20 September 2010

how has ATS changed your life?

Hi All,
Whew! let's take a sideline to the raging fire of Old School, New Style.
Let me know how ATS has changed your life. Be as specific as you like.


Mark said...

ATS has let me love my body, nourishes my spirit and is a beautiful gift that is shared with my wife, teachers, troop mates and fellow dancers. And all the smiling faces that come watch us.

The main way ATS has changed my life is it's brought a whole new light to me. I've suffered from a very severe mental health issue most my life. ATS has brought me so much stability, in my eyes it's a form that stimulates and helps bring into balance my mind, body and spirit. Through the dance I've discovered my body and learned to love it, respect it as a temple and a thing of beauty as opposed to a container for my brain. Both myself and my wife dance ATS together, the hidden communication between husband and wife amplified through the dance and extended to our tribe who are our chosen sisters and brothers.
ATS brings beauty and harmony to my life.
(Of course I agree, it's you asking, how could I ever say no ;-) )

icy said...

How does one begin to share about this dance, when you weren't expecting something like this to enter your life. My weight was up nearly the highest it would ever be, I knew dance would not be a limelight for me after all who would want to see a fat dancer.

Boy, I couldn't have been farther from the truth. I was struggling obviously with self-image, and once I got the privilege to see FatChance Belly Dance and my dear friend's wedding...I was hooked. I knew I wanted to do try this dance and the irony is that the dancers I saw weren't "fat" ...hardly but they were "real" women.
I floundered for a bit to find this dance in my area, but I did. I learned a variety of "Tribal" styles but never felt "whole" and I kept coming back to the FatChance way. Finally, when I nearly gave up for the second time, I opted to do General Skills and Teacher Training for ME. Not to teach but for me.
Funny how that works out, because two weeks prior to attending the teacher training all sorts of signs were indicating that I was meant to teach. I tried to blow them off but they kept pestering me...to the point that I actually considered asking about a Sister Studioship.
Can we say scared....
Scared of sticking my neck out, scared of the unknown, but knowing full well this dance was a part of who I am and self-image be all to hell at that point. You would have never seen me in a two piece swimsuit, now everyone sees me belly dance...wow, what a huge step for me.

Raven said...

ATS has definitely changed the way I viewed body image, age, and teamwork both inside and outside the dance.

Having been predominately an Egyptian/Turkish Oriental dancer the first few years of my dance journey, there was alot of attention on weight and body proportions. I started as a size 5. When I gained some weight and increased size to 7, my mentor and dance teacher publicly stated I was too "fat" to dance anymore. I took it in stride and kept dancing but still had the feeling that I was not right for the dance in my head. She also mentioned a shelf life for dancing in a restaurant. So since I started my dancing a little later in life, I realized that my age and weight may keep me from future gigs. But I kept on dancing fully aware of my "challenges" according to my teacher.

When I first saw FCBD perform in 1999 I saw different body types and ages and I thought it was so beautiful. Body type, size didn't matter. It was truly a dance for every woman. Finally I found it and felt comfortable right out of the gate.

Working within the context of ATS really showed me the teamwork/sisterhood aspect of the dance that I didn't know existed. Even when I was in an Oriental dance troupe, we always danced as individuals on the same stage. But never as partners or sisters. ATS has really shown me how to be part of a team and how to focus on the group and not the individual and it was freeing and refreshing! ATS is all about how the group moves and works together. It was truly a new concept for me.

It also helped me truly connect with another dancer on stage. When we are circling during a transition, we are looking directly in the eyes of another dancer and that moment to me is magic. The connection and unspoken communication is beautiful. It actually translates into my relationships outside the dance as well.

I have continued on to adopt what I call "living ATS" as a philosophy about knowing when to lead, when to follow, principles of commitment, teamwork, patience, creativity, and most of all sisterhood. ATS has been such a gift in my life! I would definitely not mind being interviewed. This is a great topic.

Fran said...

How ATS changed my life.
Healed my broken back, healed my bad body image, and made me stronger with more stamina.

In 1987 I was a competitive horse back rider when I was thrown from my horse into a 4 x4 post. I cracked four ribs, broke 3 back bones, and collapsed a lung and a serious case of PTSD. After a week in hospital and months of physical therapy I needed to get my mobility and strength. As a trained dancer I was drawn to belly dance and took cabaret class. It was fun by did not really speak to my soul. Then in 2000 with out even knowing that ATS was I took a 3 day FCBD workshop and found my true home. Not only did the posture and power of this style speak to my former dance training but the spirit of the dance was a healing balm to my very tattered self esteem and soul. Until ATS I was SURE I would never perform in pubic again as I had not only lost a lot of my mobility and flexibility but gained a lot of weight. The shattered body image was more debilitating then the shattered bones but being in a circle of strong powerful ATS dancers, watching for cues and shifts in energy and being forced to dance in the moment got me out of my head and back into my body. Made me fall back in love with a body and soul that had been so badly damaged by accident and weight gain. Now I am privlaged to try in my own humble way to give that gift to others.

shellybelly said...

I had a dilapidating back injury in 2001 that left me unable to walk for months, herneating 2 discs in my lower back. I proceeded to reinjure myself every year after that. I came to ATS after 3 different people suggested it to me: my chiropractor, massage therapist and pilates instructor. The message was, all you can do is strengthen your core...the hearneated discs will never really heal. I started ATS belly dance in February 2008 and to my delight I have not injured myself since.

I have never wanted to or intended to be a dancer, I really just wanted the back injuries & pain to stop. But now after 2.5 years of
ATS BD, I am a dancer and my life has changed a lot since then. I have found a whole community of like-minded women (void of divas and mean girls) with whom I share a beautiful art form. I have learned to be more patient with my autistic son and my husband. I have learned to be more patient in general. I feel better. I think I look better and have been told as much by many who know me. I have finally connected with my inner girly girl, feeling more feminine and more comfortable in my own skin as a woman than in all my 43 years. I have found that I am much more aware of how I impact those around me, even with just my facial expression. I feel more in tune with my body. I see things from a wider perspective now - it seems as if dancing in a group has made me have to think beyond my own personal space of just 3ft around me. I even walk differently, with my shoulders rolled back and down, chest lifted and a pleasant expression on my face. Life feels like more of a group activity now and not as self-centered.

I am so glad that ATS BD and I found each other and, thankfully, I will never be the same because of it.

I would not mind being interviewed about this subject.


noora_amarr_bd said...

Wow, where to begin...

I will start with the beginning of my dance career. I started dancing traditional oriental/turkish/egyptian styles of dance in 1990. At the age of 7, that is a very big deal. The atmosphere was very much on looks and a constant "competition" with others even from the same troupe/studio. There was always some back stabbing and undercutting going on. I really thought as I grew up that this was the way of a belly dancer and how you become professional.

Well, I left the belly dance scene while I was in the Army. I returned three years later to try and pick-up where I left off. I will admit that the concept of "Tribal" and the undertone it meant coming from the oriental world kept me from enjoying the beauty of many styles of dance. Well, after meeting up and connecting with an old friend who started in the same studio and who was studying ATS, I came to accept these new styles as an evolution of the dance.

Well, after being exposed to more and more "tribal" of all flavors, I finally started taking classes in ATS. This opened up so many doors in my life and I have been truly blessed to be a part of not only dance, but of friendship. I have bonded with a group of ladies more closely than I ever did more whole life. I feel blessed to have each of these girls in my life and the connection we feel on stage as well as off stage has always been felt.

I have come to trust my troupe mates and we are there for each other. ATS to me is a sisterhood and bond. It isn't about how you look, how old you are, or how many costumes you have or which venues you regular. I find every excuse I can to dance with any ATS sisters.

ATS showed me that there is no reason to compete against each other, but rather to compliment each other on stage and help everyone look good.

This is such a great topic! Thank you for sharing and I am more than willing to be an interviewee. :)

E. A. Wachs said...

Tribal may not have saved my life, but it certainly saved my quality of life.

I started taking classes in 2006 as a morbedly obese 21 year old weighing 354.

Since then I've only lost 30 pounds but I'm the healthiest and happiest I've ever been. And I attribute it to ATS since bellydance is the only exercise I was able to stick with, and though I've never met you, you were one of the people who inspired me to go vegan. Thankyou, Carolena :)

Jessica Brigham said...

