Thursday, 31 March 2011

Colour Theory for Costuming: Part Two

Here are a few more colour schemes and ideas to get you planning some beautiful costumes.

A triadic and tetradic colour scheme are shown below.  Spin the triangle or rectangle any way you like on the diagram and the colours will work and look vibrantly beautiful together.


A split-complementary colour scheme can be great to show off one main hue.  The diagram below could be interpreted as a green skirt with a violet choli and orange hip scarf or accents. When you are using more colours you likely won't want to use them all equally, but instead choose a focal piece/colour and use the others to enhance it.  Split-complementary is close to having the contrast that complementary has, but it is not as harsh.


You can see from all these schemes that it would be easy to throw on everything you have and find that it matches somehow, but a professional will take the time to plan their costume. Not only with colours, but with textures as well. Every little piece counts, and when you are careful to consider even the tiniest details, the costume as a whole will be that much more impressive.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Colour Theory for Costuming: Part One

In ATS, quite often there are so many colours of fabric that the dancers look like spinning rainbows. With all that variety of hue how could there ever be a method to the madness? Well, there is and there isn't. There isn't, because yes maybe if you have 2 or 3 random colours together, some may clash. However when you have 5 or more colours on, the clashes occur so frequently it seems to have the opposite effect and it 'matches' well enough. This usually looks okay - that is, until you see someone with just as many colours on, but looking completely tied together. You think your eyes are playing tricks on you! Both ladies have so many colours, shades and hues covering them, but one looks so much more vibrant and professional! How can this be?! Alas, it is true, and I am going to share some of the magic of colour theory with you! ;)

Let's start at the very beginning. Everyone knows the three primary colours are red, blue and yellow. Secondary colours are made by mixing those, and those include purple, orange and green. Tertiary colours are created when a primary and secondary colour are mixed, such as blue and green making teal. Have a look at the diagram below to see what I mean, although I'm sure this is all old news.

Now here is the theory part that gets fun. Complementary colours are the ones across the diagram from each other. Using these colours next to each other makes them appear brighter, creates the biggest contrast, and can be very sharp. For a costuming example, if you have one piece that may be smaller but you really want to accentuate it, put its complementary colour underneath or next to it.

Next we'll talk about analagous colour schemes. Analagous colours are those next to each other on the colour wheel. Blue, teal, and green, for example. These colours run smoothly together, without much contrast or standing out.

Analagous colour schemes can also mean a variety of shades of the same hue. This can be very aesthetically pleasing.

Here is a perfect example from Flickr of these colour schemes. The dancer has on mostly shades of purple and some red, so an analagous colour scheme - but then there is also the gold colour in the belt which complements the purple, and the green hues which complement the red. All of the colours flow and improve the aesthetic of the others, creating a beautifully planned costume.

Now someone might just put this together and think it's pretty. Which it is! But if they don't know why, they will have good luck some days and bad others. Of course, if you use the tricks in this post, your costumes can consistently look vibrant and put together. Good luck!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Part Three: Zill Rhythms

When I was first introduced to the zills, I thought they were a pretty plain instrument. After looking at instruments like piano or cello,  4 little cymbals don't seem like they'd present much of a challenge. I was wrong! At first they just felt so foreign on my hands. My fingers just couldn't seem to move fast enough! Then after adjusting to the feel of them and conquering the most basic pattern, you think you're cruising. You can zill and dance at the same time, hurray! Oooh no. What musician stops when they learn their scales?! Even 'Twinkle Twinkle'? The learning NEVER stops. You keep expanding your knowledge and challenging yourself. Zills are no different, and there are so many intricate rhythm patterns that there is no way you could learn it all.

When practicing zills, it's better to be moving. If you stay still while practicing, when it comes to dancing you might freeze up. I suggest simply moving the hands up and down when learning a new pattern. When it is memorized and you start practicing, move your arms from your sides to above your head to out in front. Add in walking as well. Try dancing a simple, familiar move with the new pattern and see how it goes. You can go between walking and dancing until you can keep it up longer while dancing. It doesn't matter what you do really, just don't stay still!

