Thursday, November 28, 2013

Trust-ATS® Style: An Essay By Wendy Allen of FCBD®

This essay is written and shared with permission by Wendy Allen of FatChanceBellyDance®.
It comes on the heels of a big blogpost by Carolena Nericcio about the differences in ATS® Classic, Modern and what she is calling Movement Dialect. You can read that Fireside Chat here.

Thank you Wendy for these wise words. They've already been implemented in my classes as part of teaching. Wendy is so wise in this dance. I am so glad to call her one of my teachers and I am excited for the day to get to dance with her again.

And now, her essay: Trust-ATS® Style

Trust: noun \ˈtrəst\

1. Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing.
2. Custody; care.
3. Something committed into the care of another; charge.

When we are all learning the moves of ATS®, we hang on to our teacher’s every move for dear life, because we don’t know what happens next. 

Guess what? That’s your dance career in improv. We talk about ATS® being a trust fall. It is. Forever and ever. And guess what? That includes trusting yourself. We often talk about not checking out during dancing. That is part of trust. Your partners are trusting you to not check out, and you, yes, YOU have to trust yourself not to check out. It’s your personal responsibility to stay present while dancing so you can execute changes when your leader initiates them. 

If you are a leader, you have to remember that you have a group of women who are trusting you to lead them through unfamiliar terrain, in a manner that makes ALL of you look good. 
We talk about ATS® being a trust fall. 

"A trust fall is a purported trust-building game often conducted as a group exercise in which a person deliberately allows themselves to fall, relying on the other members of the group (spotters) to catch the person.[1] There are many variants of the trust fall. For instance, in one type, the group stands in a circle, with one person in the middle with arms folded against his chest and falls in various directions, being pushed by the group back to a standing position before falling again.”

In ATS, that is the chorus, and the formation. It's the show. 

People want a formula. They want a way to not mess up. I get that. 

But in ATS, we give you the formula. The rest is up to you. And the grist is that you have to trust yourself. 

You have been given the moves, the cues, and the transitions. You learn them, you drill them, you learn how to dance in a formation with others. Part of the trust fall is in trusting your partners, and responding to them. The same way you would respond to a loud noise by flinching. (You do get to that point, believe me.) The other part of the trust fall is trusting yourself that you know the vocabulary and can just react when you see the cue or transition. 

Try just dancing with your group without clinging to a set of rules, yet stick to the ATS® moves. Jump off that cliff. If you do, I promise you will find a new level in this dance form you didn’t know was possible. You will find the flow.

Monday, March 4, 2013

On "You're *JUST* ATS®, You don't need to emote"...

I was at a performance recently and was sitting at a tale with my troupemate and three other people who I did not know. At one point the conversation turned to the workshops that had just been announced for our local Guild of Oriental Dance's Annual Show. The discussion was around why there were so many workshops related to emoting. The one woman who was most engaged in the conversation turned to me, dismissing my contribution to the conversation by saying, "Oh, that's right, you just dance ATS®, you wouldn't know about emoting." She then proceeded to shut me out of the rest of the conversation by directing the paths of conversation away from my direction.

To say I was disgusted is an understatement. We were there performing and watching others perform so it wasn't the time to get into it and let her know that, hey, I know about emoting and it's importance. Yes, I dance ATS®, but that doesn't mean there isn't something to say about the expressions we make when we dance.

One dancer commented on Facebook saying, "There is an intense and powerful presence flowing through the dance that conveys way more than artificial facial expressions could. As long as you can exude joy and not nervousness/stage fright, the audience is not going to 'miss' your presence." Brava! You win 500 points!

In other styles, one NEEDS to make an expression. In "traditional" forms of belly dance, the music used has so many changes in it, that your presence on the stage alone is NOT enough to keep the audience engaged. Your face is important to oftentimes tell the audience how the music is supposed to be making them feel right now. The dancer is responsible for musicality always, in ATS® or other forms of belly dance, in other forms I would say the dancer's musicality is far more crucial because she has to tell the audience what the music is doing. She does this by emoting.

With ATS® musicality is important to a dynamic performance, but not everyone has it, (a post on musicality is in the future...) so what a dancer can lack in musicality she can definitely make up for in her presence. While we don't necessarily emote every phrase change or tempo shift of our music, there is a fair amount of facial expression. When I dance, I am happy as a clam, and I emote that. There are some who have a straight happy face when they dance and that's OK too. When I dance slow vocab, I like to keep a look of "I have a secret and you'll be lucky to find out..." Unlike dancers of other styles who need to tell their audience what the music wants them to feel, I want my audience to see and feel like I am having fun regardless of the music. Later, when they notice my musicality and note the outrageously great time I am having, that just makes for an even better performance.