I was in a rut in spring 2004, and hopped over to the bookstore to get away from a nasty boyfriend. I happened upon the little yellow box that said "Art of Bellydance". I don't know what possessed me to pick it up, buy it, and take it out to my car. Once I put the music cd in, I was enchanted, infatuated, obsessed, transformed. The music spoke to me like nothing else.

I practiced alone to the dvd and took Egyptian style classes until I could get my hands on a Tribal instructor. Ziah taught ATS among other folkloric styles, and I lived for each week when it was time to circle up with my new friends.

Life has never been the same; it's now full of joy, work that pays in joy, and a chance to be part of a movement to improve womens' lives through instruction.

I could go on and on...thank you for following your dreams Carolena! You've made an example of yourself, and allowed other folks to see what they can achieve!

official colbert myspace said...

Those of us in The Arabian Spice Co. were excited when Kajira got her grant to write the first Tribal Bible. We had seen the original FCBD at events and heard the rumblings through the crowd. Was it choreographed or not? Some not truly one with the essence of dance expression even claimed it was boring, but I have remained mesmerized. ATS has made me proud to be a part of the continuing tradition of the evolution of bellydance that comes from San Francisco though I've never performed it myself. My studies and performances continued with Mediterranean Folkloric. It is impossible to call Nomadic North African and Middle Eastern dance Tribal Style anymore. It's fun to go to dance parties in any city and be able to jump in and participate along with ATS cues. Its a fine art for men and women to create as one energy with no one being imperfect in any way. When teaching my classes I enjoy explaining the differences and roots of our arts that now have to include American Tribal Style. Just this past weekend when I taught my Zilly Bootcamp class at The North Bay Bellydance Bazaar, I educated others in a bit of Tribal Style variation to incorporate a wider variety of finger cymbal patterns. People who know me are surprised. They say, "I thought you weren't into ATS." But aha! To be a complete instructor these days... I have to be into it. Just because I've never been in an ATS troupe doesn't mean that I don't love it. The Portland Fest with Paulette as hostess is some of the funnest times I've ever had! Thank you to Carolena and the original Fat Chance Bellydancers for performing in Portland several years ago. It meant a lot to us then and now.

Rita said...

ATS brought JOY back into my life!

After a long string of some pretty rough years dealing with adult children's crises, personal marital issues, deaths of several close family members and my own health problems, there was no JOY left anywhere within me. My heart and spirit felt like dust. I was "tough;" I had made it through and was just slogging along day-to-day waiting for the other shoe to drop. I couldn't even remember anymore what JOY felt like!

Then, I saw an ad for ATS classes. I had dreamed of dancing ever since I was a child, but never had the opportunity. The time was right, so I went to the class.

It was not far into that first class when I found myself smiling from ear to ear and then felt a joyous exuberance bursting inside of me. I felt the JOY I did when I was a little girl singing and hopping and skipping along the sidewalk on my way home from school each day; total, unabashed, unselfconscious JOY!! WOW! I was hooked!

I still feel this JOY every time I dance ATS. I feel JOY in the music, the moves, the zilling, the women I dance with, the costumes...everything!

I am so grateful to have found JOY again, and so grateful that it was initiated by this beautiful dance, ATS. ATS has helped me to find JOY in my being once again, and to allow that JOY to spill out into the world around me. Thank you!

zina.dance said...

Hi Carolena,

How did ATS change my life? ATS added to my life more than anything. It brought me something to look forward to everyday, the dance -- it's always about the dance.

I started bellydancing several years ago but felt no focus, like I was wandering with no direction. When I discovered ATS it hit me like a ton of rocks...THIS is what I've been looking for; it's beautiful, dignified, and something even a 54 year old can do and not feel ridiculous. I feel the time clock moved backwards from where I was.

Thank you for creating this beautiful dance.

Topeka, KS

Ms Fis said...

ATS has contributed significantly to my self esteem, self confidence and assertiveness. No longer am I the timid person who worried about what others thought. Now I stand up for myself and speak my mind when I need to.

I was always a shy, timid child and loved the Middle East, presumably from all those marvellous 60's movies I watched, as I had never traveled there. In my 40's I finally had the opportunity to study belly dance and after 12 months of cabaret, I saw a video of Fat Chance performing - it was on the fourth DVD you made. I fell in love - with the dance, the costume, the music!! It was like coming home - I was sold! No more cabaret for me. ATS made a marked difference to my life, as over time, I became much more confident.
ATS enabled me to accept myself as I am and empowered me to speak my mind, in a respectful way when I need to. I have so much to thank ATS for (and, by default you Carolena) - the wonderful friends I have made through this dance, the improved self confidence I now carry with me; and finally the acceptance of myself as I am. Thankyou xx

Anonymous said...

I have danced most of my life. But the dance world is not kind as ex-dancers age.

ATS has given me permission to dance as I get older and to dance even when my body shows the effects of life (such as child birth, weight gain, scars). Even a greater gift has been given to me through ATS, is that I can dance WITH other women and accept all their dance abilities; not to compete with them as the regular dance world demands.

ATS has humbled me and made me a better person. I know when I dance ATS, I dance as a part of something greater than myself.

If I was asked to be interviewed, I would be honored!

Katrina said...

When I started studying ATS back in 1999, I would not have guessed that it would provide me with the means to support myself while raising a child as a single mama.

My first class started in 1999 as a weekly habit that never stopped.It was the first "thing" in my life that I truly enjoyed doing regularly. I tried everything up until that point. Ballet, tap, acrobatics, piano, violin, clarinet, baskeball, volleyball, softball, football, soccer, tennis, oil painting, photography. All of which I did well, but did not love.You name it, I tried it. I didn't find ATS until I was 26 years old.

After years of dedication to the dance, I was invited to take part with a small group of dancers in Southern California in 2007 to get certified in General Skills for ATS Belly Dance. I was already teaching at the time and it was the only style that I knew well. So, I took the weekend workshop. Then, a year later, I took the training to become a Sister Studio. From that training, I fealt as though all my years of dance had been justified. At that point, I decided to take it to the next level. In December 2007, I opened my own dance studio and furthered my dream of creating a large ATS Belly Dance Troupe.

I learned a lot about myself in those first two years. I learned how to create boundaries.I realized that I didn't need to allow people to walk all over me. I created a "safe space" where others could heal through the dance as I have. I learned that my "bad posture" had nothing to do with my anatomy. It was more about my low self image and the protection I put around my heart. I learned that students are teachers and teaching is learning. I also learned that I could not take other people's "stuff" on as my own. I learned that I was only hearing or viewing their own personal experience. I didn't have to share their experience if it wasn't mine too. I realized that people will be hurt no matter how kind or what good intentions I have. We are all on a different part of our own personal journies.

One of my biggest lessons came when one of my mentors/teachers made it clear to me that I was a very creative person and that I may not fit in with the Sister Studio model. I struggled the hardest with that lesson. It was painful. I wanted to hold on tight to the "old school" ATS that I was dedicated to. But was already slipping into the "New School Style of ATS" without realizing it.

I finally realized that mama bird was gently pushing me out of the nest because it was time for me to fly. I meditated on that for a year before I finally set flight. It was the most liberating feeling. I could still dance the dance that I love AND create anew.

Stepping back to my intial thought, while all these lessons were taking place in my world. I was raising a child as a single mother. Owning a dance studio and teaching dance has allowed me to spend more time with my child. I never saw that coming until it was already happening. The dance allowed me to survive. It allowed me to have balance. It allowed me to be me.

A shaman told me back in Sept of 2007 that it would not be for another 2 years that I would find my soul mate because I had to come into myself through my dance studio first. Sure enough, I came into myself AND I connected with my soul mate in October 2009 and we will soon be married in October 2010.

The dance is my life. My life is my dance. A jyotish astologer recently told me that I need to allow the drama to be expressed in my dance in order to keep drama out of my marriage. So beautiful.

Today, I am so grateful to part of such a beautiful dance form. I am ecstatic to witness the evolution of the dance and the liberation of it's creator.

Lynn K. Fletcher said...

When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis I knew some types of movement were forever cut off to me; but the grounded earthy movements of ATS kept me from despairing over my body and helped me celebrate what it can do.

In my early 20s I began to have chronically sore wrists and ankles. I became less active and gained weight. Eventually it got to the point that everything hurt, and I couldn't get out of bed in the morning normally. I had to crawl from the bed to the shower and run hot water over me until I could move again.

Naturally I was depressed. And what's more, doctors had no idea what was wrong with me. They could see no broken bones, only inflammation. They put me on steroids, which made me gain more weight. Some doctors got tired of me and decided I was a junkie looking to score pain killers from them.

