18 April 2014

the Sister Studio lament

[the truth about Sister Studio status]

When I began certifying Sister Studios, I knew that it was time to begin spreading the knowledge necessary to teach ATS® in the broader community. I hosted small groups of dancers for General Skills and met 1:1 with those who wanted Teacher Training.  My intention was to only target those dancers who were very serious and committed to ATS®, who had already been studying extensively and who were ready to begin teaching.

I committed to deliver a consistent curriculum to each person who registered.  It seemed that overnight; the demand for this training began to increase exponentially.  I was amazed and delighted, but completely unprepared for potential problems.  Initially, I offered General Skills, only later adding Teacher Training when it was requested.  Once it was added, my expectation was that students would attend General Skills and then take at least a year to work on their dance before returning to Teacher Training.  Things really changed when people began asking if they could take General Skills and Teacher Training at the same time.  This was understandable.  For some, I was in their country for the first and maybe only time.  As a result, people showed up for Teacher Training missing several years of practical education. Even though I was clear about the level of dance experience needed to enroll, people either misunderstood or misjudged their readiness.  Sometimes I would fly to another country just to realize that the people there weren’t ready to take the training.

As the training became more and more popular, I was faced with a dilemma of how to maintain quality control.  Because I couldn’t, I entertained the idea that students learn from all sorts of different teachers. Some students want a teacher who is so skilled and amazing that they are never matched (e.g. my teacher Masha, and myself Carolena) but other people resonate with someone who is just like them. I allowed different sorts of teachers into the program so that they would bring ATS® across the world.  In hindsight, I may have made a different decision.  However, at the time it felt like the only choice.

Consequently, I have heard criticism regarding the meaning or value of Teacher Training and Sister Studio status.  The vast majority of dancers who complete Teacher Training have a sincere desire to represent this dance form with integrity and honesty.  If you were to ask, I believe that each one of the Sister Studios feels that they have the necessary training and skill to be awarded Sister Studio status. 


I am always available for 1:1 Tribal Counsel sessions to help you with technique, to review your teaching or provide you with suggestions for your performance.  For those of you interested in furthering your training beyond that, I will be having several training programs in 2015 to help you advance your skill level.  More information will be published this summer with specific details.  Some of the training programs will be open to all and some will be extremely competitive.

22 comments:

Maghreb said...

I guess, to me, a Sister Studio should the creme de la creme of the ATS world, and, sadly, I don't see that.

There's too much focus from the Sister Studios on inventing new steps and combos, and thus the original strength, elegance and discipline of the dance seem to have been badly eroded.

We don't need more steps in ATS, just a much stronger focus on quality and a real need to get back to basics.

rhiannyn said...

Again, a very interesting article, Carolena. Your points are well taken. That was precisely the reason why I didn't sign up for TT in 2010, but waited, what seemed like an excruciating length of time, to do TT in 2013. So glad I did, though!

I will never be at your caliber of ATS® dance skills! However, that won't stop me from trying, as long as I am able. In the meantime, spreading the ATS® beauty and love to the best of my ability. Always look forward to training with you, Sandi, Wendy, Kae, Kristine et al. It's fantastic to be *the student* ~ learning learning learning :)

Looking forward to what else is coming in 2015 :) and the next Blog post, of course.

Warm regards,
rhi

Valerie Bravo Woodruff said...

THANK you for addressing this!
::sigh of relief::

You hit all the points I have been pondering. I feel like some just want to attend TT for bragging rights instead of being more concerned about their form and or technique. It feels like they are trying to impress other dancers instead of presenting a great performance for the AUDIENCE. Another thing that has been raising my eyebrow is the constant need for new vocabulary, for crying out loud, there is a LOT of NEW vocabulary on VOL. 9 and I still see that some of the basic VOLUME 1 vocabulary needs MUCH WORK...
I don't have a resolution for trying to have quality control, I'm just happy you mentioned it.

Sister Studios-->Don't forget to check in with the the MOTHERSHIP and remember whom you agreed would be your MENTOR for ATS®.

For me, it's an HONOR to be a SS- and I fully intend on being a forever student whilst upholding the form and technique to the best quality I can deliver.

I'm looking forward to the next challenging workshops for 2015!

Thank you again for this blog post.
::end rant::

Valerie Bravo Woodruff said...

