance troupe that his wife, Nicole, right, and Savannah Demers, left, perform with. (Colin Mulvany)
Jennifer Larue

Like painting and drawing, dance is an ancient form of communication used to express emotions; elaborate costumes and painted faces add to the expressions. Be it celebratory or mournful, the act of moving to the beat stirs what lies within and exposes it to others. It’s almost intimidating really, to watch them dance, but once you allow yourself to sway in your seat and give up those societal confinements, it’s a rush. Koreshakti (a made-up word to describe feminine energy) Tribal Fusion has the ability to bring out the tribal in us all.

Tribal fusion is a modern form of belly dancing that incorporates traditional styles of dance with hip-hop and popping. Like Cirque du Soleil, a dramatic mix of circus arts and street entertainment, Tribal Fusion could be considered a dramatic mix of belly dancing arts and street entertainment, fused to become a melting pot of movement and designed to entertain.

Local trailblazers of tribal fusion, Nicole Richardson, Thomas Richardson and Savannah Demers hope to bring the young and heartfelt style of dance to the public with events including their recent two-night show at the Empyrean where about a dozen dancers performed in fabulous costumes, their hair adorned with beads and flowers, some of their faces exaggerated with paint and glitter.

“Tribal fusion is an infant in the dance world; it’s still defining itself,” Nicole Richardson said. “It can be hard like a stone or sweet and fragile. I can express anything I feel with tribal fusion. Its rules have not been written yet.”

A Spokane native, Richardson took up the dance form about six years ago after being introduced to it by Demers. Since then, she has studied the art form intensively and was instrumental in forming the Koreshakti troupe. Demers, born in Louisiana, was involved in Renaissance fairs. A visit to a Renaissance Festival in the northwest instigated a move to the Spokane area.

Richardson’s husband, a musician and flute maker who sells his flutes all over the world, performs for the dancers with his band, Pax Lumina. Their sound is meditative, a mix of hard and soft, and is a perfect fit for tribal fusion. “There is a magical creative inspiration through working with great dancers that brings out the best in the musician and makes it almost effortless to create the music,” Thomas Richardson said, “I have a deep respect for belly dancing, seeing the long hours and hard work that it takes to get good. The technique and training that it requires make me, as a musician, want to be at the top of my game when I step out on stage to perform with Koreshakti.”

The artist collective of dancers and musicians hopes to tour in the future with larger sets and the addition of magic and other circus type of acts. They also hope to find a permanent venue in which to practice and perform. In April, Koreshakti Tribal Fusion will be the opening act for Seattle-based band Abney Park at the Knitting Factory, 919 W. Sprague Ave.

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