Finally a doctor checked my rheumatoid factor in my blood and I was off the charts. No one had thought to do it before because I was so young.

I was diagnosed after 3 years of constant pain. However I was also living in Japan at the time and drugs such as Enbrel weren't approved for use in Japan yet.

When I moved back to the states, I was able to move but could do nothing strenuous because that would cause a flare up.

Then I was prescribed Enbrel, and I felt almost normal again. The change was so enormous that I decided it was partially divine. And thus, a gift. A gift that I shouldn't waste.

With the damage to my joints, I will never be a runner or a kick boxer or do aerobics or anything like that.

I knew swimming could help, but there wasn't much opportunity to hit the pool. And I wanted something I could do at home.

As I searched, I remember a moment from my younger days at a festival. A group of women were under a patch of trees dressed in large skirts with bright colorful tops. They showed their bellies and called themselves belly dancers.

I don't know the name of the troupe except that they were in Memphis,TN sometime in the early 2000s dancing at the Cooper Young Festival.

Remembering how they didn't jump around or do anything that might stress the joints, I looked online for a belly dance class in Westminster, MD.

I found my first teacher, Wendy Gooch, and it was by providence that she happened to be teaching ATS.

I've been dancing for almost two years now and I feel great. I'll always need to be on medication, but regular practice of ATS strengthens my muscles, which support my joints and give me the ability to move almost normally.

I may not be able to do levels as deep as other women, but because ATS recognizes that every woman is different and moves differently it's never been a problem.

Today I dare to perform publicly. And I continue to pursue ATS in its purest form as well as learn other styles. In fact, this weekend I will be attending Tribal Pura in Cambridge, MA!

Krisztina said...

What changed ATS? My body. I have four chlidren, the dance give me back my muscles, my form.
I find my place, the idea. A dance together, what is better? This is the most people forgot.
I cant say enough: Thank you Carolena! and do, dance, teach how long is possible!

holliemschmidt said...

I really don't know where to start? For my whole life I have been fighting low self-esteem due to being a product of childhood abuse (physical, mental and sexually). Throughout my adult life, I have tried to have a relationship with my mom which is bipolar and a very negative person. I grew up with a grandmother who had image problems which was handed down to my mother which tried her best to hand it down to me. From a earily age I remember thinking that girdles were something you wore under even blue jeans as well as high heel shoes with blue jeans. Both my mom and my grandmother were closet eaters and while they ate they came up with excuses why or why they didn't need it. Food was viewed as guilt in my family so by my early teenage years, I developed a negative relationship with food. I remember being a size 3 getting ready to buy a prom dress and my mother in front of the whole bridal store telling me I needed to do sit-ups before I wore the dress. Keep in mind I was under weight at 106 on a 5'4 frame. I developed an unhealthy relationship with food from a very early age. In my college years/young adult stage, I started gaining weight and sent me up to a size 18. In my late twenties while trying to have a child I sored up to a size 24. Which I started going to the gym and working out. Then in a girlfriend ask me to take a ballet, jazz and tapp class with her. I loved the dance so much but I was a size 20 and felt like the fat girl. Then one of my friends ask me to try this belly dance class she heard of and I went and fell in love with it. It was a carbaret style class. I was on a diet and losing the weight and had gotten down to a size 10/12 and looked better than I had since highschool, my belly dance teacher told me I was too heavy to perform in her troupe even though I was better than most of her girls. She tthen pointed to my arms and ask me to work harder on them. It was so negative that I found myself leaving her class. The first time I saw ATS was when I was at Tribal Con and Devyani was performing. I was immediatley in love with the diversity of women, costumes and group dance that I wanted to be able to dance like that. I thought I would feel comfortable in that style of clothing and it is not all about "me" but a group, like a group of gypsies. I immediately went home and bought FCBD Vol 1-7 and started learning from home. This style of dance has helped my self-esteem which is improving daily and has improved my in general way of life. My relationship with food has become a more healthy one and I became strong enough to illiminate the negative out of my life and even deal with my abusive past better. Dance has become my therapy and stress reliever. Four years ago I was diagnosised with PCOS which is polycystic overy syndrom which is the reason for my weight problems. I had a leading doctor tell me something that stuck last year, he said "Love the Body you are in and others will love you too". Right then something just clicked and I decided to stop obsessing about my weight or what size I am. I realized with my weight jumping from 12 to 20 that most people did not care or even notice as much as I thought they did. I decided to stop letting my weight and size rule my life and to just be happy and dance. ATS has made me a stronger woman, I respect myself more, and realize I am beautiful person no matter what size I am. Thank you for giving me ATS, I would not be the woman I am without it =)

Lisa said...

Learning, teaching and performing ATS made me finally accept me and my body for what they are. No more of the pressures from outside sources to be stick thin to be able to share a dance form.

I enjoy being around people and I am a natural helper and healer and whilst in the classroom or on the stage this also helps me fulfil these parts of me.

Anonymous said...

When I was 11 years old I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life other than dance. I tried all sorts of different schools of movement, gymnastics, Irish Dance, contemporary dance, even Tai Kuan Do. When I started classical belly dance I knew I was close to the form I wanted, but there was still an element missing for me. I have studied Reiki, Meditation and other forms of personal empowerment and I wanted a dance form that emulated that aspect of my life. After being introduced to the world of American Tribal Style I knew, from the first time I saw a performance that this dance style was the one for me. In the almost 9 years that I have studied, performed and taught ATS I have travelled, met and danced with amazing people from all over the world. ATS for me is more than a dance form. Its a language, its a culture. It has rippled out and enriched all parts of my life. It has extended my global family and given me a greater awareness of the potential of the human body, showing me how amazing and beautiful it can be.

And for this, Carolena, I would like to say: Go raibh míle maith agat. (1000 thank yous!)

With Love

paganation said...

It made me a better belly dancer. It also gave me a new tool for performance. I also think that ATS emphasizes, and this is just me speaking, strength and power in the body. I think this is one of the reasons people are attracted to it. You can feel good and powerful and share that with others. It is goooood!

Patrice said...

Finding ATS transformed my artistic spirit , and, at age 44, allowed me to enter a second phase of belly dancing --- where I could more honestly express myself, where the quality of my dancing was exponentially raised, and where I discovered infinite creative explorations and adventures.

I had been belly dancing (cabaret style) since 1983 and, as much as I loved all of the beautiful women who were part of my belly dance world, as a dancer, I felt discouraged and stifled. The costumes and the flirtatious choreography never felt comfortable to me or reflective of my personality. I also wasn’t enamored with the mostly Egyptian music and found that when I wasn’t dancing with the troupe, I gravitated towards “alternative” world music, usually anything with pervasive percussion. After a (high profile) gig where we wore gold stretch lace nightgowns (as form fitting beladi dresses), Egyptian beaded collars, sequin belts with plastic beads, and wigs, I (literally) cried for mercy --- I even commented to a fellow dancer that I felt and looked like the member of the Supremes who committed suicide! I quit the troupe immediately after.

A few years before, I had seen FCBD at Rakkasah and, like so many others, was awe struck and mesmerized. I even bought a few tribal costume pieces, hoping to get my troupe director to incorporate a more folkloric look to our costumes. So, when I quit, I knew there was another style of belly dance out there waiting for me. And, it was kismet that when I wandered into Carolena’s Noe Valley “studio”, bemoaning that I wasn’t able to take her classes in S.F. --- she would tell me that one of her dancers was starting to teach ATS in Davis. YES!

I love that ATS is all inclusive --- the dance style and the costuming allows for all body types, all ages, all ethnicities, every and anyone to look and feel beautiful. And the format of dancing as a group, improvising as the music and emotional content elicits --- it’s what fits my the way I roll --- wanting to share the experience with other dancers, melding our dancing seamlessly with the music, and being able to express honest (not contrived or dictated by a choreographed presentation) emotion and energy. Also, being able to make use of music and dance elements from India, central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Andalusia Spain --- so many creative avenues are possible. Within the format of ATS I feel as though I will continue to evolve and grow as a (belly) dancer and artist.

Much appreciation and love and light always,
'Trice Norris (Manasa)

Sam said...

It's not an exaggeration to say that ATS has given me my body... this from someone who lived in her head for most of her life, and was perfectly content to be an intellectual visual artist.

