Interview with Amy and Kari of Unmata at Tribal Fest 2012
Amy Sigil is a world renowned Tribal Fusion and Improvisational Tribal Style dancer, teacher and choreographer. Kari and Amy have been dancing with each other for years in Amy’s troupe Unmata, based in Sacramento, California.
Unmata is known for its Improvisational Tribal Style, or ITS, dance that combines bellydance with hula, hiphop, modern and whatever else they want to create lively, energetic and mesmerizing sequences. Amy created this troupe and style after studying American Tribal Style®, or ATS®, out of San Francisco which allows extemporization of choreography as dancers follow cues from each other. Their style has become so popular that they travel worldwide to teach, including France, Beijing, Moscow, Costa Rica, and Mexico City.
Amy relates people’s attraction to Unmata and her teaching to their inclusive nature. “I wasn’t born in the dance studio. I come from a different entrance and I think that makes us relatable.”
She didn’t start dancing until her 20s. Even after learning bellydance, she was still doing ceramics, painting and woodworking. “It wasn’t until I took ATS® that things started changing because when I first saw ATS®, I saw it as Basketball plays.” She equated the leader to the team captain who calls plays. She saw the patterns and the interactive improvisational nature of ATS where dance troupes make points with the audience. “They’re running plays, there’s just no ball, but they’re running plays!”
“I was practically born on a team. We were used to being able to play a role without ego. When they talk about being a team player, it’s not about giving enough ideas as it is accepting what people’s roles are…you do this, and you run the ball here, and you’re the one who does this. It’s not that I (have this role) because I’m better or worse.”
Amy has now studied Bellydance, hula and hiphop. After seeing some of her choreographies, its surprising that she hasn’t officially studied modern dance. She explains, “I think I’m exploring my body and a lot of contemporary dancers explore their body.” She’s inspired by some of the contemporary dancers Donna Mejia, Heather Stants, Tjarda Van Straten, Cera Byer, Mandala Danceworks (Karin Jensen), and Khani Zulu. “So I’m trying to work with different elements than just my core (repertoire)”.
“Dance has been my life forever.”
While Amy didn’t identify with herself as a dancer until her 20s, Kari danced as a child. She has studied Ballet, Tapdance, Jazz, Hula, Tahitian, and Flamenco. Kari began her bellydance training with American Tribal Style, performing with Invaders of the Heart in Davis. She’s an amazing performer and brings 110% to the stage.
She knew she was a dancer “from the moment I could do it. It really is my expression. It’s my art. It’s the one thing that makes me feel normal. I was ready to get on stage today to feel normal. I love the dance studio the hard work, the sweat, the tears…all of it.”
If you get an opportunity, take classes from Kari or Amy at Hot Pot Studios, or at a dance studio near you. Their class format is high energy, inspirational and a lot of fun.
Keep on Keeping On Unmata. Your style and ground breaking art continues to inspire.