There are few things so wonderfully affirming as spending a week completely immersed in doing something you love, with a room full of people who love doing it as much as you do. So, you can imagine how over-the-moon happy I was by the time I completed the ATS® GS/TT (American Tribal Style General Skills and Teacher Training) certification program.
(Side note, I am now an official ATS® certified teacher, so if you’re in the Toledo area and want to take ATS®, I’d love to have you in class! I teach at Aegela’s studio and my personal website is here.)
If you have no clue what ATS® is, in a different post I’ll cover different styles of bellydance, so don’t worry for now (or Google it. ^_~). Also, later, I’ll talk about the personal side of the week-long: the friends, fun times, shopping, etc. This post’s primary focus is reviewing the actual workshop. I didn’t take the “The Business of ATS®” workshop, so I won’t be reviewing that.What the workshops involved:
The weeklong GS/TT is taught by Carolena Nericcio, the creator of this style (www.fcbd.com), along with Megha Gavin (www.devyani.net), who I’d call her second in command. So, we got the info straight from the “Mothership,” as it were.
The first four days were the GS, in which we went over every core move from the FCBD repertoire (The Classic and Modern moves, which are covered in Vol. 1, 4, and 7 of the DVDs. Vol. 9 is not part of the program). Days 1 and 2 covered the Classic moves, and days 3 and 4 covered the Modern moves. There were also handouts about musicality and anatomy which we had to read for homework.
After the 4 days of GS, there was a day of rest and then two days of TT. On Day one of TT, we were broken up into two groups (half went with Megha, half with Carolena) and were assigned a Classic move that we “taught” to the other workshop attendees, who pretended they knew nothing and asked a bunch of questions, followed by feedback from Megha or Carolena on how we did and what we might do to improve. At the end of the day, we were assigned two Modern moves for day two, giving us the evening to practice how we were going to teach them. On day two, we “taught” the move to the whole group and got feedback from both Carolena and Megha.The workshops ran from 10 am to 5 pm each day (some days getting out a little early), with an hour for lunch. This is the first time the GS was separated into Classic and Modern moves and the first time Carolena and Megha taught it together, so we were guinea pigs for the new format. Also, Volume 8 (floorwork) is no longer part of the GS. It was given to us as an option because they changed the format after we signed up, but according the Carolena and Megha, in the future, it will only be offered as a supplemental workshop outside of the GS.
After receiving our TT certifications, we became eligible to sign up to be an ATS® Sister Studio (You can find out more about Sister Studios at www.fcbd.com).
Personal observations and review
I must say, it was really informative to get the moves directly from Carolena and Megha. No matter how much we thought we knew about the moves, there were tweaks and “ah ha!” moments for everyone. There are nuances that are lost when you solely rely on the DVDs. Plus, some of the moves have evolved since the DVDs were filmed, making the moves more elegant, flow better, and in some cases, making them easier on the body. Plus, you can’t rely on the Youtube clips because they may be experiments or mistakes and sometimes they’re filmed from a weird angle that makes the move look totally different. And if you only rely on workshops by other studios, even Sister Studios, there are regional variations to some of the moves — it’s like a game of telephone and what you may learn as the move may not actually resemble the move once it’s gone through two or three teachers before it gets to you. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do Sister Studio workshops and the DVDs, but it’s good to check in with the Mothership occasionally to make sure you haven’t drifted too far.
As for the TT, I think I learned almost as much, if not more, by being a student and pretending to know nothing. It was invaluable to see other dancers’ teaching styles and I picked up a lot of tips and tricks. Plus, it was a lot of fun coming up with questions! :)
I really appreciated having both Megha and Carolena as my teachers for the GS/TT. They have different teaching styles and I think they balance each other really well. I found Carolena’s teaching style to be slightly stern, but with an underlying sense of good humor. She has a very regal presence that commands your attention and helps you focus during the long hours of the workshops. Megha is more upbeat and she has that great southern knack for delivering constructive criticism in the sweetest way possible. They both did a fantastic job of giving both positive feedback and constructive criticism to everyone. I think it was really beneficial to have both of them there, not only for us, but for them so that they didn’t get too worn out by the sheer intensity of the workshops.
The supplemental information was also great — the history of ATS®, musicality, and anatomy. We got some wonderful personal anecdotes from them — I love good behind-the-scenes info, the real “meat” of the history of things. And the moments where Carolena dropped her regal nature and acted goofy for a few seconds here and there were hilarious!
I also ended up buying the recommended anatomy books (one is still on the way) and Carolena was right! I thought it was going to be dry and boring but I find the information on how the muscles and bones all work together completely fascinating and I’m sure the knowledge will help me as a dancer and as a teacher.
Should you do the GS/TT?
That depends. If you wish to teach ATS®, then yes, definitely take the GS and TT. If you are a Tribal dancer, the GS is a great idea so you know your history and the core movements. And if you are an ATS® dancer who has a teacher who isn’t ATS® TT certified, definitely take the GS. If you are a Cabaret style dancer and want to learn some tribal to round out your dance education, either dive in and take the ATS® GS or take some of the weekend-long ATS® workshops offered by either Fat Chance Belly Dance (Carolena’s troupe) or one of the Sister Studios.
However, there are other considerations, such as what style of tribal do you prefer? If you’re not familiar with the different types of tribal, before you drop a lot of money on the ATS® GS/TT, I would recommend watching a lot of performances by Fat Chance Belly Dance, Black Sheep Belly Dance, Unmata (Amy Sigil’s troupe — ITS style), and Gypsy Caravan. Those are the main types of tribal improv. They each have their own distinct flavor and presentation style, so either figure out which you want to focus on and go for that or try learning all of them to be well versed in all forms of tribal (which would be quite the undertaking). I personally prefer ATS® because I feel it is regal and elegant but still earthy with a sense of fun. My second favorite is ITS with its aggressive precision.So, if you’re not an ATS® dancer or don’t want to round out your dance education with the core tribal moves, then it may not be for you, but I highly recommend the GS (and maybe the TT) for all ATS® dancers and personally found it to be a completely transformative experience in which I got spend an awesome week learning from two amazing teachers and hang out and bond with a bunch of like-minded dancers.
Many thanks to Carolena and Megha for sharing your time and expertise and to Krisztina and Czigany for hosting (especially Sue!), and much love for all my dance sisters & brother! Hugs and I miss you all! :)