Curiosity brought me in, although it was curiosity that had gone unfulfilled for twenty years; I met a bellydancer back in the late seventies whose Kathak ankle bells I overhauled with new covers and straps, and she told me I really needed to try it. I was intrigued, but way to shy to act on it then. I am not naturally graceful or well-coordinated, either, never have been. Movements that take some just hours to absorb take me much longer, but I get there with sheer stubbornness and hard work. I do get there, and it is utterly pleasing. I am aware of my physical being in a way I never was before finding ATS. I feel like a whole person as a result, and it is quite, quite wonderful.

These days I say I work my day job to support my dance habit, which is actually the truth. I dance daily. I have classes full of happy enthusiastic students, a student troupe, and a professional troupe; we're a tribe, and it is very good. If I go to class feeling grouchy or sad or overwhelmed, I always come away refreshed and recharged. What's not to love?

You'd never shut me up in an interview, lol!

CassiaMarie said...

ATS has been a grounding place for me through the last 3 years. Through my journey of learning the ATS vocabulary I have had a major surgery (thymectomy) and had a beautiful little girl. Both times once recovered found myself walking into the studio starting over again. But it was a familiar ground that brought me back to myself.
I started dancing in October 2007 and immediately fell in love. The found out I had a mass in my chest that was growing rapidly. I had surgery, very similar to open heart surgery but to remove the mass. They had said it could be cancer or it may not be cancer. After surgery thankfully found out it was benign. I had to stop dancing and recover. I was invited by my dance teacher at the time to come and participate as much as i could but just to watch if i could not. That was a wonderful gift that helped me to come out of the fear from a traumatic surgery and to reimmerse myself in ATS again. Once in the swing of things again, I found in February 2009 that I had become pregnant. I was thrilled and then found that my doctor said it was not a good idea to keep dancing at first then I was just too darn tired. But as before, I was lured back to dancing ATS after I had my daughter. This helped me to get my body to recover and get moving again. I am now in the full swing of ATS again! My daughter watches us dance and I look at her so proud. I have very low self esteem, having always struggled with my weight and just plain dislike of mirrors. Someone told me once, "From the neck up, you would never know you were so overweight." That hurt. I do not want my daughter to EVER feel that way. I feel dancing ATS has given me a self love (slowly but surely) that I will continue to work on acquiring. I have bad days and I have good days. But I always look forward to the days when we have dance practice because I feel like I am beautiful on those days. When the duet, trio or quartet dance together and I see the twirling of the skirts and see the looks on the other ladies faces as we move I fall in love all over again. I hope one day my daighter will ask me to teach her about ATS. Thank you Carolena.

I agree to be interviewed. Thank you for this opporunity.

Cassia Soldano

Britta Bandit said...

Honestly, Tribal is what made me decide to take belly dance and belly dance has been such an amazing, transformative and powerful force in my life, I cannot imagine who I would be now without it.

I like the Cabaret/Egyptian style and all, but the costumes are a little too...glitzy/Las Vegas-esque for my taste. I distinctly recall the first time I came across a Tribal dancer. I was looking for pictures for something I was making for Graphic Design school back in 2004 about travel to India and I stumbled across this picture: http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1377/1435728679_923938c7d5.jpg and I was "Whoa! What is this? Who is this?"

I had never seen Tribal belly dancers before and this picture reminded me of something...old, something incredibly familiar. So I started trying to find out who this was, almost obsessively and then I found out it was Rachel and through Rachel I found Zoe and then Carolena Nericcio and I discovered what ATS is so on and so forth. It's pretty weird but that's the story of how I got hooked. One image, and I was captivated.

I started taking classes locally and I do it almost every night now. It's improved my life physically, emotionally and spiritually. Thank you Carolena!

Love + Light,


Megan said...

Dancing ATS has helped me immensely with both body image issues and just general self-confidence. ATS has made me a happier and healthier person, and has helped me reduce the level of stress in my life.

I've always had issues with body image, primarily from being overweight most of my life. In the past couple of years, weight has become less of a vanity issue for me and more of a health issue. My doctor told me that I was verging on pre-diabetic, and my blood pressure was high as well. The best answer for both problems was the same: lose weight, exercise more.

As someone whose biggest challenge when it comes to working out has always been staying interested, I went back to bellydance. Having specific moves to learn from weekly classes means practicing, which leads to more frequent exercise on my part. I'd danced off and on for years, starting with cabaret style before dabbling in tribal fusion and finally taking some ATS classes. Unfortunately, the teacher moved too far away for me to continue classes and I had to drop them.

I was ecstatic when Katrina of Skin Deep started teaching classes near where I lived, and even more so when I was able to move further south and was close enough to attend classes at the main studio. It's still a bit of a drive, but worth every minute. Just knowing I have a class in the evening makes my whole day feel a little brighter.

For me, ATS is all about community. The improvisational lead-follow nature of the dance itself ensures that the dancers get to know one another, learning each others' strengths and weaknesses as well as the little individual quirks that make each of us unique. That community aspect naturally overflows to life outside the dance. ATS dancers are some of the most welcoming and supportive people I've ever had the good fortune to spend time with, and the girls at Skin Deep are a great example of this.

When I'm dancing ATS I don't feel self-conscious or nervous, just excited and happy. The few times I was on stage as cabaret dancer I was a nervous wreck, self-conscious about everything, worried that I'd forget the choreography or that any number of catastrophes would occur. Performing with our ATS student troupe? That was just pure fun. I was more worried about making sure my turban was secure than messing up in front of a crowd, and for someone as self-conscious and shy as I can be that's huge! Even when there was a music mix-up in my very first ATS performance and I found myself dancing to a song I'd never even heard before, I didn't get nervous of freeze up. I just went with it, and so did the rest of the girls. There's something about knowing that the other dancers have your back that makes performance a lot less scary, and something about knowing this community will always accept you that makes the rest of life a little less scary as well.

Since starting ATS only five months ago I've gained confidence, gotten in better shape, and reduced my stress level. Dancing ATS offers a temporary escape from the stresses and concerns of everyday life, a great physical outlet, and an opportunity to be part of an amazing community. Honestly, I don't know what I'd do without it!

((And yes, I would be more than happy to be interviewed :) ))

Elizabeth said...

ATS has definitely changed my life for the better. I was a long time dancer going through empty nest syndrome when I found this dance form. It helped me to develop deep and lasting friendships with many women. Also the attention that is required to dance improvisationally with others has improve my ability to focus and mediate.

elley said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
gypsyfirebellydance said...

ATS has been so many things for me at different times along my journey with it: healing body-image issues, joyful movement, connection and communication with fellow dancers, and now, it has really become a spiritual path. It has truly changed me and my life, and I can't image who or where I'd be without it.
I believe that the surrender that one embodies in the dance, as follower, as well as in leading (surrendering to the music, and the flow of the dance) can be a lesson that can carry over into "everyday life".
I feel that I am honored to be able to share this dance, and its many gifts, in teaching and performing, and hope to create space for others to discover what it can be to them.
I am so lucky and grateful that ATS came into my life, and that you continue to share your art with us all.
I'd be willing (honored, really!) to be interviewed :)
Much love,

Mistress said...

Bellydance gave me confidence and made me comfortable in my skin.

When I discovered ATS, it gave me community and introduced me into a sisterhood. I feel priviledged and incredibly inspired to dance with other women and share in a very special comradery.

Rashenkoti said...

Tribal gave me a healthy connection to my body replacing bad behavior like severe dieting. Tribal enabled me to teach not just a dance but classes on the strength and unity of women rather than weak competitiveness, our dominant societal model.Tribal made me a better parent. Tribal allowed me to communicate across cultural and language boundaries. Tribal gave me the strength and body awareness to survive a potentially lethal body trauma. Tribal has also connected me to the great joy modern life almost chases away.

Tribal dance was one of two events that changed my life to such a degree that I do not know what the last 18 years would have looked like without it. The first event, getting pregnant and having my daughter informs the second, finding Tribal. Before becoming pregnant I spent 14 years dieting to an extreme degree. After having my child I wanted to change my relationship with my physical self. You can't give what you don't have, I wanted my daughter to love and be her body, I had to learn how to do that myself.

