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  1. #1
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    A while back, there was a lot of discussion on tribe.net about who should be allowed to use the term ATS, and what should everyone else be called. That issue was pretty much invisible here on bhuz.

    I'd be interested in hearing what the tribal-style dancers here on bhuz think of it. What do you think of ATS being narrowly defined to include only FatChance style, forcing all other group-improv dancers to call themselves ITS instead? Was it a positive move for the tribal community? Has it brought clarity or confusion?


  2. #2
    Mega BHUZzer MakedaMaysa's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    I think what's caused confusion is that it seems that everyone who no longer identifies as ATS has chosen a different name for what their style is. I think ITS (improv tribal style) is a good general moniker.

    On the issue of ATS = FatChance, well, I'm fine with that. I'm no longer in an ITS troupe, so I don't perform in that style anymore, but I think Carolena has earned the right to define the style she created and to say who falls within that created style. Truth in advertising, right? I know that some groups have gotten irritated over this and I can understand their POV if they feel they've been dancing ATS all these years and are now suddenly being told that they haven't been, but I think I fall on the side of Carolena in this argument.


  3. #3
    Ultimate BHUZzer steffib's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    Ditto.


  4. #4
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    Hmmm. Considering the term "ATS" was used for almost 20 years to mean "group improv with a certain aesthetic" without being specific to FatChance, is it really fair to people who self-identified as ATS while doing their own specific step combinations for many years to yank the term away from them after all that time? Or doesn't that bother them?


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    Ultimate BHUZzer steffib's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    It seemed to me that some, e.g., Gypsy Caravan, had anyways developed their own identity within tribal improv (which has always impressed me), and that the use of ITS vs. ATS does not take anything away from them.

    Of course, change like that may leave some very upset, but in the long run, I expect this is going to be beneficial.


  6. #6
    Advanced BHUZzer NancyAsiya's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    I completely understand Caroleena's desire to keep the term ATS with the style that she is teaching/certifying. It differentiates what FCBD does as compared to, say, UNMATA.

    Having learned from both ATS and ITS instructors I didn't hear much grousing (in classes) about not being able to call the style one thing or another.

    UNMATA's ITS style is markedly very different (combos linked together through cues) than FCBD ATS. As a student I want to know what style I was learning as they are very different.

    I have always understood it as ATS was a style, not necessarily an overarching term to mean group improv.


  7. #7
    I could get used to this! SaraKat's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    I'm of two minds. I respect Carolena's decision to try to reclaim the ATS term, but I also understand why her decision made many other troupes who have been calling what they do ATS for years upset.
    Personally, I try to stay out of it whenever this debate gets rehashed. I've been doing tribal group improv for six years but I've always been aware that what I was doing was a derivation of (and not the same thing as) FatChance's style. I do teach group improv and I bill it as ITS. I have no problem calling what I do ITS, but I'm seriously considering doing Carolena's general skills training at some point so I can feel equipped to teach both.
    I do try to explain to my students the difference between ATS and ITS though, mostly so that if they continue their studies elsewhere in the wider world they won't be totally confused. I don't teach in a vaccum, after all!


  8. #8
    Advanced BHUZzer da Sage's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shira View Post
    A while back, there was a lot of discussion on tribe.net about who should be allowed to use the term ATS, and what should everyone else be called. That issue was pretty much invisible here on bhuz.

    I'd be interested in hearing what the tribal-style dancers here on bhuz think of it. What do you think of ATS being narrowly defined to include only FatChance style, forcing all other group-improv dancers to call themselves ITS instead? Was it a positive move for the tribal community? Has it brought clarity or confusion?
    I'm OK with the narrow definition, but I'm a newer dancer. I can't speak for people who have dedicated 10+ years to a style, only to be told they're stealing the name.


  9. #9
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Zumarrad's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    I am not a tribal dancer obviously but I am around a lot of it and have done a lot of reading about it. And I think that Carolena is within her rights to require that ATS refer to her style and her style only. The tribal taught at our school has an ATS base (well it did, I think it still does) and is always referred to as our own style that is a modification of ATS.

    FatChance/ATS/Carolena is very interesting actually because it may be that Carolena is the first BDer to seriously package her vision and style, and sell not just performances of it and personal lessons from her but a whole philosophy, on such a significant scale. Soraya Hilal may have started something similar but differentiated it from BD, so it's different. Barbara Sellers Young's article about ATS touches on ATS as a product and the role of the internet as a disseminator.