I want my audience to be cued in to the fact that I am here and present and aware and not just toying with their emotional responses by telling them how to feel through the music. I want my whole presence to let them know. If they have walked away wondering what that was all about, then I haven't done a good enough job being present. Moreover, if I haven't been present, my dancing is going to be lack luster. It's all hand in hand, really.

One local dancer who I really enjoy watching (there are a few of them like this, I am just going to pick on her...) is Shannon Townsend (Shanaz Bahara). She is so unbelievably perfect at musicality, emotive response to the music and engagement with her audience like so few dancers are. She doesn't dance ATS®. I really don't honestly know what to call her save for fusion (she does some amazing stuff locally called Geek Slink and that might be a whole other beast entirely....look out fusion world!) She doesn't do the pre-sets like I see a lot of solo style dancers do.

At the end of the day soloists and group improv dancers alike would likely all benefit from a class on stage presence, a class on musicality and a class on dancer presence. By dancer presence I mean just what I highlighted above: Being present in your dance, not just on the stage.

I would really like to hear what you have to say on the matter of stage face. This and musicality are on my docket right now because of all of my planning for the few bigger deal shows we have coming up. Next post will likely be on stage face; Specifically, looking like you're bored.

Until then dancin' lovelies...


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

On Devotion...

The Devotion:The Family Tree Kickstarter for FCBD(R) STARTS TODAY! Are you Devoted? 

I opted for the $175 donation!

I cannot wait to wear my pendant proudly and to schedule my private Skype lesson with Mama C!

Great incentives! Get yourself over to the FCBD(R) Devotion:The Family Tree Kickstarter and pledge!

Monday, February 18, 2013

On Three Things...

I posed the question at the end of last week, inspired by MECDA on their Facebook Page, What three things are on your belly dance wishlist?

Mine are (in no particular order):

~Six months of study at FatChanceBellyDance, Inc. In San Francisco
~A homebase studio for my dance company Kamala Chaand Dance Co
~Silver Afghani Saroyan zils

A humble list, no?

Six months at FCBD isn't happening anytime soon. With four children, a Fella, teaching schedule, future baby plans, future house plans, San Francisco is really out of the question unless we struck it rich soonish and could afford the rent on a condo to house us all for six months, feed us all for six months, transport us all to and from SanFran and Minnesota, pay overhead costs, etc AND maintain our home here in Minnesota.

Silver Afghani Saroyans would be the easiest of the three to achieve if Saroyan hadn't closed doors until this summer. I had a 24 hour window a few weeks ago, but I was too busy with Something Tribal This Way Comes... to get my order in on time. I will have to wait until summer and hope that there are some of the zils I want to have in my collection in stock with Saroyan.

That leaves a homebase studio for KCDC.

I will have more soon. Meanwhile I am going to refer to my list and make an appropriate check mark.

What's your list?


UPDATE: I ended up with Silver Afghani's not long after this post. I love them. They are heavy and sound beautiful. They make me love playing zills even more. Additionally I managed to score a brass set of Nefertiti pro zills from a local dancer at a swap for just $35!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

On Changing Up...

I have quite a new mindset lately with my goals as far as my dance and dance related career are concerned. I  am moving the blog (and subsequently buying the blog domain) as part of that. Thank you for following me to this new space with a new address... You should note that the blog has the same name though. The name of this blog is even more true for me now than it was when I started writing it.

I plan to use this space as a jumping point for my writing in the belly dance world. Right now I am the ad sales rep at 'fuse' Tribal and Tribal Belly Dance Magazine as well as a freelance writer. Presently, I am working on two articles to be published soon.

I am working on the event production side of the belly dance world, having just produced my first large scale event Something Tribal This Way Comes... which includes a full scale magazine production as part of the event.

Additionally, I have just signed on with Kajira Djoumahna to work on some writing for anticipated additions to the Tribal Bible. I am very excited about this! I have a closely guarded, signed first edition of the Tribal Bible that has been entirely read and dog eared several times through. Practicing this dance for just less than half of the time of it's life makes this especially exciting for me.

I want to dive deeper into my writing as a means of expressing all of the joys, challenges and frustrations that go along with keeping ATS as religion. That is the focus of this blog space.

I will have contributions here from time to time and look forward to the work and insight which will be added to this experience by others.

To all who are joining me from the previous incarnation of this blog: Thanks for following me here!

To those joining me for the first time: Welcome! I am happy you are here!

I will see you all in the comments!

Be well, dance always,