Tribal Happenings and Australian Jewellery Designer, Aprili
Bellydance Evolution, China, USA, TribalFest and Aprili!
Originally published in Bellydance Oasis Magazine
So it’s been an incredibly busy first half the year for many of us with more and more events happening around the country every year. I’ve had so many performances and exciting shows on this first half of the year and with that comes the need for new costuming pieces. I don’t need to tell any of you readers out there how expensive a complete new costume is and for me personally I have leaned more towards buying smaller costuming pieces, weather it be a new belt, piece of jewellery or even a head dress. Something I can mix and match and wear with a multitude of costumes. As you can all imagine I have done away with jewellery boxes years ago and now have drawers dedicated to these big fabulous pieces! Many of these come from overseas and are very expensive. Lately the trend is for some of the big names in Tribal bellydance such as Mardi Love and Zoe Jakes to deconstruct pre loved pieces and reconstruct them in a new way. Most of these are very beautiful and unique but by the time us Aussie dancers pay postage from the USA the cost becomes hefty. So as a result we have more and more Multi talented dancers creating their own unique pieces for sale. I have long admired April Erzetich’s work in jewellery and costume design. I’m lucky enough to work with her on a regular basis as she is a dancer and teacher in Ghawazi Caravan so I get to see the process from the ground up and I have admired the skill, patience, and technique it takes to make some of her pieces. Her work in particular is not simply de constructing and reconstructing ( although there is a bit of that too) but also involves many ancient techniques in hand beaten metal and there are only few outside of Australia that I know of so we are very lucky to have her. She also has a particularly unique style and I have seen her pieces on Tribal dancers, Oriental dancers, African dancers and have even seen her pieces used for everyday street wear. You can tell when it’s an Aprili! So more on her, her work and most importantly how to get your hands on some Aprili later!
This year started off for me with a trip to Launceston Tasmania. I was once again hosted by Kat and Ange of Miasma. Ladies came from all over Tassie and my favourite bit was being able to perform with these 2 lovely ladies in an ATS(r) set.
Next was the Newcastle belly dance festival hosted by Natalie Bradford which keeps getting better every year. I love the diversity of this festival. Everything from traditional forms of Middle Eastern Dance, Tribal, Oriental, Indian, Bollywood, Oriental, gothic, ATS(r) so there really is something for everyone. This is also reflected in the Sunday market day shows and stalls. Be prepared to burn a whole in your pocket!
Whilst this was going on I was in full swing rehearsal for Belly Dance Evolution. Dark side of the crown. I was very lucky to be invited by Jillina herself as a special guest and I have to say I was truly humbled and honoured for the experience. I must admit to you readers I had my doubts as to weather I would be able to deal with the gruelling 6 hr a day rehearsals for a week in record temperatures. I’m sure we all lost several kilos in the first day! I bonded well with the other tribal ladies who had won the audition. They were Alice Knox of Brisbane, Natalie Harvey of Sydney and Chiara Sangiovesse from Italy. I also got to spend some time with the Oriental ladies from Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, New Zealand, Japan, Pueto Rico, Czech Republic, Qld. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my career. There were steps and routines that I thought I would NEVER master then there were changes made during the rehearsal that I thought I would never retain and yet I did. I surprised myself! The crew Jillina, Heather, Sharon, Lauren, Louchia, Danielo were hugely supportive, patient and encouraging. The question I get asked the most from people funnily enough is ” where there any Divas?” And I’m sorry readers but there is no goss to tell. Everyone worked their butts off and supported each other. We were warned on the first day that day 3 would be the hardest and that’s when all the melt downs happen. And sure enough we all did have our own personal melt downs some on day 3 as expected some earlier, for me it was the end of day 4 but we all managed them quietly but also shared in what we were feeling and we supported each other through it. Everyone was really that supportive of each other and because of this we were able to produce and amazing spectacular show with rave reviews and fantastic memories to boot. Thanks to Jillina and her crew and to Jrisi for all her hard work and dedication she gives to the Australian dance scene.
