A Chat with Carolena and Megha

Tribal Happenings and a chat with Carolena and Megha about their exciting and new collaboration!

Originally published in Bellydance Oasis Magazine
Issue 52

When last I left you lovely readers I had just finished a whirl wind of teaching and performing in other parts of the world and although I feel very privileged to be able to do what I love around the globe, it was a refreshing change to be able to stop for a bit (well as much as one does in this line of business) and stay close to home for a few months. It was not without a few interstate weekend visits.

In June, I visited the ladies of Sabaya collective and Shawaza from Emu Park Qld. The workshops I taught were well attended and the performance evening full. Ladies came from all over Qld and upper N.S.W for the event. It was such a culture shock going from Tribal Fest U.S.A to Emu Park Australia in a matter of weeks. It made me realise what a fantastic dance community we have here in Australia and how in general we are very supportive of one another. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Tribal Fest and no community (including our own) is without the odd bit of politics but the ladies of Emu Park and Rockhampton blew me away with their enthusiasm and acceptance of every dancer and style. I had of course visited these lovely ladies before and indeed been to many other places in Australia and witnessed the same generosity, down to earth nature, fun and love of dance, but it took going from a big event such as TribalFest to a much smaller event her in Australia for it to really hit me. There are many things that make a great dancer. Great technique, stage presence, appropriate costume and dance to the music chosen and the obvious list goes on, but what about why we dance in the first place? Every performer that weekend was up there purely because they loved to dance. They didn’t care if they were not the best dancer that night or if someone had a nicer costume. They were there in part because they love to dance but also in part because they equally enjoy watching the joy on the faces of their fellow dancers. The true sense of community and I truly “got it” during the weekend. There is also something to be said of the enjoyment one has whilst watching a performer who has honest and humble intentions for why they dance. If you are reading ladies. I thank you for the experience and also in getting me to ask myself the question of why I choose to dance.

July saw Diane Vogt (my fellow Ghawazi Caravan member) and myself travel to Melbourne for my appraisal course (now known as Devis Individual Appraisal Workshop Collection). I always love visiting Red Earth Ghawazee in Melbourne. Once again, that lovely sense of community was shared by all and I got to meet some new faces as well which is always fun.

I’m still loving teaching the appraisal workshops which is becoming more and more popular with ATS(r) dancers around the globe. This course has recently been restructured in part because of the changes made to TRIBAL PURA INTERNATIONAL and FCBD(r). (Read on for more info). I still offer the same topics which also include personal feedback and written appraisal but am now proud to announce that I have been asked to be a Sister Studio Continued Education (SSCE) teacher with FCBD(r) and most of the Appraisal Collection workshops are accepted into the new programme as well as some of my other ATS(r) workshops. This new programme is very exciting for ATS(r) dancers across the globe and gives dancers a real opportunity to work on their own personal goals and get much needed feedback from some of the best ATS (r) dancers in the world including what we all want …feedback from Megha and Carolena.

September and October was a very busy time in Australia. In one month we had Ilan from France, Colleena Shakti and then I hosted Deb Rubin for a 5 day intensive before heading off to Tribal and Trance Fest where Kami Liddle and Deb Rubin were both special guests. I SO WISH I could have done it all. I have done workshops with all of the above and all are phenomenal artists and teachers. I thank all the sponsors in Australia for all their hard work, dedication, financial risk and sleepless nights for bringing great artists such as these to our shores. I have been in both boats of course. I am often the one being sponsored these days but I still bring out a special guests most years. It’s a lot of work but well worth it. In Australia, we have gained a lot by these visiting artists and has given Aussie Tribal dancers are broad range of style and technique and that’s a good thing.

The Deb Rubin intensive was AMAZING. Her dance therapeutics is a must for any dancer of any style. She has a deep knowledge of the body, how it works, yoga and massage plus she’s a dancer. In my opinion she has some of the best techniques to save your dance body, prevent injuries and help support old injuries whilst gently coaxing your body into great shape. There were many participants of the workshops that were helped with old injuries and even one student who was considering quitting dance because of old painful injuries that felt she now had the tools to heal herself and continue dancing. That was worth the workshop price alone!

