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Tribal, Tribal Fusion or Belly Dance in general is only for women? Wrong, in classical belly dance at least there are quite a few male dancers, some of them true masters on their field. And in tribal we have Valizan … the token “Brother Studio”? Wrong again, till today there are at least three of them. Valizan from Canada was “only” the first of them and below he tells us, what thrills him about tribal and belly dance, how his way was a path of trial and tribulation, at least some times, and how he experienced sexism against men, but since then he has reached the top of the ATS movement and so we asked him to comment on the new ATS education system SSCE, which is creating some unrest over here. Since he is a very charming talker, this interview has a witty edge and we recommend to you to come to the 5th “Black Forest Tribal Festival” at Offenburg to meet this man in person.
Tell us about your life and why you can’t let go of dancing?

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, and now live an hour away in a city called Hamilton.

I went to university to become a journalist and worked at a daily newspaper professionally for 12 years. While I was doing that, I picked up bellydance as a hobby. Just something fun to do, and it became a life obsession for me.

I started in a medieval recreation group called “The Society For Creative Anachronism”, which tries to recreate the glorious elements of the Middle Ages. I took a bellydance class called “Bellydancing For Manly Men” at the group’s big yearly event in Pennsylvania and found I had a small bit of aptitude for it. That led the way to me taking weekly classes and dancing at every opportunity.

Now, this is ALL I do for a living. I teach American Tribal Style bellydance weekly in Southern Ontario, I teach workshops in Canada and the U.S., and I perform whenever possible. I never actually considered doing it for a living, until I was urged by bellydance star, Rachel Brice, who heard me lamenting a low point in my life and asked why I wasn’t pursuing dance. I hadn’t really considered it because there really is no such thing as a “Rich Bellydancer.” And she really pushed me to give it a try. There is a picture of me standing with Rachel holding my glasses and staring into my face, and I’m crying because she’s being so overwhelmingly supportive. Props to the lady!

Why am I still hooked on dance? You might ask people why they drink water or breath air or eat food … I HAVE to dance. I have been a dancer all my life, even if it was just bouncing around the house as a child to whatever was playing. To me, dance is an escape and balance to some of the ugly realities of life. Real life nails you to the floor, dance lets you fly. I am Valizan Airlines, come fly with me! For me, there is also an element of spirituality to dance: Reaching beyond the boundaries of logic and sight to embrace chaos and insight.
In your very colorful biography one learns that you do both, classical bellydance and tribal. This maybe not unheard of but is still rather rare. What makes you perform in both worlds?

Like most people, I am multi-faceted. There are so many elements that make up, who I am. American Tribal Style is group impro. I love it and it is my living. But I started off as a soloist doing Egyptian-style bellydance. The energies for both styles are different, even though they are both bellydance. ATS has a group vibe, which means I have to focus on dancing and the other people. I also have to focus on the moves, which are in a set format. But when I dance solo, I can just focus on what I am feeling the music telling me to do. I don’t have to consider telling the other dancers what is going on.

There are benefits to both, but they really have different energies. The group energy is camaraderie, but soloing is a freedom in movement. When I dance ATS, I am one part forming the whole. When I solo, I dance for me.

There are a number of tales of people taking their General Skills, then immediately taking their Teacher Training and automatically becoming Sister Studios, equal in the eyes of a piece of paper, with someone who has been dancing ATS for a decade and possesses the nuances that experience alone can give you. 

SSCE gives Sister Studios new goals to reach for, and a chance to market themselves better as teachers. Folks need to realize that dance evolves, and ATS is no different from any other dance form in that way. With the continuing education program, those who are already Sister Studios can keep on top of the changes that happen at FCBD in San Francisco

I have often been caught not knowing something a student has awareness of, because they had been to FCBD more recently than myself and learned something new that I did not know. As a teacher, that creates a bad feeling, because one would think FCBD would let its Sister Studios in on new advances that had been created. With this system Sister Studios can keep up with the innovations in the form. That annual fee also helps support FatChanceBellyDance Inc., which is a good thing. If you compare it to people who study ballet and how much they must invest in classes and costuming, ATS is still a better deal. 

