Inspiration: Devi and Christine from Caravan

This is an old clip but one I really enjoy rewatching. Lovely duet between Devi and Christine from Caravan. Some very interesting passings and variations on steps we don’t see often too!

Enjoy!

Crafting a Set, revisited

Right around the beginning of last year world wide madness, I made a series of posts discussing how I craft a set, beginning to end. From selecting the music, deciding on costuming, to figuring out the dancing. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s the kind of info I wish I had found more readily available when I started.

I wrote all the posts and programmed them to release at set dates between February and April. And then COVID hit, and planning gigs was so far down on everybody’s list that it felt pointless. So let’s try these again, but all gathered together.

As I wrote there, this doesn’t mean that this is the *right* way to put together a set. Your process may be different. But hopefully reading someone else’s will maybe help you understand how it works for someone else, or maybe even consider it from a different point of view.

Question or comments? Please leave them below!

Back in the saddle!

Haven’t danced, or haven’t danced as much as you wished because of the pandemic, and are looking for ways to ease yourself back in, in a way that is also kind to your needs and body? I’ve got two possible options for you:

  • Sofia, from Tessera and the former FCBD troupe, is running a September Step Up your Stamina challenge. It’s running on her Social Media platforms, on Instagram  https://www.instagram.com/sofiadances/and YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEWRmxOuoqTcFz053AOgjnA
    She’s done a wonderful job of organising this month long practice as SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely, more on that at a later date) while offering dancers of all levels potential points for improvement
  • Sahira is running a Zill Challenge, with a support group on Facebook, and daily videos in your inbox. It’s also only just started, and you can take part by singing into the group here https://www.facebook.com/groups/zillicious
    Again, SMART goals set up in a progressive fashion, and with accountability within the group if desired

If you’re still not certain about restarting, or need an even slower pace, remember you can download the guides and do them at your own pace. I am only going to attempt Sofia’s during September as I also have other dancing going on, and one of *my* objectives is to not self-sabotage by taking on too much. I’m still downloading all the videos from Sahira and will attempt them during October. I’ve also just become aware that registration for Sahira’s has closed on her website, but not sure the status on the Facebook group.

Saroyan German Silver Zills

ATS Official Book, FINALLY!

American Tribal Style Classic vol1 book coverYes, I haven’t updated in over a month. Bad girl, no biscuit. Been doing a few things, and will post about it soon, I promise. However, what I wanted to share today is sort of time sensitive.

Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman and Kristine L. Adams have finally released the first volume of their American Tribal Style series books. And luckily, they’ve embraced the new formats, so it is available as an epub, and as print-on-demand, which means that the shipping charges are *reasonable*. So far so good, but what’s the hurry? Well, if you’ve got an account with Lulu (the publisher), they’ve released 20% discount coupons earlier today, which means you can get the book with a considerable discount, and yes, this is valid for the e-book version too.

The e-book version is not only economical, but also, at least for me, easier to access and take along… I could have a copy on my phone when going to class in case there are questions. I could read it on the train, and I won’t need to worry about carrying around a heavy book, or reading in bed until it falls on my head. Lulu sells it as an epub, but if you use the popular Amazon Kindle, it can be converted using programs like Calibre. Kindle’s MOBI format doesn’t allow for colour images, and there’s plenty in the book, but you’ll still see them in greyscale, so the e-book is a great choice.

Will this book “teach” you ATS? No. This book was obviously planned as a companion to each of the ATS DVD volumes (they are now on #9) and should go as a companion either for regular classes or DVD training. By all means, get it if you want to take a closer look at what it is about, but don’t expect just this to be usable as your sole “teacher”. Some things you can sort of figure out, but some, like the Lotus Hand, hardly make any sense through a written description.

The *one* downside I can see is that the book is disappointingly short, coming just at 49 pages, and covering just *some* of the foundation steps that are covered on a 6-week ATS course. The printed book lists 68 pages, which is 18 more than the e-book, but I won’t have access to a printed version for a while to compare, so for the time being, my comment about the length stands. Most glaring omissions are the Circle Step and Hand Floreos, and there doesn’t seem to be any word on zills or formations. So basically they’ve stuck to what is covered in the original Vol.1 DVD. To be honest with you, more ground is covered in Carolena’s earlier book, The Art of Belly Dance, but it has now been out of print for quite a while, and fetching ridiculous prices, so this is a good alternative. Personally, I wish the book covered the “Classic” ATS taught in Levels 1-2, with far more information, regardless of how the DVDs are organised, but I understand why they decided to organise things this way.

