Tribal Arms Workshop, Fri 17 Aug

This workshop will focus on the basic arm positions in American Tribal Style® belly dance; how they’re related to each other; and what moves they’re found in. We’ll look at details of elbow, forearm and hand posture; the back muscles that are involved, and how hand movements interact with the basic positions.
Friday, August 17, 2018
Kolos studio (2730 Montague St, lower level, #8)
This workshop is for those with some experience with ATS or tribal style belly dance. Space is limited, so please register in advance to reserve your spot via the Contact page. Preferred payment method is e-transfer. Bring finger cymbals if you have them.
See the event on Facebook.

Simple silver bangles

A great place to start a jewelry collection.

ATS costume has a rich, generous look to it, but collecting the pieces to create the look can feel overwhelming, and it can be a serious investment. As exciting as some of the big, authentic pieces can be, they aren’t the best place to start a jewelry collection.

One of the first things I bought was this set of silver-tone bangles with a hammered texture. (This  hammered texture is in emulation of a hand technique, but the texture here was likely accomplished with a rolling mill.)

The bracelets are hollow construction and thus very light, which is a virtue – especially by the end of a performance when you feel like your arms are about to fall off.

I bought these ones new for I think $5 each at Ten Thousand Villages, a store that sells fair trade handicrafts from around the world. Made in India, they’re a really great basic item and I wish I’d gotten more, but it took me a while to learn the “more is more” lesson. Also, I hadn’t figured out my style yet and it was just as likely that I’d wear them once and never again.

The (nickel silver?) plating is wearing off a little on the edges, but that lived-in texture  and sense of personal history is entirely appropriate here. Newness, polish and modernity just doesn’t suit the aesthetic.

bangle – noun. 1. a rigid, ring-shaped bracelet usually made without a clasp so as to slip over the hand, but sometimes having a hinged opening and a clasp.

1780-90; < Hindi banglī, variant of bangrī glass ring, armlet

My first ATS costume

Too much is probably not enough.

The first time I performed ATS, I got kitted out in the choli, pantaloons, skirt, and headdress I had recently made, decked myself in all my jewelry, and caked on the makeup. My day-to-day aesthetic had always been understated and I now felt awkward and completely overdressed and overdone.

Until I got to the performance venue. When I saw what my fellow dancers were wearing, I had to revise my self-perception: I was, in comparison, underdressed and under made-up.

Such is the way of ATS costuming: (what feels like) too much is probably not enough. At least for me.

ATS has a general silhouette but still a lot of latitude in the details of the costume. The basic pieces include: a choli (a backless top inspired by the Indian garment of the same name); a full tiered skirt; pantaloons; a headdress (full, low-profile, or otherwise). The look has also developed and expanded since its origin in 1987. (When I see the size of the headdresses from back in the day, I can’t help but wonder how much the teased and hairsprayed coiffures of the day influenced their proportions.)

Troupe costumes tend to relate to each other without coming close to being identical. I’d go so far to say that the ATS aesthetic generally rejects mass produced items because they tend to lack character. Part of the joy in creating your costume is celebrating the individuality of items made by hand rather than by a machine.

You express your personality when you choose (buy, make) your costume pieces. If you have too many pieces to wear them all at once, you express your creativity in the way you curate and display your collection for the day’s performance.

After my first performance, I began my collection in earnest.

I enjoy the costuming aspect of ATS, so I’ll be sharing some of my costume pieces here on the blog. I hope to provide some inspiration and information. And even if this is all old hat to you, it’s still fun to peek inside someone else’s costume closet, don’t you think?

What is American Tribal Style® Belly Dance?

American Tribal Style® (or ATS®) looks old but is actually new, having been created by Carolena Nericcio (now Nericcio-Bohlman) in 1987.

ATS® movements are inspired by folkloric dances of the Middle East and India. Aesthetically ATS® is based on the richness of textiles and jewelry from North Africa and India. ATS® is a method of improvisational choreography, using a vocabulary of natural movements and cues allowing the dancers to communicate via gesture and eye contact when dancing together. (From the FatChanceBellyDance® website)

The foundation of ATS is primarily Middle Eastern dance. Moves may be modified from their traditional antecedents to fit in with the ATS group improv format in terms of cues, the number of beats taken up, and angle of the body, among other things

The music, movements and costume come together to create a rich and vibrant look that, despite appearances, doesn’t belong to any traditional culture. ATS is a pastiche of traditional elements, unified and embellished with modern creativity, assembled in the USA a mere 30 years ago and still developing.