23 November 2013

[fireside chat] ATS® Movement Dialect

I've been trying to think up a lengthy and thought-provoking way of presenting this topic, but it's really short and sweet. We have a new category: ATS® Movement Dialect.

Last year at Tribal Fest I settled down to watch a few FCBD® Sister Studios and I have to admit I was shocked, I had no idea what they were doing! At first I was upset. This is supposed to be a language that we can all understand. How could my own Sister Studios be presenting combinations and formations that I didn't recognize? But then I thought about it and realized that's the nature of growth. Even some of the steps that we (collectively: FCBD®, Devyani, Tamarind and Ghawazi Caravan) put on Tribal Basics Vol. 9 Anatomy of a Step are more short choreography or combo than steps. As much as I'd like us to remain in Classic ATS® for the rest of our lives, I have to open things up for the dance to continue to grow. We now have Classic ATS®, Modern ATS® and ATS® Movement Dialect. Sheesh!

Let's define ATS® Improv vs ATS® Movement Dialect; Improv uses universal ATS® steps that are recognized by all dancers. The steps can be combined in a never ending variety of ways, using cues to move into and out of duets, trios and quartets, which are supported by the chorus. It appears magical to the on-looker but to us it's a highly sophisticated language that is easy to understand once you learn the alphabet and words (steps and variations), grammar (formations) and parts of speech (cues, musicality, etc.)

Here's the boundary: if you can create a variation on an ATS® step that I can follow without you having to explain it, it's still ATS® Improv. If you have to take me aside and teach me the step, combo or choreo, it's ATS® Movement Dialect. Movement Dialect describes the unique combinations and creations of a particular troupe or group. This Movement Dialect naturally evolves through the creative process of personal and group collaboration.

Although American Tribal Style® Belly Dance is largely improvisational, we have always used choreographies when the situation merited. Sometimes you have a show that wants a full spectrum in just a few minutes, or a piece of music that really needs a combo to land in just the right spot. This is a great time to employ a Movement Dialect. It's also a great way to get comfortable with a challenging piece of music, or introduce new dancers to the possibilities of Improv. We do that with our Tribal Combinations L2 class at the FatChanceBellyDance® Studio in San Francisco.

If you have something that you’ve been developing I invite you to share it with me. Here are some guidelines for submission.

  •  Film your ATS® Movement Dialect; this can be as formal as iMovie, or as informal as a YouTube clip. You many include up to five new moves, limit each demonstration to one minute.
  •  Include a brief explanation; you can add it as a voiceover, or present it in person when you film it.
  •  Demonstrate your ATS® Movement Dialect in the context of a brief performance, using approximately 3/4 ATS® Movement Dialect and 1/4 Classic ATS®, so I can see it in context. Limit the performance to 5 minutes.
  •  Compile this into one video; this may include navigation (preferred) or be presented as one long clip.
  • There’s no charge for me to view your ATS® Movement Dialect, as I always enjoy being included in your creative process. However, if you’d like a personalized review and comments, we will set up a 30 minute phone call to provide feedback as we view the video together. The fee for this is $60.
Stay tuned for a tutorial of this process on www.fcbd.com.

19 comments:

Foodycat said...

Exciting! Not totally relevant to me while I struggle to make my Wet Dog look less like Epileptic Elephant, but very interesting for the future.

Zina Dance said...

For some reason I continue to be drawn to Classic ATS. I like the newer moves but keep going back to the basics.

Zina Dance said...

I was drawn to the classic. I like the new moves but keep coming back to the originals.

Virginia Hojas said...

Thank you for this post. It clarifies a lot. I've been struggling watching other SS dance to moved other than ATS and have discussions with people, which made me even more confused, as I compared their understanding of the concept SS to my notes from our training. And thank you for being so generous with your dance form!

rhiannyn said...

As always, enjoy your blog posts!
I'm with Zina, Tribaleyez prefers the moves on Vol. 1, 4, & 7. However, we are making an attempt to learn some of the Modern as well, so that we are, at least, relatively familiar with it. You never know with whom you might be sharing the dance.
That said, our primary focus is Classic ATS, and learning it to the very best of our ability. :)

Valerie Bravo Woodruff said...


Great blog!
I like the idea of keeping ATS® simple. We already have a VAST vocabulary that always has room for polishing. I love being able to communicate without having to pull someone aside and break down a new 'dialect'.
I guess I just believe that if one's plate is full, there is no need to add MORE until you've finished.
I'm still excited to see how ATS will evolve and if dancers will stray from Classic and Improv all together.

lulumartini said...

Love the blog! I guess one thing that I truly love about ATS(TM) is the clear boundaries, and how the "rules" really make sense and allow for a seamless performance whether it's with those you know well or just met, provided all are proficient in the format. The other super cool aspect is the room for creativity WITHIN those boundaries. Much like an artist who hones their skill in painting, and uses their study to create beautiful art is akin to what ATS(TM) to me and many others. The beauty is in the simplicity of the format, which allows for true connection and flow within and amongst dancers, I am concerned this will be lost with an influx of "alternative" dialects, which I was under the impression already covered in the ITS category? Also, where will the line be drawn regarding what is introduced? Will there be hip bump on the right AND LEFT? Will bedlah be considered acceptable costuming? It may sound extreme, but it seems to be a slippery slope - and I shudder at the thought of ATS(TM) morphing into what's already available out there in the "other than" ATS (TM) community.

