American Tribal Style Bellydance is a unique combination of traditional Middle Eastern dance, music and costuming blended with fantasy and given a modern-day twist. Because it's so eclectic, it can be difficult to describe, but if it's taken apart, step by step, a clear idea of it will emerge.
ATS is American in its very essence. Blending and combining elements of costume, music, jewelry, props and dance in an intoxicating and fantastic collage, each tribal group creates its own mini-culture. American Tribal Style dance groups use phrases like “Middle Eastern Fusion” and “Tribal Fantasy” to describe themselves. ATS creates an evocation of what could be or might be. Drawing on elements from cultures as far-flung as India and Morocco, and as evocative and exotic as Gypsy culture and Ancient Egypt, each ATS group brings together those aspects of the dance which sing to them. Music can be anything from a simple drumbeat to an ultramodern synthesized orchestration; costumes can be uniform within the tribe, or wildly unique. ATS draws from a wide palette of ethnic possibilities, just as America itself reflects its own ethnic diversity.
ATS groups use the word “tribal” in a uniquely American way. An ATS “tribe” is a group of dancers who share a vision of the beauty of the world's oldest dance form, and make it their own. Group members work through consensus to create their group's highly individual dance style. The famous Fat Chance Bellydance troupe is legendary for their hypnotic, unison dancing, Gypsy Caravan for their exciting performance style. Each group evolves a focus and a “look”, be it sensuous, energetic, colorful, dignified or what have you.
Another way in which ATS groups are “tribal” is in the fact that the dancers perform for each other, and with each other, moreso than for an audience. A combination of carefully studied and perfected posture, arm movements and positions, dance steps and floor patterns are coupled with improvisation to create an endless variety of movement patterns which challenge the dancers to alternately follow and lead, no one person standing out as the “leader” of the group. An ATS group becomes a second family for its members.
Every ATS group has its own style, which springs from the impossible-to-duplicate combination of personalities and movement styles of the group members. The ages, lifestlyes and life histories of group members also mold the tastes of the group in choosing costumes, music and performance themes. As group members spend more time dancing and working together, they inevitably influence each other, gradually creating a style which belongs not to any one group member, but to the group as a whole. A vibrant, confident, disciplined ATS group stands out in its own special way, carving a niche which cannot be duplicated by any other group.
NOTE: "American Tribal Style", or ATS, is the copyrighted Tribal Bellydance style of Carolena Nericcio, founder of Fat Chance Bellydance, based in San Francisco, California. All Tribal Bellydancers owe a debt of gratitude to Ms. Nericcio and Fat Chance Bellydance Tribe. However, only certified ATS teachers and trainers can use the phrase "American Tribal Style" or the anagram "ATS" in an official way, such as on letterhead or in advertising. Therefore, teachers and trainers not certified within the specific discipline of ATS must use other designations. Tribal Dance Arts and the Daughters of Sophia Tribal Dance Troupe designate themselves practitioners of "Tribal Fantasy". The official training system of Tribal Dance Arts is Daughters of Sophia Tribal Style Bellydance.