Of course there was some dancing too….lots of it. In fact participants who came for the whole 5 days learnt a group choreography that we then performed the week after at Sydney’s Tribal and Trance festival and I must say after all the stresses that are involved, as you can imagine, it looked fantastic! Well done everyone who came along and especially to Deb for being our fearless leader.

Tribal and Trance Fest this year was HUGE! As mentioned earlier this year we had two international stars instead of just one which was a first. There were of course many great workshops from teachers all over Australia from Kathak Fusion, Gypsy Caravan style, props and more props and the list goes on. I was excited to co teach with Deb Rubin. Our workshop topic was “From the Roots to the Fruits”,  about how to intelligently create Tribal Fusion dance whilst still honouring the roots of ATS(r). It was fun to finally present this sold out workshop to Aussie dancers. The Red Carpet Night was also sold out. The show was varied and interesting and just keeps on getting better and better each year. The market day had the same relaxed nature it always does with people performing, catching up and shopping. I always love the Market day. Deb Napier and her team did a wonderful job. It took me 2 weeks to recover! I can only imagine how they all felt!

So for now I’m preparing for my yearly European trip. This time to Essex, Edinburgh and Berlin but more on that upon my return. I’m proud to announce that I will be sponsoring Carolena Nericcio and Megha Gavin next year for GS and TT. They will also be travelling to Adelaide, sponsored by Evangeline of Ruby Datura for some tribal PURA workshops the weekend after GS and TT. This will all be taking place in August/September 2015 so watch this space for more! Now to whet your appetite on this…read on.

Carolena and Megha Interview

You have recently made some brand new announcements on FB and the FCBD website. For starters, can you tell us more about TPI and the collaboration between Carolena and Megha?

Tribal Pura International (TPI) has grown organically from the expansion and re-structuring of Tribal Pura and FatChanceBellyDance, Inc (FCBD®). Previously, Tribal Pura described the unique instructional experience created by Carolena and Megha. FCBD® offered the intensive training experiences of General Skills, Teacher Training and The Business of ATS®. With the new Tribal Pura International, we have moved all of the instruction to one place. General Skills, Teacher Training, The Business of ATS® and Tribal Pura workshops can all be found under Tribal Pura International.

In addition, we have created several new programs as a result of feedback from the Sister Studios of FCBD®. Sister Studios are those dancers who have completed the GS and TT intensives and agreed to a certain set of expectations about how they will teach and represent ATS®. When we asked them what they wanted from us, they told us that they wanted more advanced training. As a direct result of their feedback, we created the Sister Studio Continuing Education program and Advanced Teacher Training.

The Sister Studio Continuing Education (SSCE) program allows Sister Studios the option of taking 10 hours of instruction annually and receiving an annual re-certification. It is not mandatory, but a way for those who choose to do so, to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to training and excellence. We have identified a number of instructors who are approved to provide these hours of instruction.

The Advanced Teacher Training will be an annual two-week course in San Francisco. Applicants will demonstrate excellence in teaching and performing along with showing that they are contributing members of the ATS® community. Those who have applied for the first year have submitted videos of their instruction and performance. In addition, they have submitted a resume and letters of reference. Although acceptance does not guarantee that the dancer will pass the course, we have carefully accepted applicants that we feel have the skills and capacity to succeed in the program. Those dancers who do pass the course will be added to the list of approved SSCE instructors.

From my observation ATS® is becoming more and more popular world wide. You must feel so excited about that. How does that make you feel?

Carolena: When I first began this journey in San Francisco, I had no idea that this dance form would have international popularity. I just wanted to dance. I am thrilled and proud.

What is SSCE and how does it work?

As we briefly mentioned, SSCE is an optional certification to allow Sister Studios to demonstrate their commitment to ongoing annual training. If a Sister Studio decides to participate in the program, she/he can go to the FCBD® web site and register. There is a $75 annual registration fee to help us with the cost of administering the program.

They are required to take 10 hours of approved training annually. Their anniversary date is a year from their registration date. So, it really makes sense for those who are planning on doing this program to go ahead and register for it.