So, the million dollar question… should you get it? Depends. If you

  • are thinking of (or already) teaching ATS
  • are already learning ATS and want to have some things in writing to complement your class
  • are already learning another ITS or Tribal style

then the answer is probably yes. I would, however, go for the e-book version, both for cost and convenience’ sake. If, however, you

  • do Cabaret/Egyptian, and want to find out what the fuss about Tribal is about
  • like the idea of belly dancing but don’t know where to start
  • have specific requirements (i.e. health concerns, joint issues, etc)
  • are a “show me, don’t tell me” person

you will be much better served heading towards a class to have a teacher guide you.
You can get the American Tribal Style Classic: Vol. 1 from Lulu

Old School ATS belt and bra set, part 2: the making

Silver and black bra Work in progressNow that I had all the bits together, it was time to start assembling. I first decided on a set decoration pattern to use for both bra and belt, using the braided black and silver trim for the top edges, followed by the rectangular Kuchi trinkets, then the Turkomen dangling buttons. It took a while to decide how to arrange those as they were not all the same, but in the end I settled on an 8-small-1-big pattern for the belt, and all jewelled ones for the bra. Silver and black bra close-upI flattened the few mangled trinkets using pliers, and for the bra, removed all the original stones and replaced them with AB Swarovskis in Cobalt and Siam to add more sparkle. The Turkomen buttons have the loops inside the domes and are rather difficult to attach directly, so I opted for stringing them on a double rattail cord before attaching the cord itself to the pieces.

Silver and black belt detailThe process was simplesimple but laborious, using extra-strong Gutterman thread. It didn’t help that I run out of the special thread after just finishing the first cup of the bra, and had to wait a few days to get more. Since both items had the same design, the process was roughly the same for both. The braid consists of 9 separate strands, so to keep it attached properly I had to sew it by hand, making sure top and bottom loops were sewn, and that the stitch also secured the strands passing under the top strand. On the belt, I sewed the trim using the machine, but on the bra cups, I had to do it by hand, in both cases making sure I kept to the very edge of the trim to avoid obscuring the silver design. Then added the rectangle metal trinkets. After these, I attached the 4-strand braided cord to each end of the belt, making sure it was firmly in place by stitching both sides of the cord for each loop, to prevent it from breaking off, as the final result would have quite a bit of weight. Then I added the Banjara mirrors to each end, and continue on adding the threaded Turkomen buttons to each piece, with a spiral stitch holding the cords in place and limiting the sideways movement of the buttons.

SIlver and black belt, ends close-upAt this point, I focused entirely on the belt. I lined the inside with a piece of black polycotton broderie anglaise, then picked a couple of tassels, sewed them to the fastening cords, and finished it all off with some Moroccan Mozumas to add a bit of extra metallic sparkle to it. But I still had 8 tassels left, so I used the leftover rattail to make another 4-stand braid, then knotted the tassels with their long cord, and sewed them in place, then added two small bits of cord to the inside of the belt to knot this tassel cord in place. This way, I can use it or remove it as needed.

Silver and black belt and bra, work in progressThe cost of the whole set came roughly to £60, but needed 40+ hours of work. Nearly all of the metal trinkets came from Birgiss Bellywear, the lovely trim was bought from Grand Bazaar, a Turkish manufacturer via Ebay, and the rattail, braid and cord were also eBay finds. Considering a typical “vintage Kuchi belt” at several places starts at £30 or so, and with my hips I’d need two of them to assemble something with the coverage of this one, and would still require all the work, I don’t think it was that bad. Even less when taking into account that bra cups are exactly to my measures and with the right support, straps won’t dig into my shoulders, and back band fits perfectly too. And it means that now I’ve got a rather “traditional” ATS set that I can wear with all my skirts, without worrying that the trim or stones or base colour of the belt will clash with any of colours of my wardrobe. Granted, I’ve removed all of the colour that the belts can add, replacing it with an abundance of sparkle and metallic detail, but my skirts are all rather intense colours anyway.

I am, overall, extremely pleased with the results, and I can’t wait to wear the lot. I hope I can take some photos with a full set soon enough, my idea is to use these two with black and white loons, layered sea-green and purple 25-yarders, the ivory and silver flowers shawl I crocheted a few weeks ago, and the purple stretch velvet choli I made and wore for the ATS World Wide Flash Mob. And of course I can’t wait to see how it will look with a mermaid skirt, or some ruffled or tribal dance trousers. SIlver and black belt, finished

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