American Tribal Style?
November 19, 2009 § 7 Comments
A few months back, I had to do some belly dance teacher soul searching. I teach American Tribal Style Belly Dance. Recently, the creator of this amazing dance form, Carolena Nericcio, has become increasingly vocal that all ATS dancers should do the dance the way she does, or it shouldn’t be called ATS. Now, I teach a form of ATS that is very closely based on the Fat Chance dance vocabulary with a few stylistic decisions made here and there, some by me, some by my first teacher. Carolena has expressed that moves that haven’t been approved by her should not be considered ATS.
I understand where she’s coming from. I have seen a lot of ATS over the last 8 years. Some has been really good, some mediocre, and some really not true to the ATS style. ATS has spawned a whole movement of growing and changing (and sometimes difficult to define) genres of belly dance. There is a great article on this at tribalbellydance.org. What a lovely movement this has been. Art giving birth to art.
So a couple months ago, after a few discussions and after reading the above article, I had to do some soul searching. If everything I’m performing and teaching is not exactly as Fat Chance would do it, am I really doing American Tribal Style?
I let this marinate in my mind for a bit and kept teaching the style as I learned it with some occasional stylistic choices and decisions made amongst my dancers to clarify cues and transitions to make our dancing cleaner.
I thought about how some of the stylistic decisions had been made by my first teach, Myra Krien, and thought of her decades of belly dance experience and decade of ATS experience. I trust her judgment.
I also thought about the incredibly strong technique and stylistic base she instilled in me in my several years of training with her.
I still had some doubt in my mind, until my two best ATS students went to TribOriginal last month. One of the workshops they took was with a couple of lovely ladies who perform ATS and study directly under Carolena.
First of all, my students expressed how confident they felt in this workshop and how they felt like their arms were in the correct places, their posture was correct and they had a pretty easy time following along and picking up the new moves they learned. Other students asked for tips when they were getting something easily or their way of executing the movement looked correct. This made me feel very proud; proud of them for their dedication to classes and how much they’ve learned, proud of me for teaching them so well, and proud to be part of such a massive global dance movement.
This along with this next tidbit restored my confidence in my right to call myself an American Tribal Style dancer. They learned in this workshop that even the Fat Chance language is still evolving. Even the base dance form is evolving. In beautiful ways. And we evolve with it.
And I feel confident enough in my ATS training and experience to make some technical, artistic or stylistic choices and still keep the integrity of the ATS language and style in tact. As with any language, there may be slightly different dialects from place to place. Language is fluid, more about what you’re communicating than the exact words you are speaking. The sentence, more powerful than an individual word. Art communicates in an organic way, with a life of its own.
I can honestly say I think we are representing American Tribal Style well.