Kathrina said...

Thank you for your open words and your generosity.
I can imagine your shock and i am impressed what your consequences and thoughts now are!

The magic of ATS® for me means basically to be able to dance worldwide. I have to care for my fellows, have to cue clear, use well know Classical moves.

Sometimes i learn a classic ATS® step and ask myself: Well, can i fade it? Put it into a circle? ... and then i try to find clear and logic cues.
This is just my playfulness, but I always will return to the roots and maintain the basics.

cheriedawnlovesfire.com said...

Enlightening, and I think this is a great way to keep the definitions clear; in my area, the moves that some troupes are using have changed just enough to confuse the "conversation," if you will. I love it when people make up new belly dance moves/combos to use, but when we're group dancing at tribal haflas, it can difficult to follow, especially when the change is just subtle enough to throw you off. But I think that part of that has come from the different body language that individuals incorporate as well. There's never been a certified ATS instructor in my area (that I know of), and I think that's part of why the dance has changed in this way.
Thanks for the post!
peace, love, and dance...
Cherie Dawn

frieda lessar said...

I was drawn to this dance because It's a dance I can dance with others that I have never danced with before and maybe cant even speak the same language but we can speak the ATS language and dance it together within the freedom of its form ~ I love dancing ATS and plan on polishing it everyday that I dance it~

frieda lessar said...

I started dancing ATS because it was a dance I could dance with others that I don't know and maybe cant even speak the same language ( as I love to travel)but we can speak the ATS language with no words~ just cues~ I have so much to polish within the classic and even more with the modern that I am not bored. I think it will be years before I am (IF ever)!! I thank you Carolina for this wonderful dance language~ this beauty of freedom within the form we call ATS ~

Tasha Rose said...

I enjoy that you've made a line here. I also agree with most of what lulumartini posted.

I really feel like there isn't enough focus on refining the skill in the language that has already been given to us because people want to worry about creating the new big thing. It's quite frustrating honestly, that the very thing that drew many of us to this dance is cast aside by a lot of people for the sake of what seems to be a desire to get noticed.

There I said that. I know I am not the only one thinking it either. It feels a little like the gen Y special snowflake syndrome.

yes, dances change and evolve and ATS is an evolution of other Middle Eastern Dances, so it seems funny to be saying "blah blah, don't change." I think the reason I named first-not focusing on refining before adding to the vocabulary-is the very reason there are going to be those of us who object to new movements.

As my dear friend Valerie said on FB, there is freedom in the boundaries. Get excellent at what you're given and then find the creativity and multitude of ways to express this dance within the boundaries.

a little controversial? eh. I'm not a stranger to saying things people don't like.

I adore this dance. My family, this dance and knitting are all I do. I feel like it's bastardized a little when things are added that aren't universal to all ATS dancers.

Thank you again, Carolena for making the distinction in this somewhat controversial topic among your dancing masses.

Adhara said...

Great post!!! My troupe has a host of moves that are our own, but we'd never throw those moves on dancers outside of our troupe. When we're dancing ATS®, we dance ATS® period. Our Dialect is to use for our own choreos or Improv performances that call for different movements outside of ATS® and we don't call them ATS® and in our performances we say so, are dressed differently from traditional ATS® garb and use non-ATS music. I do like what Mama C is saying though. Don't call it ATS® if it's NOT ATS® point blank and simple. :shrug:
I don't get why some dancers would want to throw movements that aren't ATS® when jamming or performing with dancers outside of their troupe that speak that specific dialect. That just leads to confusion. I know several dancers (myself included) that dance a few styles (I've taken workshops with Unmata, Black Sheep BD, etc) and i "speak" those Languages, but much like English is English, and Spanish is Spanish and I'm not going to change it. Speaking Spanglish is just going to confuse everyone and I don't want to do that.

So ATS® is ATS®, Dance it accordingly.

I will be submitting a video for review, as I do feel some of our moves fit in and I hope pass the ATS® filter. We joke that Tribu Na'al Gonah's language may someday be on FCBD's vol. 13 or something... we can hope.

Maghreb said...

Carolena, if you spend some time looking at the output of every sister studio, you'll be shocked even harder.

Please look at the standards for Teacher Training and SS status as they appear quite low.


Jesse Stanbridge said...

@ "Maghreb" - it's up to the teachers to make sure that what they are teaching is up to scratch. Policing every single studio would take up wayyyy too much time. It's best to focus on what you are doing and how you can best represent the dance.

miasma said...

Wow! It's been a while since I've visited this blog, and things have developed! I kind of agree with Tasha on this one; it must be so hard to try and keep track of so many people's contributions.... But classic ATS is special and what binds us all together, I really hope it doesn't disappear altogether because people are in a hurry to make their mark and contribute something 'new'. Don't get me wrong, I do love seeing what others are doing, and we do experiment ourselves all the way down here in Tassie, but I hope ATS as a collective doesn't lose it's universal language xx

Jenn Kasper said...

Makes sense to me! Thanks for posting!

Val Grainger said...

Its Classic ATS for me as the internationaly accepted dance I can do anywhere with anyone. It has enough for me for the rest of my life.

Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman said...

I agree!