Belly Dance Beginnings
I began taking belly dance lessons in June 2004, on the advise of a therapist. I was 54 years old and had no prior dance training. I had spent most of my adult life in academia, earning a B.A., summa cum laude, in philosophy at California State University East Bay, then completing an M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy at Claremont Graduate University, and finally working as an academic copy editor for Stanford University Press, University of California Press, and other university presses for 18 years. During that time, as a hobby, I also wrote a massive reference book for model horse collectors, Breyer Molds & Models.
Having "lived in my head" for so long, I found the therapist's suggestion bizarre yet intriguing. A community center in my town, Claremont, CA, offered belly dance classes, so I signed up. The dance captivated me instantly. Belly dance is a strange dance, a dance of torso isolations. The ribcage sliding side to side while everything else holds still. Hips tracing figure 8s in space. The torso undulating like a python. The belly rolling and fluttering. It's mezmerizing.
Those first lessons were in American cabaret style, as I realized eventually (who knew there were multiple styles of belly dance?). In January 2005, I began to take classes in American Tribal Style®. I quickly became obsessed with it.
ATS® is dance art. Its movement blends sensuality with elegant stateliness. Its extravagant costuming is at once exotic and modest, flattering to women of all ages and sizes. Its tribal character unites a community of women from all over the globe. For me, ATS® is the ultimate expression of strong, dignified femininity. It was developed by an artistic genius named Carolena Nericcio, director of FatChanceBellyDance® (FCBD®), in San Francisco, California.
Training in ATS®
My first ATS® teacher was Kristin Ohman, who earned FCBD® Sister Studio status during the 4 years I studied with her and performed in her troupe, Blue Stars of Tanit. I then studied with Sister Studio Sooz Hall and performed in her troupe Azuluna for a little over a year. Next I took classes with former FCBD® member Soy Pak, from October 2009 until February 2011. Since then, I've studied with ATS® certified teacher Politti Ashcraft and performed with her many times.
In addition, I took classes at the FatChanceBellyDance® studio in San Francisco several times per year for several years and have taken innumerable workshops with Carolena Nericcio and FCBD® troupe members since 2005. I took Carolena's Tribal Pura intensive in Santa Fe in 2006; ATS® General Skills certification intensives in 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2018; ATS® Teacher Training certification intensive in 2009; Teacher Training II in 2010; and her more recently created advanced intensives: Perfecting Performance in 2017, and Technique for Teachers in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Having been awarded FCBD® Sister Studio status in 2009, I've earned recertification through Carolena's Sister Studio Continuing Education (SSCE) program every year since its inception in 2015.
Soon after Carolena Nericcio granted me Sister Studio status (Sept. 2009) I began teaching ATS® at my home studio, Sunroom Belly Dance, in Claremont, CA. In January 2013 I moved most of my classes to a commercial studio, Tribal Beats, in Upland, CA, where I still do most of my teaching today.
In addition to regular ATS® Level 1,2, and 3 classes, I teach a weekly "Belly Dance Bliss-Out" class, which is a modified version of Carolena's "Dancing in the Flow" occasional class. As with her class, "Bliss-Out" is all movement, no talk. My students adore it -- as do I, although for me it is by far the most difficult class to teach.
Teaching this wonderful dance form is a joy. I love showing students how a lift of the chest and rotation of the elbow can create a beautiful, powerful line, a moving sculpture of their own bodies. To see the growth of confidence in my students -- women young and old, fat and thin, outgoing and shy -- is an inspiration to me.
My troupe Sunroom Belly Dance (formerly Torso Dance Collective) and my student troupe Womenfolk have danced at venues and events throughout Southern California and perform regularly at the Tribal Beats Studio Haflas at the Hangar, Cable Airport, Upland, CA. If you are in the area, please come out and see us!
Bring on the Drums
Since the beginning of my dance journey, I have been fascinated by the Middle Eastern drum rhythms that pervade our dance music. To learn the rhythms, I collected a large stack of rhythm identification cd's and listened to them avidly, memorizing the patterns, learning their counts, writing them down, recreating them with my zils. I've also taken numerous workshops with accomplished Middle Eastern drummers, and took regular classes in dumbek with Charles Thomas for a couple of years.
Dancers don't need to be drummers, but knowledge of Middle Eastern drum rhythms is crucial to understanding the music we dance to. For this reason, I have offered workshops in Drum Rhythms for Belly Dancers several times over the years and plan to do so in the future. Please keep an eye on my Workshops page for these offerings!