Authentic Details Makes the Performance

I am a stickler for details. For example, after watching a wonderful native dance performance that was open to the public, I was able to talk to one of the performers about her costume. She allowed me to photograph this gem so I could study it for carefully on my own time. It was the most beautiful thin brown suede, actually more of a tawny color. There was fringe around the hem and a beaded belt around her waist. It had been made decades ago by a tribal member and ancestor. She always liked to wear something authentic in every performance, preferably a relic from her past. We used to call this type of outfit “buckskin,” but it was more supple and delicate. The neckline was also beaded and made to look like a lavish necklace. She wore earrings, a head band, moccasin shoes and a bracelet that was silver and turquoise in the style of her tribe. Each one has a different kind of emblem or pattern. It depends on the way the stones are grouped and whether or not there is a large one in the center. I found it all breathtakingly beautiful. I have so much to learn about Native American culture and when I get to experience something like a dance in person, I feel very privileged.

Interestingly, the dancer wore makeup, including some very natural looking false eyelashes. I found this very modern. Her sister had done the application and took the requisite time to attach the most natural looking individual lashes one by one. She used the kind of skill required in beading. The dancer said that a professional photographer was coming to document the dance event for National Geographic. Therefore, she wanted to look her best and to have some definition to her face so all attention would not be on the costume. It certainly worked. Her eyes were deep, dark, and sparking. She was beautiful anyway, but the lashes added something special to her appearance. It was so striking that I wanted to try it out myself. I mentioned this and to my surprise, the dancer’s sister volunteered to make me over. Of course, I said yes.

I loved the results and never expected to look so good yet so natural. The lashes were not just the ordinary kind you find in the drugstore or cosmetics supply shop. They were cut by hand to match the shape of my eyes. If you do not trim store-bought false eyelashes, they will stick out too far, thus drawing attention to the flaw. I wanted to see the photographs of the dancer when they were in print, but in the meantime, I had my own. I tried not to be too intrusive, but I was determined to capture this lovely woman in action. The costume was handmade and unique, like none I had seen before. I could look at it for hours. It draped so beautifully over her body as it was not as thick as suede often is.