Nine of the hours of instruction may be with any of the SSCE instructors. You can find a complete list of them at www.fcbd.com. The instruction has to be in person. We do allow virtual private or group lessons via Skype or our online studio, Powhow. One hour of instruction must be with either Carolena or Megha in a private lesson format. They are available for lessons in person if they are in the area or via Skype or Powhow.

Taking a class at the FCBD® studio in San Francisco counts toward the certificate. Meaning, the hours don’t have to be gathered at a workshop event. Also, taking General Skills or Teacher Training for a second time counts.

The instructors give the Sister Studio certificates when she/he takes the classes and workshops. At the end of the year, we will send a reminder to the Sister Studio to send all of the certificates to us in order to prove that the conditions were met. Then we will issue the re-certification. Each annual re-certification requires re-registration and payment of the fee.

Can you tell us more about the SS advanced teacher Training programme?

The Advanced Teacher Training is really the pinnacle of training for an ATS® dancer. She/he will submit an application, be rigorously screened and only invited to participate if we think that person is ready. The training itself will be for two weeks in San Francisco. We have accepted 10 students for the first year. Each student will get intensive feedback about their instruction of every move in the Modern and Classic vocabulary along with all of the Volume 9 movements.

Why did you feel the need to add these new programmes? How will things change?

We added these new programs because we received an overwhelming amount of responses to our survey asking us to do so. Sister Studios wanted a way to demonstrate ongoing commitment to excellence through continued education.

I get a lot of questions about what the difference is between what you now call Classic and Modern ATS® . Can you explain to our readers the difference please?

Classic ATS® movements are those that began our journey. They are basic, grass roots, first incarnation of movement. The steps on Volumes 1-4 and Volume 6 Formations are the Classic curriculum. Modern ATS® movements are the second step of the journey. They are the movements that evolved from the beginning steps. They include Volumes 7-9.

What is movement dialect for ATS®?

Movement Dialect describes the unique combinations and creations of a particular troupe or group. This Movement Dialect naturally evolves through the creative process of personal and group collaboration.

The reason I introduced the concept into the vocabulary of ATS® is that I wanted people to have a description of what they were doing and a way to share it with me. Dancers and groups of dancers were creating their own vocabulary based on ATS®. For example, some of the new creations were as simple as adapting a traditional movement into a duet movement. Some were brand new moves inspired from their own experiences.

I realized that people weren’t sharing their creations with me because they were afraid I wouldn’t approve. I wanted to see what was happening and how the dance was evolving, so I coined the term “movement dialect” and invited dancers to share what they were creating. In hindsight, Volume 9 is really Movement Dialect, but I didn’t have a name for it at that point.

I also suggested guidelines for new creations to make sure that they would still be considered ATS® rather than fusion. The guidelines are that the movement can be cued and followed using our current structure and that the movement utilizes uplifted posture and arm carriage. I am happy to review any movement dialect. If you want feedback then we can schedule a consult for more in depth conversation.

Can you please tell us more about Homecoming?

ATS® Homecoming is a workshop weekend in San Francisco in January 2015.  We have invited well-known and newly emerging ATS® instructors to offer workshops on Classic movements, Dancing with Props, Movement Dialects (the innovative movements that emerge in different troupes or regions but are not a part of the FCBD® movement vocabulary) and more.

Carolena: The idea arose because I wanted to stay in San Francisco more after I got married.  I decided it would be great if people had the opportunity to “come home” and see the birthplace of American Tribal Style® dance.

I am very excited to be hosting Carolena and Megha again in Aug/Sept 2015! What are your thoughts on visiting Australia again and the dancers you have met here?

We love visiting Australia and are looking forward to coming again.

What are your plans for the future?

We are very excited to continue developing Tribal Pura International. We will be unveiling a new logo very soon.  We will also be offering resources to our Sister Studios that they haven’t had before.  We are setting up an account with a US business that will allow Sister Studios to personalize and print items such as the “What is ATS®?” card, business cards and much more.  Stay tuned for more information about that!