I was lucky to find Tribal classes in 91 and that brought an entirely new way of experiencing my body. In 1994 I moved to Ireland and no longer had any Tribal dancers, classes anything to go to. I decided to teach so I could have friends to dance with. That teaching has allowed me to reach many women here in a culture were women's bodies have been controlled by the edicts of the Catholic church for centuries( my friend Clair calls it IPD Irish Pelvic Disorder..She says Irish dancing is like Irish sexuality. The top half does not want to know what the bottom half is doing)

It has meant that I have had an ability to positively impact lives, one woman at a time, leading to the understanding amongst us of the step after independence, interdependence. For myself separately from my teaching it has totally changed my relationship with my bodyself, to being one of harmony and pride rather than shame and self hatred. It also was part of what literally saved my life.

My last pregnancy 9 years ago had hormonal complications possibly caused by enviormental factors. Ultimately it resulted in the cartilage in my pelvis falling off. If it had not been for the muscle structure from my dancing my pelvis would have completely split open. In addition to this I was able to quickly identify 3 blood clots as the formed in my leg. I believe this is because of the body awareness I developed through Tribal Practice. In the hospital they said (8 times in one day) that I could die, the ninth doctor said I would at least never dance again. Wrong.

In fact the body memory that I had built up in the previous years helped me recover after 6 months of being bed bound. Tribal has permeated my whole life, enabled me to contribute to charity and awareness work, travel to former eastern block countries to meet teach and learn from women with very diffrent cultures than both of mine. It has given me a way enable women to have a different view of their lives and their power to truly lead them.

Tribal has shaped my life, and given me more than I probably even consciously know. I am always deeply grateful.

Yes I am available for further contact.

Marius Griffin
Rashenkoti Tribal Belly Dance

Noelle said...

ATS has changed my life in the most beautiful of ways, almost every aspect of it. I am forever grateful to have found this amazing dance and the women the world over that it's shared with.

I took a demo class at a studio open house a year ago; it was only about 15 minutes long and I was taught the Taxeem, Reverse Taxeem and the Arabic. I was shy, depressed, and had a lot of self-hatred when I went in. I went home and felt that I NEEDED to dance, even though I only knew these three moves. I would practice in the bathroom by myself and felt something happening inside of me that I had never felt. I started taking classes and after each class I felt exhilarated, new, like I was blooming. I've always slouched, because I felt like I had nothing to offer, that I needed to hide. ATS has me standing tall and proud now, looking people in the eyes and smiling. Physically I feel the best I ever have, soft and curvy but defined and strong. I had a baby six years ago and have a lot of stretch marks all over my belly, which was something I was ridiculously self-conscious about. I thought no one besides myself, my daughter and my lover would ever see my belly. Imagine how it feels now to be proud of my belly, and to show other women that beauty is not in the shape or size of your body, but in how you move and communicate with it. Every day I dance, and because of that, every day I smile and feel beauty all around me. I would love to be included in an interview if needed.

Elizabeth said...

ATS was my happy accident! I started dancing ATS because I wanted to meet some other happy, healthy, well-adjusted women who weren't afraid of a strong, independent, and slightly crazy lady (i.e. me).

I had very few adult friends as I have shed a lot of bad baggage over the years. I found this posting for ATS classes with a wonderful woman with whom I had studied before. I went alone. What I found was 5 of the best friends of my life, people I can truly call my sisters who have supported me through good times and bad. Along the way, I met many other beautiful individuals who have inspired me. I also found self confidence and passion.

Leaf in the wind said...

In a nutshell ATS has challenged me to accept myself as the gorgeous and intelligent woman I am after my husband left me saying I didn't live life to his expectations.

And I haven't even taken a full lesson yet! That's right. I've been to many shows feeling pure joy just watching. After the divorce I spent my off hours getting in shape, by that I mean preparing my spine and my quads to insure I'd minimize any injury doing ATS. Then I met my now fiance and got pregnant and that presented a new set of challenges.
Stretchmarks, sag,and loss of all my hard work; the muscle tone and self confidence.

And so after crying and self loathing I said "STOP!" I wouldn't allow myself to give up on my dream to learn ATS. I signed up for a class and I start late this fall! Stretch marks and all. My son deserves to see a mother who's comfortable in her skin.

Yes, you may interview me.

Carmie Russ Swartz said...

From the time I was a small child I wanted to be a "belly dancer." I'd see the women dance in the old movies (I was born in 1953) and I could feel the dance in my soul.

It took me until I was almost 50 to be in a position to finally find a teacher and be able to afford to take lessons. But, by the time I could pursue this dream, I was diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease (PVD). I went from being a very active person (aerobics, walking, biking @ 118 lb. woman) to someone who can't walk around the block (along with that came an increase in weight).

I gave up the private dance classes and thought, "that's it...you'll never dance." But, two years ago I joined a group class. I found that the movement of belly dance was beneficial in keeping the blood moving - keeping the chi moving. Although I remained frustrated that I couldn't keep up with the dance, I needed it.

One night at class someone mentioned tribal dance. I looked it up on youtube later that evening. That was when I stumbled upon FCBD! I couldn't stop watching the clips. I thought, "I think I could do this!" The style of the dance seemed PVD friendly!

One night I was watching a clip and thought, "you need to learn this and share it with other women who think that they will never be able to belly dance due to PVD." I began ordering the CD's from FCBD so that I could practice and began formulating a dream...to get myself to a place where I can persue teacher training in ATS.

One day I shared this dream with my acupuncturist of 6 1/2 years. I showed her the youtube clips on my iPhone. Afterwards she told me that in our 6 1/2 years of knowing each other she has never seen me so passionate about anything as I was talking FCBD/ATS and what I wanted to do.

ATS gives all women the freedom to share in the beauty of the dance without being a size 2. I also believe that ATS can give hope to women who can't do other forms of dance.

Movement of the body is very healing. Yoga...Tai Chi...and dance...all move energy in the body and massage the internal organs. In Chinese Medicine it is said that where the energy flows, the blood will follow and vice versa. ATS allows woman such as myself to keep the chi and blood moving in the most delightful way and I hope to share that someday! Thank you, Carolena! :)

rhiannyn said...

ATS and me:
"I thought love was
Only true in fairy tales
Meant for someone else
But not for me
Love was out to get to me
That's the way it seems
Disappointment haunted
All my dreams

I thought love was
More or less a given thing
The more I gave the less
I got, oh yeah
What's the use in trying
All you get is pain
When I wanted sunshine
I got rain....

And then I saw her face
Now I'm a believer
Not a trace
Of doubt in my mind
I'm in love
I'm a believer
I couldn't leave her
If I tried"

Her = ATS, and the face of all ATS dancers [yes, yes I know there are male ATS dancers as well... just go with the FLOW ;)]

As I've mentioned somewhere else, ATS saved my belly dance life. I was about to quit dancing Tribal Fusion, because I felt incapable of keeping up the frantic pace of it, as a near 60 year old amongst 20 and 30 somethings. I'm no spring chick. Popping 'n Locking 'n Hipping 'n Hopping 'n Spinning 'n Spinning .... 'n Spinning, left me feeling ludicrous as a dancer, and out of my element. My fellow dance-mates supported me, and tried to help, but it was futile.
I'd no sooner made up my mind to quit, when a miracle happened. Diane and Tonje started teaching ATS. ATS was to be my last effort at making a go of belly dancing. So far.... SUCCESS. :) Not that it is easy by any stretch of the imagination, it isn't. However, it doesn't require me to spin in one beat, every 7 seconds. It allows for everyone in the troupe to do what they can, and not what they can't.
ATS is beautiful. It truly embodies the spirit of sisbro-hood, camaraderie and *interdependance* ~ pardon my little play on words ;)
Being able to share this dance with other ATSers is a joy. Being able to give this dance to new ATS adventurers is a blessing.
It is very much a humbling, and yet rewarding, experience being part of this family.

<3 you all,

Amy said...

ATS has allowed me to become an artist, something I always wanted but never thought was possible.

To explain, since I was small I have always wanted to be an artist, but have never shown any outstanding natural ability towards the visual arts. I credit the fact that I never took lessons or thought I could learn to draw or paint to my second grade art teacher, who embarrassed me in front of the whole class buy saying what I was doing on a project was wrong. Music didn't seem to be my calling either. I dropped out of violin at 7, and by my teen years thought it was no good trying to learn an instrument because I'd never be good because I would be starting so "late" in my life. Honestly, I also had trouble committing myself to the work of practicing.

To round it out, I dropped out of ballet at 6 after I saw the feet of an older girl who had made it to dancing with toe shoes. They were a mess, and it scared me. And then, as I got older, I moved from my round little girl self to a curvy teen self to a curvier adult self, and though I loved dancing figured I was too fat and awkward. Why? Because no one had ever told me otherwise.