    I know critics talk about it as a form of network marketing but OTOH Carolena has got herself a thriving business model, and why shouldn't she? Moreover, "tribal" has started to become a meaningless term, and I know from online discussions that some tribal dancers are really frustrated with that, in the same way that many of us on Bhuz are frustrated with the way "bellydance" means just anything to some dancers. This is a way of meeting requests for codification in a dance environment that demands codification.

    It may also be that, because I'm not in America, I and tribal dancers here have little to no attachment to the term "American", whereas tribal dancers in the US who do something that is not FatChance style may feel their ethnicity has been removed from "their" dance.
    Last edited by Zumarrad; 01-30-2009 at 05:52 PM.


  10. #10
    I could get used to this! Albertina's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    I think that claiming the words "American Tribal Style" apply exclusively to your own format is kinda silly, really. It's an umbrella term. But I can understand why Carolena felt the need to be possessive about it, I guess, considering that all kinds of silly stuff is passing for tribal nowadays. Calling it Fat Chance format makes more sense to me.

    I do think it's confusing. I can't imagine how confusing it must be for an enthusiastic newbie trying to absorb some bellydance knowledge to have all these terms floating around.


  11. #11
    Ultimate BHUZzer lizajuk's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    If I am using ATS moves in improv. group situation, I would love to be able to use the ATS term. I teach improver moves a la FCBD but also GC and Domba. I've been taught by those following those 3 schools. If Carolena says I can't user the term, I'd be very sad but I do undestand that some dancers and groups take thier "tribal" beyond what was intended. In performance we usually choreograph and I am quite happy to be called a tribal fusion belly dancer . Most dancing is a fusion even what we call "classical belly dance" But what is important not to confuse or worse delude the unitiated as to what you do.


  12. #12
    Ultimate BHUZzer steffib's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    Quote Originally Posted by Albertina View Post
    I think that claiming the words "American Tribal Style" apply exclusively to your own format is kinda silly, really. It's an umbrella term. But I can understand why Carolena felt the need to be possessive about it, I guess, considering that all kinds of silly stuff is passing for tribal nowadays. Calling it Fat Chance format makes more sense to me.

    I do think it's confusing. I can't imagine how confusing it must be for an enthusiastic newbie trying to absorb some bellydance knowledge to have all these terms floating around.
    In my experience, people have been confused about what ATS before. Around here, somebody taught dance and listed "ATS" as one of her focal areas. When some day, we happened to talk about the Fat Chance improv style, she was rather surprised that ATS was not an acronym to describe Rachel Brice's fusion style. I have some hope that having a public discussion to clarify what ATS and ITS mean, and making dancers more conscious of this terminology can help prevent misunderstandings like the above?


  13. #13
    Mega BHUZzer indigostars's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    I always associated ATS with the cued improv group style stuff. It was only until I got to Chicago that I heard the term "ITS." I don't really have a problem with either, though I think including the name of the group, like Fat Chance, in the style name makes it much clearer as to what it it.


  14. #14
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Zumarrad's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    Isn't it the case that Carolena (and cohorts?) actually developed the cued group improv style stuff and started teaching/marketing it first? Certainly, the myth seems to go:

    It is the 60s. Ren Faire is invented. Belly dancers are out of control all over it so Jamila invents an "ethnic" show to corral them. Tribal, in the form of Bal Anat, is born.

    One of these dancers is Masha Archer who goes off and does her own thing. One of her students, much later, is Wee Baby Carolena.

    It is the 80s. Masha is over BD and wants to pursue other projects. Carolena and friends go "OH NOES!" and try doing their own thing based on what Masha taught them. Carolena can't choreograph, likes improv, but also likes the look of choreographed groups. She and pals come up with a system of cues.

    It is the early 90s. FatChance appears at some belly dance events and all the dancers fall over backwards at this arcane bunch of turban wearing freaks who did not get the memo that we do Egyptian Now. Many think it is So Kewl. Tribal fever is set in motion. Ergo, Carolena is sort of the inventor of modern tribal.

    This doesn't negate the fact that little groups of dancers were merrily ethnicking about on their own in different places, of course, but it seems to be the widely accepted story.


  15. #15
    Advanced BHUZzer Christina K's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    I honestly prefer the style title of ITS. To me it's more descriptive of what's going on... Improvisational Tribal Style. I always thought ATS was an odd title. I've had non-BD folks say that American Tribal Bellydance makes them think of Native American Bellydancers... and then the education must commence.

    That said, I also like to call what I do and teach ITS because I can most definitely respect that Carolena and her original creation have specific parameters. I can tell ya right now my troupe breaks a lot of her rules. Do we still do cued improv? Yes. Do we dance well? We like to think so. Are we dancing the same dance that Carolena created as ATS? Nope.. not really.