It's incredible to think that some of the patterns have been passed down for hundreds of years. It can't help but make you feel connected to the people who have played that beat long before you. :) In light of that, we're going to cover a few basic rhythms in this post. Hope it helps you challenge yourself!

I will be explaining the patterns in terms of right/left hands. (If you are left handed, reverse them so RLR would be LRL).  Also, zill patterns can be explained in terms of Doumbek Rythyms, as "Doum" "Tek" and "ka".  Here is a link to more:

The most basic zill pattern is called a Gallop, or Triplets.

TkT  TkT  TkT  TkT

The next pattern is Military, also called 3-3-7.

TkT  TkT  TkTkTkT
An easy way to think of this one is to say the words "I can zill I can zill I can really really zill"

Basic Maqsoum



DD TkT  D  TkT Tk

Here are some more great resources for zill information and patterns:

Happy Zilling!!!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Part Two: Zill Mufflers

So, is your husband about to throw your zills in the garbage? Do you hide your zills from your family in hopes they don't abduct them while you sleep? Does your dog start twitching and run away yelping when you start playing? You need ZILL MUFFLERS!!!!

Zill mufflers can be as complicated and beautiful or as simple and cheap as you want.  Some people can crochet some very nice zill mufflers. Here is an example from Etsy:

Shira has a great crochet pattern on her website:

But... what if you can't crochet?! I certainly can't. So I am going to show you how to make the simplest, cheapest pair of zill mufflers EVER. 

- Fabric (Especially bought for this, an old clean sock, or anything in between)
- Zills
- String
- Sewing needle
- Scissors

Step one: Cut a square out of the fabric about three times the width of your zill. 

Step two: Holding your zill on the fabric, cut around it in a circle, so that the excess fabric is about half the width of your zill all around. As my pictures suggest, it does NOT have to be perfect.

Step three: Get your sewing needle and string. You don't even have to tie a knot in one end, just leave a long piece. Thread it in one side, out the other, around the edge.

Step four: Place your zill in the center and pull the strings, like a drawstring bag.

Step 5: Tie a bow :) (no knots needed - we want to be able to get these mufflers off again!)

Step six: Zill away!

Some tips: 
- If you're using thick fabric, you'll only need two mufflers, one for each hand. If it's thin, you can double up the fabric, and/or make 4 mufflers.
- If you want to be all fancy shmancy you could measure it, cut a perfect circle, and even hem the fabric.
- If you have no sewing needle and/or especially large string/yarn, you could cut circles around the edge and fish the string through them.
- You could probably decorate these a lot more - fabric paint, beads, wherever your creativity leads you...

Happy muffled, polite, family-loves-you-again zilling!!! :)

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Part One: Zill Basics

A belly dancer's movements and inspiration originates from an ancient time. Naturally then, the instrument we use comes from a very early time as well. In fact, it is believed that finger cymbals were probably the first instrument invented. The first recordings of their use date back to 500 AD. They can also be called zagats/sagats. Zills are a very simply instrument made of 2 pieces of metal affixed to the middle finger and thumb. However, as any beginner will tell you, simple does not equal easy! The patterns and rhythms can be very challenging.

Zills vary in weight, size, design, shape, and the types of metal used. All these small differences mean there is a surprisingly large range of tone and pitch available. To clarify, pitch means the actual note that is played. Tone refers to the character or quality of the pitch. For example, an opera singer and crow could hit the same note, but the results will differ greatly because of tone! ;)  There are also a surprising number of ways to hit the zills together to create different sounds.

Generally the smaller (and lighter) the set, the higher the pitch. A heavy, large zill will have a much lower pitch. There is a myth that the more experienced you are, the bigger your zills would be. In reality, a beginner just needs something they will feel comfortable practicing with. As your confidence and knowledge grows, you may want to invest in a few sets that will give you more options, especially when performing.