Things changed in 2002 when I met my boyfriend, who is a fire dancer. He offered to teach me poi, and I said yes because if I had someone to show me how to light things on fire and fling them around then OF COURSE I was going to jump at the opportunity, even when my mom expressed concern because, "You aren't very coordinated." Actually, it wasn't that I'm uncoordinated, it's that I never did anything physical so how would I or anyone else know what I could do?

The same year I saw an improv tribal troupe perform at a local festival. Through a friend had been trying to get me to take bellydance classes I hadn't pursued it because none of the styles I had seen spoke to me, and then there were the fat and awkward feelings getting in the way. For some reason, though, this troupe caught my interest. I think it might have been the music and the attention the dancers gave to each other. I loved it. It took almost 2 years for me to start taking a class because no one taught ATS in my city, but a friend decided to teach and my boyfriend bought me my first class session as a gift.

From my first class I was hooked. I liked the movements, I liked the music. I liked that though I worked hard to learn the steps and how to dance with my classmates that it was relatively easy for me. I haven't dropped out of dancing, instead I have steadily showed up week after week to class and workshops, to troupe practice and to dance events both local and along the East Coast.

ATS works for my brain and body, and has allowed me to be a dance artist when I thought that was beyond me. Putting together my costuming has given me an outlet for my dreams as a visual artist. If I keep practicing my zills and drumming I'll be able to add musician to my accomplishments.

Mainly, though, ATS has taught me that I am a creative person. I am not just a consumer I am a producer. I can create something beautiful that I can, and want to, offer to other people, and most importantly to offer to myself.

laverne said...

i recently received this e-mail from a friend, when i read it, all i thought was ATS, this is what ATS is about, women have interdependence on each other throughout the dance, we all have different gifts of dance but share the resposiblity of making the dance great by being committed and supporting each other, sharing our experiences and strenghts, and it does bring a whole lot of laughter. Well you can read the rest and see how wonderfully this poem describes not only ATS but how we are as strong, beautiful women in our own uniwue ways. enjoy

Declaration of Interdependence
by BJ Gallagher and Lisa Hammond

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That all women are created equal -
but each is blessed with different gifts and talents.
That all women are endowed with certain individual rights -
but each must assume shared responsibilities.

For the happiness of all
depends on the commitment of each
to support equality and individuality,
rights and responsibilities.

We declare all women to be mutually interdependent -
banding together to support one another,
sharing our experience, strength, and hope,
that all may enjoy life, love,
and the pursuit of laughter.

We agree to encourage one another in tough times
and celebrate in good times.

We commit to taking turns leading and following,
inspiring and teaching,
listening and learning.

We agree to give credit where credit is due -
including us.

We commit to loving ourselves first -
because we can't give what we don't have.

With this Declaration of Interdependence,
we set ourselves free -
free from old beliefs that are no longer true,
free from self-doubt, insecurity, and loneliness,
free from self-imposed perfectionism.

We set ourselves free -
heeding our intuition in all her guises,
loving our bodies through every change,
finding our voices to speak our own truths.

We set ourselves free -
to create fulfilling work,
to form nurturing families,
and to build great friendships.

We are strong;
we are beautiful;
we are generous;
we are wise.
We are women -
committed to creating
a world that affirms us all.

Renate said...

Where do I begin...I was and am still a housewife and mother of three children. I have a son that is Autistic and twin daughters, needless to say I was very busy with little time for myself. I had hardly any interaction with adults or any hobbies. I also had suffered from compulsive issues and Anorexia for many years. I was hospitalized and almost lost my life from starving myself. I was uncomforatable with my body and self image. Nothing worked for me, not medication or therapy. I was scared to meet people or try anything new. I saw some bellydancers at a festival dancing and thought it was just the most awesome thing I had ever seen! I was in love intantly! So I signed up for cabaret classes and almost backed out at the last minute. I walked in the studio and danced and never looked back! It was the best thing I have ever done for myself. I met a community of wonderful people that were all comfortable with who they were no matter how big or small or different. We all had one thing in common, a love for dance. My self image was improving and so was my confidence. I have been dancing for 5 years now and perform regularly at events, private engagements and restaurants. Now, I am a performer!! I am most definitely not shy anymore or worried about how I look! Dance and friendships gained has been my therapy. I have always wanted to dance since I was a child but my parents could never afford it. I never thought I would be a dancer. I found a love for ATS about a year and a half ago. It has changed my dance tremendously. ATS makes me feel so strong and powerful when I dance. There's just something about the posture, the movements, the costuming, the beauty of it all, the connection you have with the other dancers that makes this art form so unique and special. I am in love with it and intend on getting certification to teach ATS! FCBD inspire me as you are all such beautiful and talented dancers. I love to perform and get Bellydance out into the public so I can share the beauty. We are so blessed to have a genius like you Carolena :) Without your creation we would not be dancing American Tribal Style and have such a wonderful dance community of so many different people who all come together and connect through the love of the your dance. Thank you Carolena : ) In a nutshell bellydance has made me the strong and confident woman I am today, it is who I am. I have fulfilled my dream of being a dancer. It truly has saved my life and for that I am grateful...

Renate said...

Where do I begin...I was and am still a housewife and mother of three children. I have a son that is Autistic and twin daughters, needless to say I was very busy with little time for myself. I had hardly any interaction with adults or any hobbies. I also had suffered from compulsive issues and Anorexia for many years. I was hospitalized and almost lost my life from starving myself. I was uncomforatable with my body and self image. Nothing worked for me, not medication or therapy. I was scared to meet people or try anything new. I saw some bellydancers at a festival dancing and thought it was just the most awesome thing I had ever seen! I was in love intantly! So I signed up for cabaret classes and almost backed out at the last minute. I walked in the studio and danced and never looked back! It was the best thing I have ever done for myself. I met a community of wonderful people that were all comfortable with who they were no matter how big or small or different. We all had one thing in common, a love for dance. My self image was improving and so was my confidence. I have been dancing for 5 years now and perform regularly at events, private engagements and restaurants. Now, I am a performer!! I am most definitely not shy anymore or worried about how I look! Dance and friendships gained has been my therapy. I have always wanted to dance since I was a child but my parents could never afford it. I never thought I would be a dancer. I found a love for ATS about a year and a half ago. It has changed my dance tremendously. ATS makes me feel so strong and powerful when I dance. There's just something about the posture, the movements, the costuming, the beauty of it all, the connection you have with the other dancers that makes this art form so unique and special. I am in love with it and intend on getting certification to teach ATS! FCBD inspire me as you are all such beautiful and talented dancers. I love to perform and get Bellydance out into the public so I can share the beauty. We are so blessed to have a genius like you Carolena :) Without your creation we would not be dancing American Tribal Style and have such a wonderful dance community of so many different people who all come together and connect through the love of the your dance. Thank you Carolena : ) In a nutshell bellydance has made me the strong and confident woman I am today, it is who I am. I have fulfilled my dream of being a dancer. It truly has saved my life and for that I am grateful...

Carolena Nericcio said...

Carmie Russ Swartz can you repost your not? I get an error code when I try to post it. Thanks.

Sharon G. said...

I have a sort of toolbox for dealing with serious chronic illness and ATS is one of the tools.

To those who do not know me, I might appear to be a casual, drop-in student, enthusiastic, but disappearing for months at a time. The truth is that I have several concealed illnesses that keep me from dancing as much as I did a couple of years ago. If my body were as strong as my mind, I would be in class 3 days a week, and practicing at home between classes.

I was as energetic as any healthy city girl until 1999 when I was first diagnosed with 2 serious illnesses. I fell into a very deep despair and was afraid that I would never be strong again. It took several years, but I did regain my strenth and within that time, started taking ATS classes at Fat Chance. ATS opened doors to a new way of thinking and feeling strong and positive, which led to Buddhism / dharma classes and a meditation practice. Dharma teaching has taught me that there is nothing beyond transforming difficulty (my own and others) in to power.

My strength still ebbs and flows, but the positive results of ATS remain - even when I am not strong enough to come to class. The music and camaraderie are a huge part of my life. When I feel well enough, I make it back to level 1. When I am not, the dance and people are still in my heart.

Sierra said...

I was a classically trained ballet dancer for 6 years. Not one day of practice with the girls in my ballet company did I ever feel like I fit in or was a part of a sisterhood. I was treatly very rudely and snidely, even had a pair of pointe shoes dropped on my bare, blistered feet on purpose. It was all about who was thin or fat, who would get the lead role in the Nutcracker, etc.