A few days later and I was off to China, first to Beijing and then to Chendu. Workshops in Beijing were small due to the many International teachers that travel to china. In china it would seem that it is expected that all dance teachers sponsor international guests which is great but from my point of view travelling there it seems like it is an over saturation. Chendu was also smaller numbers but a lovely bunch of ladies some of who had never done ATS(r) or fusion styles which I was teaching. One thing that was interesting to me is that they had me teaching everything from ATS(r), Oriental Fusion, Flamenco Fusion, Funk Fusion and more! I felt that by the end of it their brains were totally fried but knowing these dedicated ladies by the time I see them next time they would have nailed it! My time in china apart from dancing was spent eating as usual and spending a little time looking around some of the ancient tourist sights which were amazing. One of the highlights for me was that the Reda troupe were also touring China at the same time! Unfortunately I was not able to attend any workshops due to the busy schedule but I did manage to get myself to a lecture which was extremely fascinating! Unfortunately for me ( and everyone on the plane) I came home with a killer of a pollution cough that lasted for weeks!
I spent the next few weeks at home spending time with my family before the annual Sydney Middle Eastern Dance Festival which due to my extra crazy schedule I only attended the Friday this time. Teaching my workshop and taking one with the lovely Alma whom I have always admired. I thoroughly enjoyed her workshop as well as teaching my own and being a part of the Friday night concert.
Next week April and I were off to the USA! The schedule was gruelling. Getting off the plane I rushed to the FCBD(r) studio to rehearse with the ladies from FCBD(r) and student troupes for my one and only rehearsal with them for Tribal Fest. Day after was a 5 hr rehearsal for Tribal Fest with the amazing Deb Rubin. We had endeavoured to put together our piece via Skype which if any of you have ever tried this would know how difficult this is, so this was our chance to put it together only days before Tribalfest. Next April and I headed off to Sebastopol to the almost week long festival. It had been a couple of years since I had been at Tribalfest and every time I realise that I forget how intense it is. First there is the shopping. Stall after stall of your favourite Tribal, steam punk, cool street wear, Jewellery, music all for sale in the one location. You really need a few days to sift through everything and be prepared to spend money! Then of course there are the amazing teachers from all over the world that come to share their knowledge with students that also come from all over the world. I was lucky to teach 2 workshops that were very well attended and received as well as being a student myself. I attended workshops by Illan, Collena Shakti, Zoe Jakes and Australia’s own Ma’isah. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed everyone of the workshops for different reasons. Then there are the performances. Now you must remember that there are 3 days of performances and they go for over 10 hrs a day! I love the pure variety presented at Tribal Fest. You can expect very new beginners followed by some of the biggest names in tribal belly dance from all over the globe. Tribal is not your bag you say? No problem there! Literally EVERYTHING goes at Tribal Fest in any shape or form and sometimes with no reference to any sort of belly dance at all but never the less there are many fantastic acts. My performance with Deb Rubin and then again with FCBD(r) were both highlights for me. I love collaborations and to be lucky enough to collaborate with these amazing women and dancers I feelng incredibly privileged.
Whilst this is all going on there is what I call “The Collective TribalFest Vibe”. Imagine 100s of people many having travelled across the ocean to participate, perform, watch and learn. Most having spent a good part of the year working on their choreographies, their costume, striving for not only their personal best but hopefully to somehow make their mark at TribalFest. There is a feeling of friendly competitiveness. They want to be the best, most innovative, the next new thing.
At the same time I would go as far as to say you will never find a more supportive audience anywhere in the world than you will at TribalFest. Many become overwhelmed after the performance is all over or meeting their dance idol for the first time or both. All of this makes for a very exciting, intense, encouraging, exhausting and amazing experience.
So once it was all over it was back to San Francisco and a performance at a nightclub with DJ Amar and Deb Rubin. I love how in San Francisco ( and probably in other cities too) there are weekly events throughout the week and weekend where belly dancers of all
different persuasions can perform with some of the top DJs and musicians in the country. It’s not something that is popular here other than your usual restaurant work but the nightclub scene is different. Patrons come to listen to the music and actually watch the dancers rather than it being simply back ground entertainment whilst having a meal. I wish someone would start this up here. Any takers?!