THANK you for addressing this!
::sigh of relief::

You hit all the points I have been pondering. I feel like some just want to attend TT for bragging rights instead of being more concerned about their form and or technique. It feels like they are trying to impress other dancers instead of presenting a great performance for the AUDIENCE. Another thing that has been raising my eyebrow is the constant need for new vocabulary, for crying out loud, there is a LOT of NEW vocabulary on VOL. 9 and I still see that some of the basic VOLUME 1 vocabulary needs MUCH WORK...
I don't have a resolution for trying to have quality control, I'm just happy you mentioned it.

Sister Studios-->Don't forget to check in with the the MOTHERSHIP and remember whom you agreed would be your MENTOR for ATS®.

For me, it's an HONOR to be a SS- and I fully intend on being a forever student whilst upholding the form and technique to the best quality I can deliver.

I'm looking forward to the next challenging workshops for 2015!

Thank you again for this blog post.
::end rant::

Valerie Bravo Woodruff said...

THANK you for addressing this!
::sigh of relief::

You hit all the points I have been pondering. I feel like some just want to attend TT for bragging rights instead of being more concerned about their form and or technique. It feels like they are trying to impress other dancers instead of presenting a great performance for the AUDIENCE. Another thing that has been raising my eyebrow is the constant need for new vocabulary, for crying out loud, there is a LOT of NEW vocabulary on VOL. 9 and I still see that some of the basic VOLUME 1 vocabulary needs MUCH WORK...
I don't have a resolution for trying to have quality control, I'm just happy you mentioned it.

Sister Studios-->Don't forget to check in with the the MOTHERSHIP and remember whom you agreed would be your MENTOR for ATS®.

For me, it's an HONOR to be a SS- and I fully intend on being a forever student whilst upholding the form and technique to the best quality I can deliver.

I'm looking forward to the next challenging workshops for 2015!

Thank you again for this blog post.
::end rant::

jmturner said...

I am very interested in what you have planned for 2015! While I was not totally prepared for the GS & TT, this was the only avenue I had available to learn from as I had no instructors available other then learning from the DVDs. It was extremely important to my growth in ATS to experience and learn what I did
in GS and TT. Now that I have several years under my belt post GS & TT I feel more prepared to go forward and work on the finesse needed to improve to a more advanced state. While this is very intimidating (as I know I have a long way to go in my abilities) I would view this as providing a path and direction toward excellence. Go Carolena!

Kalli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Galbraith said...

I was also one of the GS people who waited a long while to do my TT. And after that, I waited to ask for my SS status.

To me, it was kind of important that what I had learned had sunk in even further. I wanted to EXPERIENCE all that I had learned.

And I must rebut Maghreb, because I don't see new moves as eroding anything. I find that statement almost insulting to the great work by Megha, Devi, FCBD and Jen.

Don't know where Maghreb is looking, but I totally still see the elegance and discipline. Does EVERYONE have it? No. But I see it in plenty of the SS.

It is entirely possible to move forward and learn new things under the ATS umbrella while polishing those basic moves.

With all due respect to Carolena, I don't want to spend all my days redoing the Egyptian and Arabic. I like new moves to keep the passion fresh and keep it from all becoming stale.

Focus on quality will depend on the person, not on the steps. How much we commit to our dance will determine how much we can do. Do you travel to get to workshops with FCBD teachers to learn? Do you go to Moship 670 for classes? Do you practice daily? THAT is where quality comes from. Not blaming a variation.

Carolena, you have been the arbiter at the gate of acceptable moves. You have stated in the past what the aesthetic is for an ATS move, and for the most part that has been followed. As long as you have the option to say "nay" to things that truly don't fit the aesthetic, I'm not sure what the problem is.

Like most of bellydance, most of the people who do it are not professionals who devote their days to ATS. They do another job and then pop into ATS wonderland on the eventide. I applaud those people when they focus their non-work hours to committing to their ATS dance skills and quality. But the reality is, most people can't or don't.

They will get better over time and with experience, whether they are SS or not.

And here is hoping the new programs will help them and all of us.

You GO Carolena! The Sisterhood, The Brotherhood and the neighbourhood is Arabicking along behind you into the future. Let's DANCE!!

Valizan

Zahara Solomon said...

Really appreciate your honesty & exploration around this issue. I was one of those students who is isolated from ATS & was tired of waiting for someone else to go get the training to teach. So I did the GS & TT together. I am glad I did! Teaching others has helped me become stronger. I review notes & the dvds before teaching. As a Sister Studio, I take this commitment very seriously. I continue to take trips to FCBD, to take classes there a few times a year & at festivals where Carolena is teaching. Love this Dance Form & will always be a student, no matter my skill level.

