A Dance of Her Own
by India Alexis and Meaghan Madges
read Dance magazine, online

Excerpt from article:

"Dim lighting creates the atmosphere in San Francisco's Cafe Amira as three belly dancers take the stage. The women are stunning - heavily tattoed and wearing colorful long skirts and cholis (short tops), their jewelry jingling as they dance...

The three dancers, Carolena Nericcio, Karen Gehrman, and Jessie Gauld are part of a troupe called FatChanceBellyDance, which incorporates the cultures of Northern Africa, Spain, India and the Middle East. Derived from traditions in which women danced together to entertain each other, this form of belly dance, called "American Tribal," is always danced as a group.

FCBD dancers are talented improvisers, and their routines are rarely choreographed. Forever noncompetitive, every woman in the group has an opportunity to lead a section before folding into the background to become a follower. Nericcio confirms, "In tribal style, the dancers are surrendering to their fellow dancers. Everyone has to cooperate, or the show falls apart."

Nericcio, FCBD's founder, grew up in San Francisco and was introduced to folk dancing by her Greek mother and Italian father. She began her belly-dance training as a shy 14-year old, under the direction of Masha Archer. (The wonderfully eccentric Archer, now a jewelry designer in San Francisco, brought the finesse of a fine artist to her dancing.)

For seven years, Nericcio studied, learing more about art, staging, costume, and execution than traditional belly dance. As she blossomed as a dancer, her style became distinctive, leading dancer and belly-dance authority Carolina Varga Dinicu (better known as "Morocco") to dub it "American Tribal."
In 1987, not long after she began teaching, Nericcio formed FatChanceBellyDance from members of her Thursday night class. The troupe performed at parties and galleries. Today FatChanceBellyDance includes seven dancers who perform at large venues, such as the historical Victoria Theatre in San Francisco, in regular engagements at Cafe Amira, and in countless festivals throughout the year....

FCBD classes and performances appeal to many women because the movement is more about stamina and muscle than preferred body type. ...Dance as entertainment, artisitic expression , and social movement - FCBD encompasses all of these things plus a commitment to a historical dance form and a challenge to our fat-phobic ideas about women. Nericcio says, "We dipped our toes in and made a big splash."