Next Deb and I presented our very first collaborative workshop ” from the roots to the fruits”. About a year ago Deb approached me about co teaching this workshop. Deb travels the world teaching and performing and she has been surprised to discover that many Tribal Fusion dancers have little or no experience with ATS(r) at all. Deb feels as do I that if Tribal Fusion is your passion then at some point you must have at least some knowledge of its roots, ATS(r). We realised that this is such a broad topic but we managed to get through some basic points of what makes both ATS(r) and fusion unique and at what point they meet. If this is a topic that interests you Deb and I will be presenting this workshop again in Sydney this year at the Tribal and Trance festival.
Next April and I were off to Milwaukee and were hosted by Jennifer Nolan of Tamarind Tribal. April and I both presented workshops in Ghawazi Caravan Combinations, technique and Khalbelia dance. Saturday night was a huge Gala performance where I performed with some of the ladies of Tamarind which was an absolute blast and a little emotional as it was Jennifer’s last performance as she is retiring from dance.
My trip to the USA was truly wonderful. April and I travel well together and although she was not able to perform with me due to an injury we did all things dance related and squeezed in as much as we could including catching up with family and friends. So a well balanced trip that’s for sure!
So I’m back in Australia for awhile now which I am grateful for. There are many exciting things happening here in Australia. Here’s a brief run down.
Illan is visiting Adelaide in September. This man is AMAZING! You must experience him! And as I said earlier loved his workshops. Contact Kylea for more info:
I’ll be hosting Deb Rubin again for a 5 day intensive with participants performing with her at Sydney’s Tribal and Trance Fest! This will be happening in early October. This woman is not only and incredible performer but a very thorough and patient teacher. Her knowledge in body therapeutics is a must for any dancer looking to better their dance whilst protecting their bodies. Any injuries or sore spots and she will have you using your body in ways that will heal and give you longevity as a dancer! Seriously! Contact me for more info : [email protected]
Sydney’s Tribal and Trance Fest is on again this year and there is something for everyone. Many great teachers from around Australia and special guests DEB RUBIN AND KAMI LIDDLE! That’s right folks. You cannot miss this one! For more info contact : [email protected]
The ever elegant and beautiful Colleena Shakti will be visiting Melbourne. If you have never studied with this lady you must. Her knowledge of Indian dance is unparalleled. For more info check out: https://www.facebook.com/
Australia’s very own Jewellery designer, Aprili.
So when did you start making jewellery, how did this all begin for you?
As a kid I remember going to bead shops with my mum and making necklaces,then in high school I used to make necklaces and sell them. I have always been obsessed with jewellery and metal, using metal or wearing it, and have always wanted to make metal jewellery. I remember enjoying being in the garage when Dad and my Uncle were welding, I loved the sound and the dirty smell of the welders and the metal, but would of course get kicked out for safety. It wasn’t really the place for a 4 year old! In high school I did metal work as an elective. The only girl in my class. When I finished school I went to TAFE and did my advanced diploma of Fine Art where I majored in sculpture. Here my metal obsession increased and I did a lot of work in copper and steel for sculpture, including making metal structures for performance art. I would also make myself pieces of jewellery for fun with sheets of copper or silver wire.
After TAFE I went Into third year at Newcastle University where I again majored in 3D and did a lot of bronze casting. I got a job as a foundry assistant with Trevor Weeks, one of the lecturers who had a big sculpture commission. I would work a minimum of 5hrs a day for him over about 2 years on all stages of the process, making things in wax, pouring risers and runners ,which flow the metal to the job, constructing casting tress, making the investment and sand moulds around the waxes, burning out the moulds, pouring the bronzes and then chasing the work which is cleaning it all up. I used to make small jewellery pieces, rings or pendants and add them to the casting trees. This was an art foundry so our crucible held 60 kgs of metal, it was hard labour and intended for big works not fine intricate pieces of jewellery so my work had a a chunky primitive bronze age edge to it. But I loved the hard work and knew that working with metal was what I wanted to do, but I really wanted to work in silver So silver smithing seemed natural.
What metals do you work with now?
I still work with Copper and Brass. I love using these metals. They are cheaper metals so buying stock to work with is easier of course but I love the richness and depth of the colour in copper and brass and the different patination you can get on the end product. I also work with Sterling Silver (.925) but mainly with fine silver (.999) which is a higher percentage of pure silver. I haven’t worked with Bronze for a while but would like to again.
Where did you learn your silversmithing skills?