Unknown said...

I agree with Magreb.

As a Sister Studio if over four years I see too much emphasis on new moves, inventing moves rather than what is essentially our building blocks.

It frustrates me as a teacher when students drop in and it's obvious these foundation moves were skimmed over.

I know it's a big thing to *police* but I think we all, as Sister Studios should be policing ourselves.

I would like to think that the students who come to our workshops are comfortable in the foundation moves that they feel comfortable dancing with people they never had before.

Maxine said...

Thank you Carolena for your very interesting article and view on this. I
I took my GS in 2008 and then waited a year before taking TT1. I am really pleased I did this as it gave me time to go away and absorb, put into action and practice everything I had learnt.
It also gave me time to decide if TT was something I wanted to do and also whether I would want to become a SS. At that time there were very few qualified teachers and SS in the UK. It therefore felt an absolute honour to be entrusted to share this with other people.
A few years on and I am still totally dedicated and passionate about delivering to the very best of my ability quality training and performance. For me, it is so important that the integrity and strength of this beautiful and powerful dance form is upheld. Even though I am a teacher and SS and have several years of experience under my belt the learning curve to strive for excellence is continuous. There is always more to learn, which fuels my enthusiasm and passion even more.
I am excited to learn what you have in store for us in 2015.

Kindest regards
Maxine

Christine Akula Tribal said...

Back in 2009 when I got my Sister Studio status, there were so much fewer of us and yes it felt very special to be one. I waited the full year from GS to TT and another full year till TT2 and am so glad I did, because that is the way to get the most out of the courses. Being an SS is not the end in my opinion only the beginning. I see it as my duty to keep current so I travel to take workshops wherever I can in the world with you and your teachers to do so. The worry is with the people who ask for the title and then maybe see themselves as having fulfilled their training...To which I would say NO we never do!....

However, I am reminded of a comment you made a while ago about if there was quality control back then, how many of you would have got it and look at you now?...I love this statement!....

So for me being a Sister Sister is not only a privelige but also a commitment to continue to train to be the best we can be. I can't wait for the advance courses for my own personal growth as a teacher. However, I think people need to realise that just by taking them does not make you necessarily a more superior teacher or representative of our dance style.

Dança do Ventre Vinhedo - Atelier Beth Fallahi said...

Gostei muito do que voce disse e concordo plenamente, estudo ATS e amo demais ... infelizmente aqui no Brasil percebemos a grande dificuldade de se desenvolver essa grande arte, pois muida gente ao se deparar com a complexidade e o treinamento que precisa ter, desiste fácil fácil. Professores qualificados, são poucos, aproveito cada momento que Kristine Adams vem para o Brasil. Tenho medo que aqui no meu país o ATS fique no âmbito das "amigas" e não para as pessoas interessadas em se qualificar. Um beijo.

Raven said...

I love the idea of more quality control. I can only imagine how challenging it must be for you to manage this. I completely agree with your statement: "only target those dancers who were very serious and committed to ATS®, who had already been studying extensively and who were ready to begin teaching." In practice that has it's challenges too as you mentioned there are travel considerations and monitoring skill level prior to participation.

The addition of all types of dance certification programs that have come up, I believe, has added to the discussion in the dance community about quality control, as some are very extensive and require testing and other just require taking an online class.

As a dancer and teacher who is fully committed to ATS® and as a current Sister Studio, I would LOVE to have more opportunities for more extensive training AND testing, constructive criticism of my teaching style, and opportunities to further develop my skills. The mentoring aspect is very valuable. I think continuing education is key to any certification program. It's one thing to earn a certification X number of years ago, but to keep those skills sharpened in an ever evolving art form is truly necessary, in my opinion.

I am excited to hear about your plans for 2015 and am hopeful that my schedule will allow me to participate. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Maghreb said...

Valizan, I'm not in the US so my experience may be different to yours: Sister Studios are present worldwide.

You've also misunderstood my comments re new moves/combos; nowhere in my post did I mention new steps that are in the official format.

Spend some time going to shows and watching videos on YouTube and you will see a lot of people creating their own moves and combos, trying to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, while not executing the basics cleanly.

Contrary to popular belief, ATS is a very difficult dance form to master and not one that can be comprehensively taught in a few days.

I've been around it longer than most and I still wouldn't feel comfortable teaching it to others properly after undergoing a couple of days of training.