I quit dance all together in high school after those 6 years. I was so unhappy in high school, and I had absolutely no direction or passion in my life. I was in a mental hospital once for being so depressed and suicidal at one point.

Then when I entered my first semester of Modesto Junior College, I found a community education belly dance class with my mama Jean Jay. We learned a melting pot of womanly movements that I had never put thought to before. She let me explore any style I wanted from gypsy to gothic once I became a member of her Mystic Fire troupe. She lit one hot fire under my ass. It perplexed her why I would ever quit dancing when she saw me perform from my heart and with the pure passion my body could afford.

Eventually, the troupe split and I found my two best friends Marie and Jodie. We formed Adamantine with all our different styles of belly dance coming together. And we realized we all admired ATS and wanted to learn it. We just studied youtube clips and Tribal Basics dvds over and over again. We practice every week on Sundays for 4 hours at least. We made up our own combos and movements and ques. Now, we have started taking the classes at FatChance BellyDance now.
We feel more connected to each other when we do tribal. We don't get to just pick a song and improv with each other. We learn so much from it. We pay attention to every detail, we wait for each other to catch up, we teach each other how to dance to our favorite songs, we keep the energy going between us.
And the audience can feel it. No one is asleep when watching or especially performing tribal. It commands attention from everyone in the room.
It has been an amazing, amazing fixture in my life. I really have no clue where I would be without my craft that is American Tribal Syle Belly Dance. I have no real experience in caberet since my teacher were more worldly than anything so the purest form I dance now is ATS. It brings me discipline, and it reminds to never say never. I hated zils at first and now I want to enter with them everytime I perform, thanks to what FCBD has given me. It pushes in ways that nothing else has, yet it is in the most caring ways that it does. I want to thank you Carolena and everyone of the tribal family that has brought this art to so many lives and that has enriched and empowered us. You have brought a pure joy to my life that I thought at 18 years old would never come back. Now I am 21 and looking forward to my own evolution like I never have before.

With Undying Adoration,
Sierra Wigington

wet watermelon said...

I have always LOVED to dance, especially to folkloric-type music, but I have also always been overweight. In my late 20's, I fell in live with belly dance, and knew that would be my main means of self-expression, but for me to imagine performing traditional Cabaret or Egyptian Style belly dance continued to be difficult...I couldn't express myself without looking (and feeling) ridiculous.

Thankfully, I found your Belly Dance book/CD/ DVD set at Barnes and Noble, and I have not been the same since. Finally, a dance style that didn't require you to eat a steady diet of yogurt and celery! A dance style that celebrated every woman JUST AS THEY WERE completely regardless of age, race, and size! A dance style that built sisterhood amongst women, brought them together to do something active, beautiful and communicative! Finally, an excuse to wear far too much jewelry all at once and yelp like a native from some far off land!
I now have my means of expression, a tribe of loving women (and men), and a heart that is full.

What else can I say--I would love to say more to anyone who wants to hear it.

It's in my veins.
Carolena, thank you.

abby.duval said...

ATS has changed the way I view dance, women, community, and myself.

Being apart of the ATS Revolution has changed me in more ways that I ever could have imagined. ATS made me embrace myself, my body, and my spirit. It gave me confidence when I needed it the most. It taught me that dance didn't have to be pretentious, that I didn't have to be stick thin: If you have big hips and a butt, stick a tassel on it and shake it!
Being in a troupe gave me a community, and a small family. Swords and flowers and big skirts?? I'm in!

Sarah Jane said...

ATS has changed the way I feel about myself, and given me peace in the constant war I have waged with my body image my entire life.

When I started re-learning ATS during my tenure overseas, it was a bright spot in a sea of chaos and frustration. The sense of community we shared while dancing brought peace and calm, and helped me get through what was otherwise a very difficult time of my life. When I began, I was still certain I would never expose my belly in public, but sharing the dance with others of all shapes and sizes and ages convinced me to give it a try.

The most powerful and perspective-altering moment happened after a performance outdoors at night. We were approached by a group of women, nearly in tears, who told us "I never thought I could be beautiful. But I watched you up there, and you're shaped like me, and you were beautiful, so maybe I can be too."

That is the power of this dance. That is why I will continue to strive to bring myself up to performance level. Because it changed my life, and the lives of those women, and I want to continue to share that with others.

I would be happy to be interviewed for the project.

BDUK.TV said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BDUK.TV said...

ATS has not only changed my life, it has also given back to me something I thought I had lost long ago...my dance!

I studied ballet and contemporary dance in a pretty hardcore way as a child, It was my dream to follow the footsteps of Margot Fonteyn and to join the Royal Ballet and one day be prima ballerina.

It seemed like my dreams were coming true, I always got the lead in every show we did, I flew through my dance exams and was offered auditions at the Royal Ballet school in Birmingham, UK. Despite the fact that they had picked me out for the final auditions, I was told they were sorry because I was not tall enough.
I didn't care, I figured...Wayne Sleep was not only short but also a man and he still managed to make it to the top.

Unfortunately, it was around that time, I had begun to develop a debilitating brain disorder, I was not diagnosed for 5 years during which I spent much of either falling asleep or collapsing into paralysis and having extremely frightening hallucinations. These were symptoms I experienced, not once in a while, but every hour of every day.

Being a stubborn child I tried to soldier on and continue with all my classes, but at 10 years old I had a nervous breakdown, although I barely understood what one was.
At 12 years old I was finally diagnosed with Narcolepsy. I was told there is no cure, prescribed some medication and basically sent home.
Unfortunately I was unable to continue dancing as one of my symptoms, cataplexy, was too severe. I was completely heart broken. I did try to continue to dance at college later on in my teens, but I always felt like an outsider, I was terribly insecure about my weight and I didn't fit in with the "daddy bought me a pony" type girls that seemed to be the majority of dance world.

Thankfully I had also been studying music for as long as I had danced, I fell back on writing music and that became my life for a long time...until the music industry left me feeling even more jaded and cynical.

A few years ago I decided to try some new medication to control the cataplexy, which I had previously chosen to live...I am certain It would not have been a good idea for a teenager in my state of mind to have been on both amphetamines and antidepressants throughout those years. The new meds meant I could do physical activity without worrying about collapsing into a heap on the floor or swim without nearly drowning, so I began to take loads of dance and martial arts classes again

I took Egyptian Belly Dance classes and through that I heard about ATS. My life was once again to be turned upside down, this time though It was turned back to it's rightful place, with me dancing in it!

To be able to dance, to feel accepted and have a place within a dance community and be respected as a dancer, these are things I never imagined I would have again, as for teaching, well I never would have imagined I would be doing that! But how could I not share this wonderful thing? ATS has totally rocked my world... a world that for so many years I honestly believed I didn't have a place in anymore.

Through ATS, I can be who I am, the way I am, and I will not be judged for being different. It means I can be the best at what I do because I am welcomed in and encouraged to thrive, and nobody minds if I occasionally need to take a nap! :)

Thanks Carolena!!!


ps - I am always happy to be interviewed for Belly Dance related things

Lindsey said...

I have three kids, three jobs, and a husband that works a lot. We have a wonderful life, but it moves fast and can easily spin out of control. ATS does two things for me that I cannot live with out. First, it connects me to women. ATS gives me a lineage to all dancing women throughout history, all over the world. We may not all dance the same steps, but we all dance together, and that women/dance/earth connection keeps me grounded. Second, ATS lets me show the world how great I am. Not how great my husband is, or how great my kids are, how great I am at taking care of all of them...just how great I am at being me. ATS let's me and my dance sister shine, and I love that!

Julia*Mieko said...

I was several steps down a very bad path before I found ATS. Admittedly, it all started with a breakup... the third in a row with mere weeks in between each break. I was utterly flailing for the first time in my life. Suddenly I felt like I hated my job, my apartment, most of the decisions I'd made. And most of all, I hated that I stopped dancing. It had been nearly 3 years since I graduated from college with a degree in dance, and I hadn't danced since graduation.