In my Honours year of University I went on exchange to Canada and studied at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, NASCAD. I spent the semester taking on some new classes as well as my honours work and here I did the basics of Silversmithing and weaving. I LOVED IT! It was such a great school and it was 24hrs so I was usually there until about 2 or 3 am then would walk home sleep until 10am get up and do it all again. I was really happy to be working everyday with metal but this time with a more intricate relationship. The techniques used in silversmithing were more delicate and refined in comparison to what I had been doing as a foundry assistant, and I totally fell in love with the silver studio. I felt I would be happy if I could do it for ever.
I also equally fell in love with the weaving studio which was above my silver studio. I would just spend my days running between the two studios going from the softness of fibre from spinning and weaving to firmness of the metal. Fabric and embroidery is another obsession of mine so being able to make thread then weave fabric and make something metal to add to it, ah I was in Heaven. I would research fabric and jewellery of primitive cultures or tribal cultures and was surrounded buy such inspirational beauty.
So that was a while ago what happened inbetween then and now?
When I came home from Canada I finished my honours degree and my life’s plan was then to move to the Blue Mountains to be in Ghawazi Caravan, which I did. I had to work to make rent/bills you know all the mundane things in life and being a poor artist I didn’t have so much spare cash for certain tools or would be too tired from full on days at work to be creative and it became something on the back burner. I still continued with my work and had some successful shows in the mountains where I incorporated weaving and metal work into the same cloth to exhibit a contemporary textile and was represented at two galleries but the jewellery was being made more for personal use, not really for selling. I was also saving to go to India to study at Shakti School of Dance which was four months at a time so that became a priority for me which meant working more to save more etc.
India, that’s where you furthered your silversmithing skills, yes?
That’s right. Being somewhat obsessed with Indian jewellery in particular the Tribal silver I wanted to learn special skills over there, where better than the source!
So I found myself a Guru who is a Gold and Silver Guru and talked to him about the traditional ways of making Jewellery in Rajasthan. He was very excited as he had never had a western student before that wanted to learn only the traditional ways, nor had he met a Western student that knew about traditional methods, so it was a special relationship for us both. We got along really well and there was a lot of respect there. He showed me so much and the whole experience was great. It wasn’t like at Uni where we had to look up things in text books and do assignments. It was just me and him day in day out listening to music and talking silver, sitting on the floor in a little Indian style studio with little coffee table style desks to work at, drinking chai and surviving the 48 degrees heat, breaking through a language barrier, so it was mostly a visual learning with comments of “no, do like this” it was basic and all you needed.
This was when I had the real, first, concrete solidifying moment of “This is what I HAVE to do with my life”. Not what I want to do or would like to do but HAVE to do. It’s hard to explain without sounding corny but I had a moment there learning with him where I felt the truest to myself more than I ever had. I didn’t feel like I was part of it, or wanting to be part of it but kinda on the outside I felt like I WAS it. I was the metal being melted or soldered or beaten, and that moment was so profound for me I knew this was my calling above everything else.
That moment was confirmed for me later when Colleena Shakti took me to meet her Swami Dev. He was a beautiful profound man and through the hours of conversation I had with him the thing that I remember to this day was him saying to me, “You need to make silver on the outside so you can make gold on the inside.” I was blown away, doing the silver work was what made my spirit happiest, therefore truest, therefore Gold.
India was a great experience as I was able to not only learn dance with Colleena and Guruji, and jewellery with Gurusa, but I studied dance with the Local Khalbelia people and spent a lot of time in their camp. Being immersed in the culture for months at a time and being part of the community was an experience that cannot be gotten with just quick trips, books or travel shows. Being there and watching the people you got to see how jewellery, and textiles is actually ingrained into their life and has meaning and spiritual significance and identification qualities. I remember seeing groups of people walk through the town and friends would say “ah yes they from…..” depending on the clothes they wore and the jewellery they had on. Then at times for different religious festivals people, including men, would bring out special items of jewellery that related to the festival, ceremony or God that was being celebrated. It was great seeing the depth to the significance of the items. They were not just something to be worn to make you look good.
So after India we didn’t really see your work start to pop out until this year…
Yes, again coming home was back to mundane work, rent, bills etc and my studio space was damp and cold and several of my tools got ruined etc. It was always something that was niggling at me that I wanted do, had to do, but everything was getting in the way.
