I’ve been thinking lately about how I felt and what went through my mind just before going to my first belly dance class. Apprehension! Excitement! Fear! Happiness! Worry that I wouldn’t wear the right thing or know what to say or do!
I’ll start with how my journey began. I had wanted to do belly dance for many years before it came into my life, but never really knew how to go about learning! In mid-2005, my cousin called me up, said she had this belly dance instructional video and asked if I wanted to give it a go! Little did I know that this would change my life in ways I could never imagine. The video was a copy of the original FatChanceBellyDance® Volume 1 (circa early 90’s), which included the very basic American Tribal Style® steps and movements, with Carolena (the creator of the ATS® format, and now my mentor) breaking it all down step-by-step. It also included clips of her, Rina Rall and Karen Gehrman (old school members of the FCBD® troupe, and
still some of my faves) beautifully demonstrating the steps we were learning in a sample performance - in magnificent costumes, jewelry and turbans!!! I was enamored with it all and absolutely in love.
Fast forward a couple of months, I had convinced a couple of my friends to dress up as ATS® dancers for an annual Halloween party! We put together costumes as best we could, I created a choreography (before I knew this was an improvisational format…what?) using the steps and we practiced our little hearts out and performed for our friends! It was great fun! Afterwards, one of my friends had learned of classes in our area, so we decided we were going to go take lessons! We arrived at the first class, not knowing what to think, with a mixture of emotions, and unsure of what was going to happen next! It was a big leap, but after arriving, everyone was very friendly and the teacher very encouraging. We learned a very beautiful veil choreography as well as some other dances in those first classes, and while it was fun, for me it wasn’t quite the same as what I’d seen in that ATS® instructional video.
I discovered the FCBD® website, where I bought other instructional DVDs and learned more about this amazing dance style. I continued classes in my town in other forms of belly dance (not knowing then that there were many, MANY styles of belly dance out there), but researching where I could find ATS® classes nearby. I discovered there were none within a 2-hour commute! After contemplating driving many miles for class, I searched out belly dance events and workshops in the Pacific Northwest, where I might be able to get more intensive training, specifically in ATS®. I stumbled upon a new event in Seattle called Cues & Tattoos in 2008 - where Carolena herself was to be teaching! Walking into that first ATS® workshop felt like home. I muddled through, working to get the steps I had studied through video correct, but realizing in-person instruction was way different and far more beneficial for me to really get the feeling of the dance.
Over the years since then, I searched out and attended as many ATS® workshops and intensive study programs not only with Carolena, but many other FCBD® troupe members. I discovered through many hours of practice and study that my love for this amazing dance form grew as I learned (I’m still taking workshops and learning!), and that I wanted nothing more than to have others with whom to share the dance! When I started teaching, it felt kind of surreal (it still does, really) to be sharing this dance with others, and discovering how much I learn from my students. I’m grateful for all the dance has brought to me, both physically and emotionally, in the people it has brought into my life, the grace and beauty of the movements and adornment, the wonderful music, and the time I get to spend with others putting it all together in this magical system of improvisation.
I’m thankful for that first class, even if it wasn’t ATS®, because it put me on the path to be where I am today, and be able to share the information and knowledge that has been built throughout the years.
If you’re feeling like you might want to give it a try, take a deep breath and just do it! Go to that first class, muster up all your courage and just DO IT!!! Find a way to fit an hour in your day for YOURSELF! You deserve it!
Information on ATS® belly dance classes in the Tri-Cities, WA area can be found on the BABD site class page
And, if you’re not in Tri-Cities, WA, there are likely ATS® classes in your area, as the same format is taught worldwide! Isn't that amazing? Check out the FCBD® Sister Studio database and find out how you can start learning ATS®, and maybe we’ll someday meet and be able to dance together! Wouldn’t that be fab?