ATS: Vocabulary versus Cues

Many times American Tribal Style Bellydance is described as a dance that uses cues to communicate what movement is coming next to the dancers.  This is true, and I'm sure I have used this definition myself, but I have found that this causes some confusion.  People get hung up on the cuing part and I've even had audience members come up to me and tell me that they look for the cues but they can't find them.  That's because what the dancers are really relying on a shared vocabulary and the "cue" is often as simple as going into a new move.

Whether the movement is fast or slow, a movement starts somewhere and it ends somewhere else.  Basic slow movements have no "cue" per se, but rather when you come back to center, you have the opportunity to transition to something else.  In fast movements, the transition happens before the count of  "1" and, again, the "cue" is often as simple as changing arm positions.  More complicated movements have "cues" in the more conventional sense of the word in that they have a set up that indicates what is coming next, but for the most part, the gesture of moving from one position to the next one is enough information for your fellow dancers to understand what is going on.

Gee, isn't ATS easy?!  Just kidding.  It takes a lot of time to get even the most basic movements into your own body, then on top of that, learning how to transition smoothly, watching for those key transitions from the lead dancer and matching her.  The final piece (which is a long time coming) is becoming so familiar with the movements and the format that all of those things happen automatically and you're not thinking about it, you're not mimicking, you're dancing and that's where the magic happens.