I moved back to Newcastle and had a good set up in my house but was working lots and travelling up the mountains nearly every week for Ghawazi Caravan rehearsal so I started back into it all with making necklaces, belts, crowns but that was all using pieces that I already had and was deconstructing things to reconstruct them or up-cycle, and coming up with design ideas. It can take hours to create one hand beaten piece so creating pieces out of what I already had was quicker,making the product cheaper but still beautiful and satisfying to me as an artist. Work then levelled out and I was able to get a balance between working and making. Things then really started to take off.
Tell us a little about the traditional techniques.
Well the main one I have been using is the stamping. Its quite a tricky and hard process to get to the desired result. You have a stamp with the negative impression in the mould and then you have to anneal the metal (heat it until its soft) and then beat it in stages until you get the full impression from the mould into the metal your working with. The metal once annealed will only be pushed a certain distance and then you have to anneal it again to push it further into the mould to get more detail. Depending on the depth and detail of the mould it can take hours to get one piece punched out. But its time I love spending on it.
Are you just making necklaces and sticking to traditional constructions?
No, I have been making pendants to be strung with more contemporary strands of beading but also as I’m not a traditional Indian silversmith or of a particular caste that is identified with wearing certain jewellery a certain way there are little liberties I’m taking with my Guru’s blessing. For example traditional Deity Religious pendants I wish to maintain making them in silver and strung with the respect they deserve as it is a representation of God, but other pieces that are more decorative I have been using in headgear, belts, bra tops on crowns etc and nose rings, nose studs, rings or earrings and using brass or copper to make them. As my audience is predominantly Western there are designs I like and adapt with components or patterns that aren’t traditionally used for earrings etc.
So is it just the Traditional Indian that inspires you?
No, no way, but it does heavily inspire me. The other main influence or inspiration is the Amazigh of Morocco and Algeria. Their work is so strong and bold but consists of such beautiful detail, and the protective symbolism within the pieces appeals to me too. I also get very inspired by the folk jewellery of Europe which when you look at it has a lot of similarities in the pieces to work from the east. I like drawing from these cultures and incorporating elements of their designs and amalgamating them into new contemporary pieces with obvious traditional reference.
What sets you apart from other designers? How is your stuff different from others?
I think its in the construction. I try really hard to have a fingerprint on my work that is my own and not like anyone else’s. I like making things that look very tribal and have tribal components but glistening sparkly elements and even though they may be chunky still have a delicate feminine quality and can be worn on the stage as part of our costuming or with an evening dress or with something more casual.
Having the hand stamped traditional pieces gives my work an identifying mark I think. Being that I can reproduce something, the same piece, in silver, brass or copper to incorporate it into the one costume piece in different tones or jewellery piece is something I’m not seeing elsewhere. This is good as people come to me asking for commissions that incorporate this piece in brass and add that piece in copper so it opens up more individuality into their costuming. I could be wrong, I have looked but so far I haven’t found artists or dancers that are making the components from scratch, it is a rare skill, the stamping, its metal but its delicate, there could be others doing similar stuff like me but I’m not aware of them.
Is your market just belly dancers?
No, but its a big part of it. I want to bring the exotic experience of how we feel when we dress up as performers off the stage and into the everyday, why not? I get so many comments and compliments and questions about my jewellery when I wear it that I know the non-dancer is interested in it too.
In an ideal world what would you be making or doing? What’s your dream for the future?
Oh I would be spending my days spinning and weaving cloth and making metal bits to adorn the fabric, and beating out beautiful jewellery and just making great wearables with old school techniques. I love making things from scratch. Couture Costuming would be a dream. In the immediate future I have been working on a collection for the up and coming Tribal and Trance Festival in Sydney which incorporates the hand beaten work into costuming and jewellery.
Aprili – What does it mean where did the name come from?
When I was trying to come up with a name I wanted one that was descriptive of what I do but simple and catchy. Through lots of trial and era of names I liked for a few months then didn’t like any more I began leading towards something that wasn’t descriptive of the work any more but would give people a reference to me and therefore the work I do. My Nan was Slovenian and used to call me Aprile and I liked that but I wanted a more punchy, ‘u’p end to the name so traded the ‘e’ for a ‘i’ to get Aprili!
Where can we contact you to get some of your fabulous work?