Hidden safely under coin-decorated brassieres and kohl-rimmed eyes, the dancers' "real" identities probably don't get as much attention as the bejeweled, shimmying parts of them. The group is well loved here in its native Bay Area as well as around the globe, and is, one imagines, well fantasized about. Members are, shall we understate, easy on the eyes. But the business acumen and self-determination of Ultra Gypsy are two of the things that make the group so compelling -- you're not just looking at pretty dollies, you're looking at soccer players, production directors, and an organizer for the League of Women Voters. It shows.
Founder Jill Parker spent years studying martial arts, theater, exercise traditions like yoga and pilates, and the following cavalcade of dance styles: flamenco, Tunisian, Turkish, Egyptian, salsa, Afro-Haitian, and fire dancing. Add it all up, and with most people you'd just get someone who's really fit. Parker, however, is a bit of an inventor: While working with the Fat Chance Belly Dance company, she helped come up with the concept of urban tribal dance, described on the UG Web site as "picking up what we need and defying the taboos that bind us ... modern and primitive, urban and tribal, medusa and machine." That was back in 1996, and obviously, the concept is now rampant not only in dance circles, but in literature, music, and art as well.