    As far as I'm concerned, Carolena and her followers can and should be able to "own" the ATS style moniker. The rest of us who are evolving the moves and format to suit our own personal tastes can hang out under the ITS umbrella together.


  16. #16
    Official BHUZzer kazoogrrl's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    I.

    When Carolena (finally) got online to spread the word that ATS = FCBD style I was a little irked. To me ATS was a broader definition of group cued improv using a certain posture, aesthetic, costuming style and general vocabulary. This was the definition I grew up with as an East Coast tribal dancer, and that I heard from other teachers, online, in publications, etc. Then Carolena decided to take back the term ATS, which is perfectly within her right and I support her choice to do that. I do think the method was a little heavy handed and late in the game, and I personally still (internally) think of ATS as an umbrella term with specifics attached to each troupe or school.

    I teach ITS (don't like the term, I prefer Tribal Group Improv, or use my own for fun term AT-esque), and I make sure to tell people the difference between ATS and what I teach that is not ATS. I'd like to take the General Skills workshops to get it from the horses mouth (in addition to the Tribal Pura workshops I've attended), but right now I can't justify paying that amount of money, especially since the workshops are now larger than they used to be (AKA if I'm paying that much I want a small class).

    Some other thoughts I've had regarding pure ATS (from my perspective): I've found that though I enjoy watching ATS that to me the only people I really want to see doing it is FCBD. So though there are pure ATS troupes here and there I'm not as captivated by them, they are missing the something special that is FCBD. I think it can be to a troupe's advantage to move away from pure ATS to find their own voice. My troupe is closer to ATS than from it, but we definitely have given our dancing it's own flair and we are constantly complimented on it. There is also a magnetism to Carolena herself and I wonder when she is no longer dancing how the ATS scene will change.

    I'm also not down that ATS certified teachers who have sister studios are not allowed to teach or dance any style other than ATS. I know Carolena doesn't want someone seeing an ATS teacher doing non ATS and then thinking, "Hey, is THAT ATS?" (they could always ask the dancer!) and then there is brand dilution and people get the wrong idea. I do think it denies the natural evolution that can come about in a dancer's life, and I think it's sad that a dancer may find that at some point the dance path she thought she was on has changed. I'm sure that can cause a pretty big crisis, to decided to stick with or leave what you're doing. I know one 100% ATS sister studio teacher and I admire her commitment to what she is doing, and I hope it continues to work out for her.


  17. #17
    Official BHUZzer kazoogrrl's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    II.

    I want to add that all this comes about in addition to the fact that I totally understand ATS in that is makes complete logical sense to me. When Carolena talks about how it came about and her thought process, I think, "Yes! Of course!" So I love it, and I think she is a fantastic woman, dancer and teacher, but I also have a bit of an obstinate streak that makes me veer off on my own path. That's probably more info than you wanted!

    I think Carolena is brilliant at marketing and yes she is building a brand. She's a savvy business woman and is honest that she has to look to taking care of herself as well as being an artist.


  18. #18
    Ultimate BHUZzer laura 2's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    Quote Originally Posted by mihri View Post
    That said, I also like to call what I do and teach ITS because I can most definitely respect that Carolena and her original creation have specific parameters. I can tell ya right now my troupe breaks a lot of her rules. Do we still do cued improv? Yes. Do we dance well? We like to think so. Are we dancing the same dance that Carolena created as ATS? Nope.. not really.
    For those of us who are Tribal virgins, can you explain what it is about ITS that makes it not ATS? Is it a change in movement vocabulary? Stylization, posture, etc?

    I am so fascinated by this discussion (and BTW, Zum, loved your take on the timeline!), but don't feel like I know enough about Tribal style in general to get the distinction being drawn between ATS and ITS.
    Last edited by laura 2; 02-04-2009 at 11:56 AM.


  19. #19
    Official BHUZzer kazoogrrl's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    Laura 2: It can be all of those. If you use moves that are not in the vocabulary, it's ITS. If you break the standard posture, it's ITS. If you regularly deviate from the standard costume, it's ITS. If you use different formations, do your solos differently, or primarily use vastly different music (ATS tends towards the folkloric though not exclusively), it's ITS.

    Here's a clip of my troupe from Sept. You can see a lot of standard ATS stuff, though we deviate in some moves, we solo in non-ATS ways, and our music is very "not ATS". We also do not currently use zills. This is a pretty solid look at our style (hah, all I can see are the mistakes!):
    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtfIhBNf8C4]YouTube - Kallisti Tribal at the Mira Betz Gala[/ame]



    I actuallly wanted to add one other thing I am not down with. Men are not allowed to take classes at the FCBD studio. Carolena will teach men at workshops, but not at the "mother ship". I'm not sure if FCBD teachers can/do teach men in classes outside the main studio. I'm pretty sure men can take classes at sister studios. I have a vague idea that this stems from Carolena feeling like BD is inherently a women's dance but don't quote me on that because I have no definite proof.