Wearing zills can feel strange and awkward at first, but over time you just get used to it. Do make sure that the zills you purchase have two slots rather than one hole for the elastic, as this will allow for greater stability and control. The elastic should fit snugly enough that they won't move or slip off, but not so tightly that your fingertips turn blue! When you find the right fit, you can pin or sew the elastic in place. Also, the elastic should always be below the nail bed. You may find it is close to it on your thumb, but that's fine as long as it doesn't cover the nail.

Zill accessories would basically just be a bag to hold them in, perhaps a cloth to buff them once in a while or a metal cleaning product such as brasso. There are also zill mufflers, any piece of fabric or material that will (to varying degrees) mute the noise of the zills. This allows us belly dancers to practice zilling in the same building as family members ;)  You can buy zill mufflers, but they are very simple to make! So simple in fact, that I will have an easy tutorial for you next up in the series!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Zill Skillz!

Just a taste of things to come - tomorrow we are beginning a 3 part series on zills! Part one will cover the basics, part two will be a zill muffler tutorial, and part three will cover some of the rhythm patterns you will come across. I hope you enjoy the series!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Nail Tutorial: Feathers

For this nail look you will need:

  • Clean, shaped and filed nails
  • Feathers
  • Clear Nail Polish
  • Coloured Nail Polish (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers

(Optional step: Paint all nails in a solid colour that will contrast well against the feathers. Let them dry.)

Step One: Take a feather and trim off just enough to cover your nail

Step Two: Paint the first nail with a coat of clear nail polish. 

Step Three: Using tweezers, place the feather on the painted nail in whichever direction you choose. You may need to press it down on the sides with your fingertips.

Step Four:  Trim off the excess feather with scissors.

Step Five: Cover the feather with a coat of clear nail polish. (Feel free to do two layers, or add sparkles at this point).

Step Six: Repeat on all nails!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Carolena Nericcio ~ The Mother of Tribal Style

Carolena Nericcio

Imagine this: there was a time in history, a long time ago,
when the bounce and sway of a woman’s hips
was considered so beautiful that they set it to music
and made a dance out of it...
~ Carolena Nericcio

Carolena is the creator and leader of American Tribal Style Belly Dance. She teaches and performs with her troupe Fat Chance Belly Dance. You can have a look at her website here:

The troupe name comes from the inevitable question every belly dancer will be asked: "Do you do private shows?"  To which Carolena would indignantly reply: "Fat chance!" Her dance moves and costume inspiration stems from middle eastern, indian and north african roots.

Carolena's most incredible accomplishment, in my opinion, is the dance language of cues that allows for pure improvisation. An ATS dancer from Spain, who speaks only Spanish, can meet with an ATS dancer from China who speaks only Chinese. They may not be able to introduce themselves or talk about the weather, but if you set them to music, they will be able not only to dance but to perform - and no one would ever guess that it wasn't long rehearsed choreography. I think it is a dance miracle if there is such a thing, and an incredible experience to witness or be part of!

It is this same philosophy of improvisation that seems to create the ambience of ATS dance. Improvisation forces the dancers to trust each other and rely upon each other. This is evident from the very first session. What a relief from society's constant mental bombardment of focusing on the self to be able to enjoy a dance that trains you to build each other up instead.

That's what the tribal way of life is all about! Thank-you Carolena!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Welcome to The Tribal Way!

If you are interested in tribal style bellydance, this blog was made especially for YOU. With everything from make-up, nail and costume tutorials, to tributes to our fearless leaders, to advice on health and fitness, this blog is going to revolve around the common theme of a tribal way of life.

Tribal style dance is more than a set of movements, it becomes a way of thinking and a way of living. I hope you find useful information, encouragement, and inspiration here! :)
If you have any suggestions, comments or requests please email me at:

Thanks for stopping by, and have a wonderful day!