Ah, ATS®, familiar territory after four months of classes with Lacy & the intensive General Skills workshop. But what is this? Baskets with it?? Yes, baskets. Jaki Hawthorne, director of Jahara Phoenix Dance Company in Lawrenceville, has adapted some of the traditional moves and added a couple of new ones to allow you to create improvisational choreography with a basket on and off your head, and she was in Athens to share it with us.
First, you have to have the right kind of basket, wide and shallow. Jaki recommended a basket around 15 inches in diameter (give or take a few) and not more than about four inches deep, like this:
The first step, of course, was to practice balancing it on our heads. With the right basket, it’s really not much of a problem…at least when you’re just standing still. Then Jaki demonstrated how to hold it. The mantra: “The thumb goes INSIDE the basket!” This turns out to be very important for being able to maneuver the basket.
Then we worked on moves to show off the basket, holding it out, sliding it down beside us, turning with it, drawing circles with it. Lucky for me these are very similar to moves you do with a sword, so it was just a matter of getting used to holding it properly.
Of course there’s more to it than just holding the basket. You need to combine that with ATS® moves. Not all the standard moves will work; in fact, you have to be pretty much limited to the slow moves. Can you imagine doing spins with a basket on your head? Some moves can be very effective with adaptation, like the Barrel Turn, so that was our next step. Barrel Turns are not tough by themselves, but they take on a whole new dimension when you have to manipulate a basket along with it.
Finally, Jaki showed us a couple of moves she had developed specifically for the basket dance. Then it was time to put it all together, get into groups & formations, & just dance. That’s where it gets fun, with the improvisation and the brightly colored baskets enhancing your movement.
At the end of class, we posed as a group with our baskets!