Petra’s “Letter from Camp,” pt. 1

WARNING! Total ATS® “nerd level” of content on this post! (Woohoo!)

If you’re still reading this, you LIKE to nerd out about ATS® dancing!

I just returned from two weeks on the Big Island of Hawai’i, a combination of ATS® General Skills and Teacher Training, bracketed by a few lovely days of beaches and beautiful views with my family (Christopher, Sophia and my always-adventurous Mom). In addition to enjoying time in the paradise of the Big Island, I was really excited to become certified with both the General Skills and Teacher Training programs, bringing House of Inanna’s teaching format in line with so many other troupes around the world.

During the trip I got a “letter from camp” email from my Dad, who’s working on a PhD program in rural western Pennsylvania this summer. He inspired me to write this post and tell you all about the trip.

After a few days spent north of Hilo on the edge of the rainforest, we drove right into it, a couple hours south to the Puna coast. This part of the island is near the active volcanoes; it’s best known for its hippies, jungles, and lava, as more than one neighborhood has been engulfed and overtaken by the lava flows. As always, we visited the Volcano while we were there — it’s a pilgrimage I must make whenever I come to the Big Island, as the Volcano is really abuzz with vibrant earth energy — truly a powerful and awe-inspiring place!

I had no idea what to expect at Kalani Eco-resort, but it turned out beautifully! We ended up glamping in the jungle in a beautiful eight-sided, yurt-like bamboo hut. We had a nice bathtub with a window on the outside that gave a view riiiiight into the rainforest about three feet outside! Believe it or not, I had a cold bath after classes most days — me! Cold water! Really! The bathroom was the best place for wildlife viewing: I saw a Mama Mongoose and her three adorable babies that live in a tree trunk just outside the window, and Mama Wild Pig and her four adorable Bacon Bits (called thusly by some of our staff, of whom you may have seen pictures on Facebook) making their daily rounds as they rooted on the edge of the forest and in the lawn. I’ve taken lots of pictures of flowers and plants and can’t wait to put them online for everyone — from the expected plumeria to single-leaf fern plants and the (danna nanna nanna nanna nanna nanna nanna naaaa) Bat Plant!

General Skills

You may wonder why I wanted to take this course, being a pretty established teacher with a troupe that’s pretty popular in the south bay.  Well, I wanted a refresher to make sure I’m teaching correctly, and that I’m then teaching things the right way.  Importantly, I also want to continue to build connections with Carolena, FCBD®, and the many troupes and dancers involved in our, um, movement. So to speak.  😉

We covered a lot of moves (I counted around 42 — ultra-nerds, rejoice!), formations, zill patterns, and such, from both the Classic and Modern sets, taught over four days. I asked a lot of questions, trying to recall as many of the questions that all of us have had over the years, to get answers from The Source and Authority. For example, I found out that Egyptian Basic should be done at Dance Angle whenever possible, but that you wouldn’t upset anyone to do it facing flat forward. Also, those raised elbows are really important — even when doing arm rotations! Helpful hint on this: keep your pinkies up.

Carolena pointed out that the shimmy is most akin to skipping. I love this! It’s true: the shimmy happens on the weighted leg as you step on it, and as the other leg is raised from the floor. This is the most useful comparison I’ve heard about making a shimmy happen, period!

A helpful concept/visualization that was taught was the Dancer’s Box, which basically shows you where your feet should go. The front of the box determines your orientation on the stage or in the chorus. You generally want your toes to point to the front left of the box, which will put you at Dance Angle. In a chorus formation all the dancers’ boxes are lined up on the invisible arc made by where we stand — except for the chorus lead, whose box faces flat to the audience. Guess what? All the dancers’ toes point to the front left corner of their box. Voila! A perfect chorus.

There was very little covered that we don’t already do in House of Inanna. Some important things to remember will be: All Turning Steps Start Turning on the “Three” Count (sometimes we have been turning on 3.5) — and did I mention the importance of Raising Your Elbows? 🙂

The toughest moves that I (re)learned were the Single Hip Bump Half Turn (SHBHT — I’ve not seen this abbreviation before — just using it for convenience) and the Double Back.

SHBHT

With some coaching and excellent explanations from Carolena I think I’ve got the SHBHT. It was taught very differently than I recall… but then I was taking classes with FCBD back in the Cowgirl Days (i.e., “See what I’m doing? Do it!” — without a lot of specific instructions).

The turn is cued by abruptly turning left to a sharper angle than standard Dance Angle. Your right foot slides forward and pushes against the ground for a single hip bump, and then that same right foot slides in beside its BFF, your left foot. At that point you push off the right foot, execute a half circle and land on the left foot — ready to perform the same action as you face the back right corner. There’s no rule for how many of these you do in a row. However, when you’re ready to stop it’s best — as always — to change to a move with a different arm configuration so that your followers can easily change up and follow you.

I’ll be back shortly with another blogpost really soon to talk about another dance move, Teacher Training, and how this impacts House of Inanna performance and classes.  Stay tuned!

Petra's ATS GS Graduation certificate - July 2016
Petra’s ATS GS Graduation certificate – July 2016