Natália Espinosa said...

As a Sister Studio I'm very excited to know there'll be more to our formation. I am Brazilian and I believe that for people from other countries it's easier and more feasible to take GS and TT at the same time, but I also believe most of us commit to improve. I still have a lot to learn, I'm definitely not the Creme de la creme of any ATS® community, but at least I am aware of that and I practice and practice and practice, and jump at every chance I have to study with other Sister Studios. I'll get there someday. The online classes have been of great help, too. As much as I love the new moves, I'll always take L1 classes.
Carolena, can I translate this post to Brazilian Portuguese? I think it's very important that all the Brazilian Sister Studios are aware of your thoughts and the awesome news. I'd publish it in my dance blog and credit you for the whole text, of course. Thank you in advance.

Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman said...

Natalia, yes please translate to Portuguese!

Kathrina said...

Again a wonderful post that teaches me about the developement of ATS® from your point of view.
After doing GS, then GS & TT, i want to do GS again.
First i was insecured if this could be understood as a "lack of skills". But now i feel good, because it want to review the basics and deepen my knowledge.
So curious what will come next in 2015!

Alina Fusion Tribal said...

Im also all for quality control!!! I took GS in 2010 and it just didnt seem to be the right thing to jump into Teacher Training right away (to me), I wanted to let all the knowledge really sink in and have time to practice and commit to muscle memory and heart memory!... Its 2014 and Im just feeling like my dance has evolved enough to take that TT step, but I will still be waiting until 2015 @Homecoming!!
I also agree on being COMMITTED to preserving and transmiting ATS® as it truly is and in its pure form.. many people may call me a "purist" and whereas that may sound wrong to some ppl its exactly what I want to be called in this case! I love ATS®!!! And I am committed to it

Natália Espinosa said...

Carolena, I've just finished translating this blog entry. In case you want to see how it turned out you can find it here:
http://tribalices.blogspot.com.br/2014/04/traducao-do-texto-sister-studio-lament.html

Thanks again :)

Diana Lee said...

I am from Puerto Rico and for me to take GS and TT at the same time was something I had to do to make the most out my trip. Like others I had no instructors available in my country, other than learning from DVD’s, this was the only opportunity I had available to learn. The GS and TT gave me the opportunity to spread the ATS® beauty and love to the best of my ability. I am very committed to improve and I still have a lot to learn and I am aware of that but I do an effort to bring a FCBD teacher for workshops and I jump at the opportunity for as many private sessions I can every time. I'm not sure I will ever be defined as the Crème de la Crème of the ATS® community, but I will sure always strive to. For me the online classes and the Tribal Counsel Sessions have been of an invaluable help and also the blog, where I can post any questions and there is always a teacher or a fellow SS to answer it.
I welcome the idea of quality control and I also agree that it should only target those dancers who are serious and committed to ATS®, who are actively studying or keeping up to date with the style; I don’t think just being a SS or Certified should qualify you. In my case now in PR I am not the only certified teacher or SS, but I am the only one actively keeping up to date, teaching and spreading the style.
For me traveling is no something I can do that often due to time and money restrains but never the less I'm thrilled to know there will be more to our formation and I welcome any opportunity of extensive training to further develop my dancing and teaching skills. In my opinion continuing education is very important to any certification program and I think it should be mandatory for any SS. I also agree with what Raven said: “It's one thing to earn a certification, but to keep those skills sharpened in an ever evolving art form is truly necessary” I look forward to your plans for 2015! Thank You again for this beautiful dance and for sharing your thoughts with us.

Unknown said...

I agree with Maghreb said.

I've been faced with this dilemma before and I do wish there was some form of quality control after we have done our TT and have our SS status.

That said, its such a large thing to police.

I waited a year to do my TT after GS and also asked if I was ready, but I spent a long time doing practicing with my DVDs and any other people I could hijack along the way to dance with.

I feel that there are a lot of dancers who are fairly new to this style who are in a rush to teach.

My main objective is to get the foundations right. I would like to feel that my students could go anywhere and feel at home.

I spend, some say too much, time on honing the foundation moves because for me, as I was told, sat in that little dance space in Glastonbury, these moves are what everything else comes out of.

For me, I see it as my responsibility to teach this dance form to the best of my ability.

I wish I had the funds to make at least a one yearly pilgrimage to the studios so I could then pass this most updated form of the dance to my students.

Long live PowHow!