  20. #20
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    Kazoogrrl, thanks so much for posting your messages! I found your comments very interesting!

    Quote Originally Posted by kazoogrrl View Post
    Some other thoughts I've had regarding pure ATS (from my perspective): I've found that though I enjoy watching ATS that to me the only people I really want to see doing it is FCBD. So though there are pure ATS troupes here and there I'm not as captivated by them, they are missing the something special that is FCBD. I think it can be to a troupe's advantage to move away from pure ATS to find their own voice.
    I tend to agree with you on this. Actually, there are very few improvised tribal groups who can hold my attention. I think it's because there are multiple characteristics of the style that make it fun to learn and do, but not very interesting to watch unless the performers have a high level of charisma and stage skill.

    Quote Originally Posted by kazoogrrl View Post
    I'm also not down that ATS certified teachers who have sister studios are not allowed to teach or dance any style other than ATS.
    Interesting. I wasn't aware this was a requirement.


  21. #21
    Official BHUZzer portiaangel's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    I'm totally new to tribal, so don't know enough to have an oppinion, I'm just curious - is the reason she wants ATS to be only people certified by her so that any "ATS" dancer from anywhere could meet up with any others and in theory be able to improv together because they all know exactly the same "language" / cues, etc? or is it more of wanting control over what is associated with her troup artistically, or what?
    Last edited by portiaangel; 02-03-2009 at 12:55 AM.


  22. #22
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Zumarrad's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    Quote Originally Posted by portiaangel View Post
    I'm totally new to tribal, so don't know enough to have an oppinion, I'm just curious - is the reason she wants ATS to be only people certified by her so that any "ATS" dancer from anywhere could meet up with any others and in theory be able to improv together because they all know exactly the same "language" / cues, etc? or is it more of wanting control over what is associated with her troup artistically, or what?
    I think the answer to both is yes. Also, it IS a brand and to be certified you pay, and you pay Carolena.


  23. #23
    Advanced BHUZzer Kathiya's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    this is a really interesting thread...


    Quote Originally Posted by Shira View Post
    Actually, there are very few improvised tribal groups who can hold my attention. I think it's because there are multiple characteristics of the style that make it fun to learn and do, but not very interesting to watch unless the performers have a high level of charisma and stage skill.
    i feel that too. i think ATS/ITS is a dancer's dance, in the sense that, it's great fun for the performers, but in most cases, it's kinda 'boring' for the audience (because the moves are repetitive? because the dancers aren't all perfectly in sync, too, since everyone is a fraction of a second behind the leader, so it doesn't look as polished as a group choreo might). especially for an audience who doesn't know the dance is improv. is IS more impressive when you know it's improv, especially when some groups look nearly seamless, that's pretty neat.
    but anyhoo, i'm babbling. i was just trying to say that ATS/ITS is fun to do, but in general, not particularly great to watch.


  24. #24
    Mega BHUZzer MakedaMaysa's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    And I usually find it fascinating to watch. Of course, it varies in fascination according to who's dancing it, but I love watching tribal groups dance together. In fact, I love watching troupes of any kind. I think it's because, since I've started dancing, I've always been in a troupe of some sort (first Kallisti, then the NDC) and so I love to look at a group that loves dancing together - I love the chemistry, the fellowship, the interaction, the stage dynamics, all of it. It is so clear when a group has "meshed" and there's something magical about it.

    And I think that's why FatChance can be so much better to watch than other tribal troupes - because they've been doing it longer and are more enmeshed than other groups have yet to become.

    (I also have to add that I love to watch Kallisti because of their pure joy in dancing together. But I am biased.)


  25. #25
    Ultimate BHUZzer steffib's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    Quote Originally Posted by portiaangel View Post
    I'm totally new to tribal, so don't know enough to have an oppinion, I'm just curious - is the reason she wants ATS to be only people certified by her so that any "ATS" dancer from anywhere could meet up with any others and in theory be able to improv together because they all know exactly the same "language" / cues, etc? or is it more of wanting control over what is associated with her troup artistically, or what?
    Let's make sure that we do not get into some misunderstanding: You can dance and teach ATS without being certified. You can put that on your fliers and website without being certified. You should follow the FCBD format to do so.

