Nericcio is the director of FatChanceBellyDance, which
has a unique presentation and style that are known
as American Tribal Style Belly Dance. She is also
an ACE Personal Trainer. In this interview, she shares
with our readers about how she began dancing and the
influences on her creation of this unique dance style.
DiscoverBellyDance: Carolena, first I think the readers
would like to know a little about you. How did you
become interested in belly dance? And how did you
come to be the founder of Fat Chance Belly Dance?
Carolena Nericcio: I didn't have a formal plan when
it came to dancing. When I began studying as a young
girl, I just did it because I really wanted to dance.
It was my teacher who insisted that I start performing.
Thirteen years later when I started the original
dance class, I again had no intention of performing,
I just really wanted to dance. This time it was the
students who talked me into organizing the performing
We had danced casually at parties and gallery events.
Eventually we were invited to the tattoo shows that
were part of the Modern Primitives movement. As we
became more popular I realized that we needed direction,
and that's when we became FatChanceBellyDance.
It was the business aspect that caught my attention.
Although I do enjoy performing for the most part,
it's more the challenge of putting this alternative
form of entertainment out into the mainstream that
keeps me interested.
DBD: Were there any other dancers who influenced
you, or whose teachings have affected your dance style?
I understand that your teacher, Masha Archer, was
a student of Jamila Salimpour. Did you also ever study
with Jamila? Or with anyone else?
Carolena: My primary dance training was with Masha
(Archer). I never studied with Jamila, in fact I only
met her a few years ago. I realize now, after so many
years in the business, that what I learned from Masha
was more about art than dance.
Masha is a visual artist, and everything she touches
turns to gold. When I first met her she was dancing
and now currently she is designing jewelry, and is
always painting and drawing. She wasn't so concerned
with the "authentic" representation of the
dance, but the authentic presentation of the art of
She taught us how to move to music, how to costume
the body, how to stand and move on a stage. But as
far as the traditional details that the purists are
so bent on, that she didn't impart. Those are the
things that I learned from teachers like Aisha Ali
and Edwina Nearing and from reading everything I could
get my hands on.
DBD: Your style and the look made famous by FCBD
are distinct. How did you come to create the style
that you use when performing?
Carolena: You say "style" and "look",
I see those as two different things. "Style,"
to me, is the way we dance on stage. "Look"
is our appearance on stage.
Our style evolved from common sense, really. I was
teaching my students what I remembered learning from
Masha. I am more muscular and translated the steps
and movements that way. I presented it to my students
and they gave me feedback and we evolved a way of
presenting the body.
For instance, we realized that because of the improvisational
aspect of the dance, we needed sightlines and therefore
angled to the most active hip. So, we naturally angled
the body to the left to present the right hip. This
is a generalization that has become a standard for
all movements, simply because it makes sense when
dancing in a group: it creates a viable sightline.
In regards to the music and attitude on stage, it's
really a case of "Ignorance is Bliss." I
hear slow, taxeem-style interpretations in all kinds
of intense music. I think our taxeem is much slower
than the traditional interpretation.
Before, when I presented taxeem, I would get carried
away with the "body play" of the sound of
the music. It wasn't until later, when I studied more
traditionally, that I realized that our interpretation
DBD: Your distinctive and unique style of dancing
has been admired by many. How did you come to develop
it? What do you see as the motivation and force for
you when dancing? When teaching? What do you hope
to impart to your students and to accomplish through
Carolena: This set of questions is another interview
entirely! I'll try to answer it briefly. In the beginning,
I like to refer to my approach as "Ignorance
is Bliss." I had danced with my teacher for a
few years and then decided to start up the original
class on a whim. I was functioning much the same way
that the Gypsies did when they left India and traveled
to North Africa. I had a sense of what I used to do,
but was influenced by new music and new people. So,
I just followed my intuition and created art using
the foundation that my teacher had given me and embellished
it with the new ideas that I had.
Eventually, I developed a style that I felt comfortable
with and started looking for repeating shapes and
content in the gestures. I refined the general idea
and concentrated on making the posture, families of
steps and content of the choreography more consistent.
This led to the choreographies becoming more predictable
and to the evolution of true Improvisation.
Movement Dynamics: from real life I spent a lot of
time reading and researching movement dynamics and
kinesiology. I wanted the dance to have a natural
look. So, almost all of the movements come from daily
life, walking, sitting, reaching, breathing, etc.
We just take the natural gestures that everyone is
familiar with and exaggerate them to make them more
dramatic. That's why our style is so appealing. The
audience sees what the dancer is doing and they unconsciously
make a connection to the root of the movement, deep
in their middle brain. So, although they see the dancer
performing something special and entertaining, they
know the movements and feel as if they are dancing
I want my students to relax and enjoy themselves
while they are learning to sculpt their bodies with
the music. I want them to respect the wisdom and generosity
of their teacher, whether it is myself or someone
else. I want them to respect and take pleasure from
dancing with the other dancers. And especially now,
with world politics hanging on the brink, I want them
to stop and think about the cultures that this dance
came from, the Middle East and America. It's American
Tribal Style Belly Dance, which means it?s taking
the best of both cultures. It may sound simple, but
it's true. We have the exoticism, provocative rhythm
and costuming of the East and the ability to dance
in public and express ourselves of the West.
DBD: Carolena, thank you for sharing with us your
thoughts on style and dance.