Dance Styles

Celebration of Life

Contrary to popular Western interpretations, belly dancing wasn’t designed as a tool for seducing men! In fact, in its original form, men would not have watched belly dancing at all.

Early belly dance focused on one of the greatest concerns in ancient society: fertility. Many cultures worshiped matriarchal deities, and the people gave offerings to goddesses in the hope that their families, their herds, and their crops would all experience fertility and growth.
This appreciation for fertility and life led ancient people to celebrate a woman’s ability to bear children, and one way they celebrated was through dance. The characteristic hip movements and abdominal contractions in belly dancing were artistic representations of the process of labor and delivery.

Originally, these dances were performed only among women. The performances celebrated childbirth and fertility, and they honored the deities who the people held responsible for these important elements of life. Often, a girl marked her passage into womanhood by performing these dances for the first time.

Belly Dance Goes West

Belly dancing moved to the West with Gypsy tribes, who often danced in the streets and in theaters to earn money. It was at this point that belly dancing became a performing art.

As belly dancing traveled, it evolved. And as with any form of folk dance, new artists changed it, adding elements of their own cultures. There’s argument among dance historians about the extent to which belly dancing Gypsies also influenced other dance styles, such as flamenco.

Americans got their first look at belly dancing when an artist called “Little Egypt” performed at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. After Little Egypt’s arrival, Americans ran wild with their interpretation of belly dancing. They imagined belly dancers as seductive, exotic women of fantasy, a role that easily fit belly dancers into early American epic movies.

The American-isation of belly dancing included the addition of scarves and veils, which weren’t part of many traditional forms of belly dancing. Many belly dancers today talk about how important it is to return to the historical origins of belly dancing, feeling that the American-isation of belly dancing has taken away from its original depth and meaning.


American Tribal Style (ATS) is elegant and graceful, celebrating the female spirit, and the strength and beauty of the female form, regardless of age or size. It’s roots can be traced back to the rituals of past matriarchal cultures, and to the gypsies, as they danced, travelled and entertained across the globe, melding influences from India, the Middle East, Egypt, Spain and North Africa.

American Tribal Style or ATS was created in the US by FatChanceBellyDance (FCBD) in San Francisco in 1978. Carolena Nericcio, the founder of FCBD, created this improvisational style of dance where there is a leader and follower(s), using simple steps and arm gestures, and danced in a repetitive fashion,. Each move has a cue which the leader will execute letting the follower(s) know what the next move or combination will be. The leader can change to another dancer throughout the dance, which gives everyone a chance to shine. Often using no choreography, with dancer following dancer, this unique style has structure, yet at the same time allows spontaneity and freedom of expression.

Tribal Style fuses together Middle Eastern, Flamenco, Indian and African , not only in the dance, but also with the costuming. We are marveled by the interaction and silent communication between dancers, as they support and dance together in truly, a tribal sisterhood.

* We present this dance to our audience, we don’t perform it
* We dance for ourselves, and for each other
* We dance together, not in competition; we support each other, therefore showing our audience that we are sisters
* We allow another to take the lead, and we allow ourselves to follow
* We communicate with each other non verbally, and make mutual agreements
* We have a common vocabulary of movements that we all understand
* Being tribal doesn’t mean that we all go wild and dance in a frenzy around the place! (We’re not feral).

It means that we all belong to the same family or group, abide by the same rules, and work towards the highest good of the whole.