Dancers in the European community need to understand that it is not mandatory to do any of the SSCE. Per the FCBD site ( it is optional. Each Sister Studio needs to decide for itself how much they want to invest both financially, physically and emotionally in their ATS journey/career. Some people do this as a hobby after work, some do this to prove something to themselves and others, some … like myself, do this as a career. Each of us needs to decide if they can afford to do this further certification and if it adds any benefit to them. 

In my case, I would probably not re-certify every year. The average audience member is not looking to see if I have a piece of paper when I dance, they want to see if I can entertain them and I think I am doing that pretty darn good at this point! One more piece of paper with Carolena’s signature is not going to make me a better dancer. Practice is. 

As a teacher, I think my experience speaks for itself. Do I have more to learn? Always!! I am the eternal student in dance.

Having said that, I tend to see Carolena or someone from FatChance at least twice a year for classes. And when I can afford it, I fly out to San Francisco for private lessons so I can update and polish my knowledge. The only benefit to me from the SSCE is for marketing. I am actually far more interested in the Advanced Teacher training program. 

Looking forward to meet you all,

Valizan's Homepage:

Homepage "Shades of Araby":

is guest at

Black Forest Tribal Festival
No. 5

11. - 14. September 2014 in Offenburg

More informations about
Valizan's Workshops ...
Photos © 1, 5 and 7 Joe Szilvagyi, 2 and 8 Ai Rei Dooh Tousignant, 3 Diana Marina Gaeddart, 4 Libra Moon, 6 Valizan
Valizan with Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman
Valizan and "Shades of Araby"
Rachel Brice and Valizan
Valizan and his "Shades of Araby", left to right: Sarah, Maral, Valizan, Delice, Karina
What will you teach in Germany?

I have two workshops I will be teaching. ATS Duet Dynamics is a workshop on moves for two people to dance. Some of the more exciting moments in ATS are when it is just two people playing off, and with each other in the dance. So I will teach some of the fun duet moves in ATS.

Shady Secrets is a collection of moves that Shades Of Araby have come up with over the years that can be used in the ATS vocabulary. Some are cool variations some are things we have come up with. All of them are fun to dance!
Several of our ATS dancers asked us to ask you, what are you thinking about Carolena's new system SSCE. Some of the girls in the community are very unhappy about what they are expected to pay, while others think, oh great, we can qualify even further.

There is an old saying that goes “In order to make money, you have to spend money.” Meaning that one must invest in oneself (buy the equipment, get the training) before putting out a shingle to say you can do a certain thing.

The new Sister Studio Continuing Education (SSCE) system may be a benefit to some and a money sink for others. The creation of this new system is Carolena’s direct response to people saying the Sister Studio Certification is nothing but a piece of paper.
And we just have to ask you this, how does it feel to be the sole/unique “Brother Studio" in the world/Universe?

Well … I’m actually not! I was the “first” Brother studio to FatChanceBellyDance, but there are three of us now: Me, Russ Martin and Yuska Tuanakotta. And I am very happy I got to perform at Cues & Tattoos in Seattle with both of these gentlemen as “Sons Of The Trimurti”.

When I became the first and only, I felt vindicated in my long attempts to study ATS. Carolena Nericcio does not allow men to study in the regular classes at the FatChance studios in San Francisco, and I was a bit crushed when she told me this at first. But I took workshops whenever she was close, and took private classes at the FatChance studio in SF whenever I could afford to fly out there. When I finished taking the Teacher Training in Milwaukee, I asked Carolena, if she would consider letting me become part of the Sister Studio diaspora, and she didn’t hesitate to say yes. So I have a bit of pride at being the first Brother Studio, and being able to represent ATS.

How is the male Tribal/Tribal Fusion situation in Northern America nowadays?

I have been dancing for 20 years now, and it has been fascinating to watch the slow growth of male dance in the tribal scene. I look at dancers like  Paige Lawrence, with his wit, intelligence and his devotion to his art, I look at Yuska Tuanakotta, who danced at FatChance and his elegance in movement and boundless energy, and Russ Martin in Seattle, I think of every guy trying it for the first time and I am gladdened that more men are willing to express themselves in dance, and especially Tribal.

What will you perform at  the Black Forest Festival?

I will be doing ATS. I am hoping to bring members of my troupe with me, so that I can share Shades Of Araby Goodness with our German friends.
Interview with Valizan
- by Marcel Bieger