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American Tribal Fusion

Had a few people ask me about American Tribal/Fusion costuming after our fashion show in April, which featured some skirts and cholis for this type of dance. Here's a quick summary of the dance and costuming.

American Tribal/Fusion is a mixture of historical ethnic and modern dance. It's a perception or interpretation of what might have been, as there is no evidence to show that this was the actual style of dancing. Tribal Fusion was created by Jamila Salimpour in the 1960's and is best know today through FatChanceBellyDance, created by Carolena Nericchio and based in San Francisco, California. American Tribal/Fusion's popularity is growing due to Renaissance and SCA Fairs though-out the US and Canada.

In a nutshell, the basis of FCBD and tribal styles is lots of layers and not too much skin exposure. Costumes consist of very full skirts, pantaloons, choli or mid-riff tops, shawls and tassels belts around the waist/hips, turbans or shawls wrapped around the head, lots of jewelry and tribal style makeup. You want lots of rich, colourful material accented with shisha mirror, coins, assuit, fancy trim and lots of chunky, ethnic jewelry.

Skirts are similar to circular skirts, but consist of 10 yards of fabric and no slits. Very often the skirt is made with three tiers from hip to ankle for a folk effect. You will not find slits or tight fitting skirts here! You want plenty of room and lots of twirling from the skirt. Sometimes a spinning skirt, which has a colourful band or trim at the bottom hem for a wonderful effect, is worn. Skirts can also be layered on top of each other.

Pantaloons or harem pants are worn underneath the skirts. Pantaloons or harem pants are usually 4 meters of taffeta or other fancy, shiny material and tapered at the ankles. Sometimes a panel skirt (two square panels of material, one at front and one at back) is worn over the pantaloons, so the pantaloons are the main focus when the panels fly up.

Indian Choli tops or any mid-riff top is worn. These tops have tight sleeves that vary in length from short-sleeved to full length and include an underarm gusset for extra room and ease of movement. They come in a variety of styles from open back with ties at the neck and back, to full coverage at back and hook closures or lace tie-ups at the front. Cholis can be plain or embroidered with trim, shisha mirrors, etc. Some dance outlets have mid-riff tops in this style made of lycra/cotton, which can be used once adorned.

While beaded/sequined bras and belts are not worn, coin bras/drapes are used quite often. They are usually worn under embroidered or jeweled vests, like a Macedonian vest, with a lower bodice in front that cups underneath the bra.

Tassel Belts are worn over the skirts/pantaloons. These belts are made from sturdy cotton and are decorated with mirrors and embroidery in the style of the nomadic tribes of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Large, colourful wool tassels are attached at the bottom of the belt and smaller tassels can be worn at the top. The back can be v-shaped, straight cut or curved. The belt has long ties with more tassels at the end that tie in the front. Short or long fringe belts can also be worn over the skirts. These belts are similar to the tassel belt, but use 6" or 30" cloth/rayon fringe instead of tassels.

Turbans, scarves or sashes always cover the head. Jewelry is adorned to the head coverings, especially at the temples, draping down the side of the face. It is not often that a dancer will not wear some sort of head covering. You will not see beaded head drapes.

Jewelry with coins, Indian bells and chunky metal pieces are layered everywhere. You can never have too much jewelry: necklaces, earrings, pins, rings, bangles, chain belts, etc. Jewelry can be Afghani, India, Turkish, Egyptian, Palestinian, even North American in origin as long as it looks ethnic or tribal.

Makeup consists of eyeliner used to draw facial tattoos in the style of North Africa nomad tribes on the face. Henna, especially on the hands and soles of the feet is used often.

To complete the tribal look, feet are either bare or adorned with tan-coloured Hermes sandals.

If you are interested in finding out more about this costume style or dance, please check out the FCBD web site at www.fcbd.com or contact them at FatChanceBellyDance P.O. Box 460594, San Francisco, CA 94146. You can find everything from patterns for costumes, instructions on how to wrap a turban, make-up instructions and of course costumes!


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