Pedralta World Fusion®

Is it Tribal, ATS or Fusion?
Do we care?

American Tribal Style is defined by improvisational group dance. To achieve this style the group needs a common, learned vocabulary of moves. It has its roots in the FatChance BellyDance style, created and developed by Carolena Nerriccio of San Francisco.

Other groups like Pedralta and Domba, have developed their own versions of ATS but have their roots in the FatChance style.

The moves have a powerful feel, borrowing heavily from Indian Khatak, Flamenco and Romany tradition.

Dancers rely on cues that should be indistinguishable to an audience, such as the phrasing of the music, the "chemistry" between the dancers, eye contact, and the angle of an arm to create a seamless transition.

"Watching a Tribal troupe do their thing well can be spell-binding, hypnotic, trance-inducing. Like watching a flock of birds that shift and turn at once, with no visible communication." Aziza Said

A very small amount of choreography may be needed or desirable to suit a particular performance but ATS the dance is mainly improvised.

Tribal Fusion originally described styles that evolved from ATS and incorporated other strong ethnic influences, Indian Tribal Fusion, Spanish Tribal Fusion. Dancers take moves from American Tribal Style and use them to create choreographed dances or dance as soloists. Troupes may use a mix of choreography and improvisation.

Probably the best-known innovator of Tribal Fusion is Rachel Brice who also trained with FatChance and tribal fusion has become synonymous with Rachel’s individual style, though it incorporates many and varied styles.

Tribal Style has become the "catch all" for both styles and a mixture of any ATS style.

Triberet is used to describe what is really American Nightclub style, performed in tribal type costume.

So why do we need definitions?

This has been the subject of much recent debate, particularly here in the UK. As students of this dance we need to know when we book a workshop or attend a class, what style we’ll be learning. As teachers we should be telling students what style we perform and teach.

The reason for this is that if students want to learn to improvise dance they need to be learning one vocabulary of moves. If a troupe wants to improvise, they need to share the same vocabulary of moves. So when you're starting out and booking a workshop or finding a teacher for regular classes, it’s important to know that you'll be using Gypsy Caravan format, FatChance format or the teacher’s own innovations for you to add to your basic format.

Here in England American Tribal Style has largely been taught by dancers who taught themselves, using videos from various formats and attending workshops when US teachers occasionally visited the UK.

Deirdre MacDonald and Lyndsey McQueen, in Scotland, had trained with Gypsy Caravan. The result has been that very few dancers here were able to establish one basic foundation format from which to improvise and so dance troupes began performing using choreography.

Until Donna and Lez, from Pedralta went to train with FatChance BellyDance in San Francisco in 2005, no UK teacher had done any intensive training in the FCBD format.

"While the look and enthusiasm for ATS has taken off like wildfire, the fundamental concept seems to have been lost in many cases"
Carolena Nericcio

I have met dancers who have been learning what they thought was ATS for a number of years and were disappointed that they still couldn't 'crack' improvisation.

With the new found popularity of all tribal styles we're realising that we need to go back to the roots and get a solid foundation if we want to improvise our dance.

There are now several UK teachers who have had the opportunity to study in the US with the leading exponents of ATS, and we have access to more and more good teachers visiting from abroad.

ATS has a great future here!

Donna Gardner 2010

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