I thought maybe, just maybe, starting to dance again was the only way I was going to stop this feeling of falling and finally feel like my feet could land on the ground and my legs could support me. Months ago, I'd seen a Tribal Fusion duo (the name escapes me) perform in a burlesque and cabaret showcase at a punk rock warehouse in Oakland. The two women who danced had stunning costumes (I'm a sucker for costumes and bling, what can I say?), had beautiful tattoos (I'd been told several times that my tattoos might distract during a performance), and were utterly, genuinely sweet and had not a trace of snottiness or attitude. I surprisingly had only encountered snottiness and attitude in the Bay Area dance scene thus far, so I suddenly couldn't stop babbling to these dancers about how much I missed dancing. Flash forward to my most recent heartbreak, and I remembered those women and the feeling I got when I watched them dance.

I remembered they had mentioned FCBD and I looked the studio up. The next morning, good ol' Groupon emailed me a coupon for a free class there. I had to go. Fate or destiny was pulling me, and I would never want to stop that.

Upon entering the studio, I felt I'd already made friends with another dancer who was just coming in. Everyone I talked to was open, smiling, gracious, and showed their beautiful bodies proudly. How different and refreshing this was for me, I can't tell you. From my first class, I knew that this was something I would keep doing.

Not dancing was like not breathing, only I didn't realize it. ATS has given me back my breath. It's given me a sisterhood that I hadn't found in any other dance studio, a power that no other dance form has ever infused in me, and a pride in my body that no other art form has ever instilled in me. And as a result, I can feel the ground beneath my feet, and it's so nice to feel strong and secure again. Thank you so much to Carolena, the teachers, and the students of FCBD.

Carolena Nericcio said...

If you have responded to my recent post "How has ATS changed your life?" and are willing to be interviewed, please contact Jeff Schnaufer, a journalist working with us getting the word out about ATS.
In addition, please let us know if you've had any media attention regarding you, your troupe, studio, etc. (newspapers, magazine, radio, television, eZines or blogs.)

Please tell us where you live and an email address so Jeff may contact you.
Jeff can be reached at: schnaufdog@gmail.com

MissC said...

So how has ATS changed my life? Well it has introduced into my a group of like minded men and women I would never have had the opportunity to meet and be-friend. I had been dancing what in Australia we call Cabaret style for 8 years before seeing ATS peformed for the first time. It was like the lights went on!! The look, the feel, the dancers interacting with each other, the music it all just felt right, this was what I wanted to do. Almost from that day I worked towards that goal so that here I am 6 six years on having undertaken classes, numerous ATS workshops with Carolena, Devi and basically read, watched, absorbed anything ATS related, to be a proudly certified FCBD ATS teacher. Something I would never have thought possible in other styles of dance Id done. With ATS I dont have to have a particular colour hair or a particular body shape, or a particular height! What I have to be is me. And I am! But Im a very different me from when I began the ATS journey. I now have respect for my body and look after it, I want to continue to dance always at some level. I love that all of the dancers or students truly do bring something unique to the dance and I value that and am not judgemental. I love that I have a tool that can quickly and easily turn a bad day into a great one, I just have to dance with my sisters. It makes me happy and makes me smile, but what is better I know that across the globe there are sisters in dance and we all share this wonderful love of ATS! That brings a sense of belonging and comfort. All of these elements, the feelings, the sensations, they are all things I l want to pass onto my students when I teach. The love of ATS

alice said...

I began taking ATS to fill a void in my life, little did I know that it would bring me everything I wanted and more!
There I was a year ago feeling, even though a had a well established job and a few friends, that I had nothing going for me and had made nothing of myself. I didn't feel like I had found my "people", or my "thing that I do." It was a terrible feeling because as a kid I had such high expectations of my future, and those expectations involved me being a performer of some sort. Theater, movies, singing and playing guitar, I loved doing them all yet they were always fleeting activities; I would do them for a while and then get bored. In the back of my mind, during all of this, had always been a curiosity about belly dancing. I hesitated for years for no good reason in particular, other than I was simply afraid that it would be just another fleeting hobby. My boyfriend even bought me a FCBD "Tribal Basics" video which I did until I mastered the basics, but took it no further. Then one day after seeing one of our local troupes perform at a festival, I became so inspired by the dance, intoxicated by the movements, and magnetized to those incredible costumes. There was just something about witnessing it in person in all it's mystique and special secret language. I scheduled my classes the very next day with the leader of that very troupe. A year later, I am still addicted to belly dancing, that teacher has become one of my very best friends EVER, and has taught me so many things that continue to enrich my life every single day including fiber arts, and hooping. It wasn't just that she taught me to do those things, but the fire and motivation within her is so inspiring. I know it sounds simple, but the most important thing she has taught me is how to make things happen for myself. She's a true-blue "go-getter" and I was the complete opposite. I really needed that. I have also inherited a whole new family of amazing friends, and have found that I now actually have that "thing that I do" that I am in love with and want to nurture and become better at it every week. No boredom, no loss of desire, and a real sense of love and community. Never alone. Truly fulfilled!

beesgirl138th said...

Truly, no one in life can go through it without some sort of life changing event. They are continuous. We are either in the middle of a crisis, at the end of one or at the beginning of one. Some are more disastrous than others…some just seem so…but all change us. But no matter what I was experiencing, ATS has been my rock in a torrent of storms and turmoil. It has helped me create and define myself, establish self esteem and lay the foundation of two very successful businesses (dance classes and dance clothing). It has also helped me touch the lives of dozens of women, and their daughters, granddaughters or nieces, and help them discover peace, contentment with themselves, and an inner strength and bond of sisters that they did not have before.

Your basic philosophy of "tribal" and "sisterhood" has been the glue and mortar that has solidified what I teach in my class and what holds our troupe of 22 women together.

We have all experienced the health benefits from losing or maintaining weight, better mobility and flexibility, and increased stamina. I struggle with very difficult back and hip problems from years of gymnastics that has been improved by the low impact and core strengthening movements of ATS.

But I believe the greatest improvement to our lives has been the emotional impact. We are all "sisters". My classes have brought personalities of all variations into the classroom and our troupe. Women of all ages, shapes and sizes can come together in an ATS dance and feel comfortable in dancing together. It is a dance that has no unrealistic expectations of physical beauty…it creates beauty in its own right and helps bring the inner beauty of a dancer out through the joy she is experiencing with her fellow dancers.

We now have three cities (two in southern Utah and one in southern California)…soon to be four…that I have established classes and troupe members in. All of these women are now great friends and no matter the distance, they feel the comfort of knowing we are all there for each other. For some, this is the only place they have friends or feel loved and appreciated. For others, it’s a place they can fully express themselves and just be themselves.

One aspect of our troupe is the support and encouragement we have for mommy/daughter participation. One third of our troupe is a mom and daughter or aunt and niece combination…with one being a mom, daughter and soon-to-be granddaughter!!! When, as a society, we are struggling so hard to keep strong relations with our children and keep them from falling prey to negative or dangerous influences, our mothers in our troupe have developed a deep and satisfying bond and connection to their daughters that no other activity can offer…dancing together in perfect physical, mental and emotional harmony. I know that this dance has been the best source of enjoyment for my daughter and I…she has been dancing with me since she was six and is my favorite duet partner. And because ATS teaches sisterhood, it enhances the support young women need during the difficult act of growing up and becoming a woman and eventually a mother. We even have mothers and grandmothers encouraging their sons and grandsons to become musicians and drummers. It is truly a “tribal” experience!

There is far more to add and to talk about, but it would take a book to hold it all. I would be very happy to interview and will provide anything you need to help you share your incredible phenomena with as many women as you can. It truly changes lives! Thank you so very much!


Denell said...

Having a strong background in Classical Egyptian, I thought it would be a snap learning ATS! Wrong! Even though many of the moves in ATS have similar roots, I found it a challenge to learn this dance form. Everything is different from body posturing to hands. But having learned it, I LOVE it!

I love the connection I have with the girls in my ATS Troupe, the feeling that we have become more like sisters. I love the fact that as I get older, I will not be restricted to teaching and event productions! I will be able to dance and perform for the rest of my life. And for me that is huge, because I wouldn't know how to exist in this world without being able to Dance and Perform. This dance generates energy, confidence and beauty in everyone who partakes in it. When we Dance we become ageless!
Thank You Carolena for giving us all such a beautiful gift.
Denell Dilley

Kathrina said...

After witnessing a traumatic situation in my life, i was a in a Zombie-like state of energy. It is indescribable how i felt.
Since then i have been desperatly searching for a socket, where i could recharge my energy.
A decade later, i finally found ATS.
My deepest gratitude to you, Carolena and Fat Chance Bellydance, who filled my heart and soul with a fire that gives me warmth and a joy that sparkles in my eyes.