    However, if you want to have certain labels, ie. be a certified ATS teacher or be an official Sister Studio, there are well-defined rules. It seems perfectly reasonable to me - if you want official approval, you have to follow the official rules. But, there is no requirement to get the official seal of approval if you don't want to - you can have fun without. I recall that some rules changed when dancers felt that the requirements to get certain certification were too restrictive. So, the system is based on the input of troupes, and is meant to work for everybody.

    I suspect that a lot of aspects factored into Carolena's decision to take control of the terms ATS - including (she needs to pay her bills) financial reasons, and artistic reasons, like securing her vision and legacy. If you create something unique, that has been going strong for 20 years, it is good to have strong leadership. She is a very smart woman, and a lot less scary in person that I expected ;-)
    Last edited by steffib; 02-03-2009 at 07:47 AM.


  26. #26
    I could get used to this! SaraKat's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    Elaborating on what Steffib just said, just for everyone's edification- there are two levels of ATS certification: General Skills and Teacher Training.
    You do not need to commit to teach and perform only ATS in order to be eligible for General Skills training. I have friends who have gotten GS certified and who teach and perform other styles as well.
    In order to do Carolena's Teacher Training, as well as to become eligible to be considered as a Sister Studio to FCBD, you need to commit to only teaching and performing ATS.
    Sister Studios can also contribute to the development of the ATS vocabulary. Devyani, for example, came up with the Re-Shamka, a move that's now in the permanent ATS language. This is why it makes sense to me (to a degree) that ATS isn't just called "FCBD style". Other teachers and troupes contribute to it as well. However, the new moves do need to be approved by Carolena, I think.

    The difference between ATS and ITS to me has three different components: movement vocabulary (including specifics like how to cue moves), formations and transitions, and posture (including specifics about arm positions, etc).
    ATS has very specific rules for all three. You either follow them, or you are not doing ATS. The only area where I think you can deviate a little is formations and transitions- FCBD has admitted that sometimes they choreograph these for large stage productions where they want to do something more interesting and complex with their grouping and staging.
    As kazoogrrl said, if you come up with your own variations on moves (and you're not a sister studio, and you don't get them approved by Carolena) or if you break from ATS posture, then you are doing ITS.
    If you're doing straight up choreography, then you are not doing either ATS or ITS.
    I am way too much of a rebel for ATS. I like coming up with my own moves and combinations for improv. But I completely respect Carolena and everyone else who has worked on ATS over the years for coming up with their format- it is SO elegant in its simplicity and SO well-considered. It's true that ATS has a ton of rules and can seem restrictive, but all of the restrictions are there to keep the dance from falling apart on stage! Seamless group improv is really difficult to produce, and they've managed to get it down to a science.


  27. #27
    I could get used to this! SaraKat's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    BTW, I LOVE the Kallisti Tribal video! wow!!
    I love watching both ATS and ITS when it is done well...


  28. #28
    Official BHUZzer kazoogrrl's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    To add to what Sara said, I think that there is another certification level now for non-ATS teachers. General Skills is for everyone, then there is a Teachers level for non-exclusively ATS teachers and then there's the ATS Teacher Level for only ATS teachers, and it's that last level that can become sister studios.


  29. #29
    Mega BHUZzer indigostars's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    Quote Originally Posted by laura 2 View Post
    For those of us who are Tribal virgins, can you explain what it is about ITS that makes it not ATS? Is it a change in movement vocabulary? Stylization, posture, etc?

    I am so fascinated by this discussion (and BTW, mihri, loved your take on the timeline!), but don't feel like I know enough about Tribal style in general to get the distinction being drawn between ATS and ITS.
    From what I understand, ATS as FCBD has its separate vocabulary from like Black Sheep Belly Dance. I'm going to guess that it might be like the difference between French and Spanish.

    I think ITS dancers might make its own combos that are also cued, similar to how slang varies from region to region.


  30. #30
    Ultimate BHUZzer laura 2's Avatar
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    Re: Question for tribal dancers - your take on ATS/ITS?

    Quote Originally Posted by SaraKat View Post
    The difference between ATS and ITS to me has three different components: movement vocabulary (including specifics like how to cue moves), formations and transitions, and posture (including specifics about arm positions, etc).
    ATS has very specific rules for all three. You either follow them, or you are not doing ATS. The only area where I think you can deviate a little is formations and transitions- FCBD has admitted that sometimes they choreograph these for large stage productions where they want to do something more interesting and complex with their grouping and staging.
    As kazoogrrl said, if you come up with your own variations on moves (and you're not a sister studio, and you don't get them approved by Carolena) or if you break from ATS posture, then you are doing ITS.
    If you're doing straight up choreography, then you are not doing either ATS or ITS.
    I
    Thank you so much - this is a really excellent and clear explanation!


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