The Camel Connection: How Culture Inspires Costuming

One of the costume staples of Old Skool Tribal Bellydance (and, let’s face it, we still see it as a favorite today too…these things just never go out of fashion!) are beautifully decorated tassel belts. Sometimes, the tassels hang from a straight rectangular shape. On other occasions, the base for the belt is triangular. In both cases, the belt “base” is often highly decorated and elaborately beautiful. And they also give great accentuation to the slightest hip twist, shimmy, or circle. Here are two great examples of one of the more commonly seen shapes:

Beautiful Belts created by Gypsy Caravan Master Teacher Nina from Gypsy Rain Tribal

The tassels themselves may be thick or thin, although the fav for most dancers are chunky tassels that have a delightful swing whenever hips are swayed. They can be made of a fiber, like yarn or string, or fancier sets of strung beads. Sometimes they’re topped with pom poms or shisha mirrors, each becoming its own art piece  in miniature.

If you’re wondering how we came to incorporate these items into our dance costuming, take a look at the photos below and see if anything looks a bit familiar:

Photos by Misha and Brian, Pushkar India Camel Festival, October 2013

As Tribal dancers, our costuming is a mix of elements from a variety of cultures. We borrow jewelry inspiration from Morocco, India, Afghanistan, and African tribes like the Tuareg and Berber people. Our swirling skirts speak of Flamenco and Romany dance, and we place flowers in our hair to evoke beauty and style ourselves as modern Goddesses. Ah but those tassels! Glancing at the photos above we can see that our own belts are quite reminiscent of the trappings that decorate camels and horses. And, indeed, our own belts are often inspired, and sometimes even include real examples of, these elements. Just as the tassels decorate the animals and showcase their beauty and movement, we are able to utilize them in the same way for our dance.

What I particularly love about delving into the cultures that inspire our costuming and movements is that it gives us the opportunity to learn so much about the world and its people. Our tassel belts are just one example of how our dance has drawn inspiration from other countries to develop its own unique style.

And the ultimate inspiration? Check out this amazing man who’s elaborately decorated camel stands as a symbol to the current population of these creatures. {And consider chipping in a bit to help}

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