I'm not much on yearly resolutions, although I do like to regroup from time to time, mostly when there is a clear necessity. I am feeling some of that as a dancer and troupe leader; I can see where some adjustments need to be made, and with the start of a new session comes the perfect chance to do that.
From outside the American Tribal Style® world, there is a wide variety of opinion about ATS. Some do not consider it to be valid as bellydance at all. Some find it to be strangely structured, or don't care for the certification system that has been a part of it for some years. Whole deep discussions continue around these topics, and rightly so; it's good to have robust, open dialog among varied points of view.
Bellydance itself is an emerging dance form, which has roots in a number of folk dances, a pattern that is well understood in history across the arts. It is characterized by movement emanating from a powerful, constrained torso, the 'center' that yogis talk about, as opposed to movement that ends in strong extensions. It is also characterized by muscular isolation, and by the layering of movements of differing qualities simultaneously.
Bellydance can be performed solo, or in companies. It can be choreographed or not. It is both a stage and a street art, that can be danced to either live or recorded music. There are recognized styles, subcategories, and prop specialties.
Because it is an emerging form, its legitimacy is often questioned, both inside the practice and also outside it. Our problem in the Western and Westernized countries often seems to be linked to puritanism, that judges any body-centered art severely, as it if were unwholesome per se, as if the sensuous elements of dance performance were not legitimate or allowable.
We don't help our own positioning by fighting among ourselves. There is room in the entertainment world for all the dancing. None of it invalidates the rest of it. The best way to demonstrate to the public what it is that we do, and why, is to continue getting it out at a wide variety of venues, and to perform with standards of excellence in place.
The Fat Chance Belly Dance® brand was created to claim and preserve Carolena Nericcio's legacy as it moved out into the world. This is a valid claim, not meant to lessen the value of other types of bellydance; you can see the legacy in action in recent youtube videos bringing together FCBD and some of the other branches from its tree. At this point it has become a recognized founding style that informs tribal and group-improv bellydance across the spectrum. Its certification system was introduced in order to ensure that those who wanted to teach ATS could demonstrate a thorough grounding in the canon; Sister Studio recipients pledged to provide teaching and performance consistent with the quality of training available at the FCBD studio itself.
This concept ran into some snags, requiring that an ongoing continuing education system be put in place to stop the drift of step formation into local variants. Advanced teachers have been trained to help with this effort, creating a tiered system that is expected to continue growing.
ATS has long had a language analogy. The steps are like words, which construct sentences that tell the story of a song. Local step variations are considered 'dialect', not quite the language in its root form. It is necessary to make an effort to keep the vocabulary reasonably close to the original in order to make ATS the portable worldwide language of its original vision. It's a beautiful vision.
I've been involved in this splendid, artful game since 2002. In my experience, it is actually not possible to 'freeze' ATS to a particular ideal time and place. People's idiosyncrasies do creep in, intentionally or not. Experienced teachers know the necessity of 'acclimating' a new dancer to their own troupe's culture. Most will ask a new student, no matter their experience, to drop back to a basics class for at least one session. This benefits everyone, easing in the newcomer so that she can sync and flow confidently with the rest. Each dance unit does have its own little culture, a distinctive way of doing things, from the music it chooses to the details of costume, and the smallest gestures.
All this preamble is leading up to my "New Year's resolution" for D2L. We are combined from three units; Smoke Tribal Bellydance, ruth+barbara bellydance (everyone should), and Arba'a. We're still forming our new culture. It's a wide-open time, a time when we can make deliberate choices. I want us to sync and flow as if we've been dancing together for years. I will help each of you to to whatever it takes to achieve that goal.
When we are confident and fluent, able to read and trust each other, I want to work on our sense of musical understanding, our interpretation of the rhythm and phrasing of the song we dance. Right now, we are prone to stay pinned to a prominent beat or pulse. The next thing, after steps and formation and zilling are in order and internalized, is to go deeper into the music's logic and structure. Done well, this art is virtually indistinguishable from choreography... but the underlying method is completely different; the dancers focus on the entire group and make changes on the fly, not allowing for anyone to be in their own 'head space' while in the performance.
I know it's a lot. But that challenge is what makes it so compellingly enjoyable. It's an IN-body experience, rather than an out-of-body one! We have some work to do, or maybe more accurately, we have some play dates set up for this great game. We'll be talking!
I want to thank you all for your faith in me as your teacher. I am so grateful, and so proud of the hard work you all do for the group.