Nericcio is the director of FatChanceBellyDance (FCBD),
which has a unique presentation and style that are
known as American Tribal Style Belly Dance. In this
interview, she discusses make up technique and the
unique style and costuming that characterize this
special form of dance.
DiscoverBellyDance: The dancers in your troop wear
distinctive tattoos. How did this occur? Do the tattoos
mean anything? Are they culturally related in any
way? Do you create them yourself, and if so, how have
you decided on the patterns?
Carolena Nericcio: The dancers being tattooed has
nothing to do with the dance. Originally, several
of us discovered that we were tattooed (before ever
coming to my classes) by the tattoo artist Vyvyn LaZonga.
I think that we attract women that are already tattooed,
or are interested in getting tattooed, because the
"traditional" style of belly dance doesn't
support this kind of body ornamentation. We all design
our own patterns. Some patterns connect with the culture
of North African tribalism, and some are abstract.
We generally work with the individual tattoo artist
to produce a piece of art.
DBD: Could you share about your personal philosophy
on make up and what makes it distinctive from other
styles? What do you look for in your troupe's make
up and what do you try to avoid? Do you have any tips
or tricks to get the look that you want?
Carolena: Our philosophy of stage make up is to create
a dramatic look that is both unified with the group
and individual performer. FCBD has chosen a palette
that includes foundation, powder, and highlighted
brows in brown or some other neutral shade of shadow.
We also use red lips and accented cheeks, black eye
liner and mascara. When we line our eyes, we choose
a set of lines that bring out the natural shape of
the eye and then magnify it for drama. Bindis and
facial tattoos complete the effect.
We use cosmetics that have a strong opaque quality,
staying away from drugstore brands that are too moist
and evaporate on stage.
I'm not sure what makes us distinctive from other
styles, maybe just that fact that we do it so often
that it's second nature.
Makeup tips include finding a brand or several brands
that you feel comfortable using and coming up with
a system of applying it so you don't waste time. We
cover this process in the video "Tribal Basics
Make Up and Costume." Also, don't try to draw
a new face, but learn to accentuate your strongest
features and make them your signature.
In addition to make-up, the video mentioned above
covers how to wrap a headdress, the jewelry, parts
of the costume and includes a little performance at
DBD: LetÍs talk about costumes. How do you
feel that the tribal costuming style evolved?
Carolena: I can only speak for my troupe in terms
of the evolution of costuming style. My teacher, Masha,
encouraged us to wear a choli and pantaloons, a fringe
shawl, lots of big chunky jewelry and a headdress
or some sort of embellished hair worn up. The coin
bra was optional. When FCBD first started we used
that format, but the dancers started finding other
pieces, like the full skirts and tassel belts. It
was a bit of a mish-mash at first, but we eventually
standardized our look to be choli, bra, pantaloons,
skirt, shawl and/or tassel belt, headdress mandatory
and of course lots of jewelry.
DBD: What factors influenced the turbans, yarn belts,
and long skirts, along with the individual tunics?
Carolena: As I said above, it was experimenting that
brought the elements together, but also our desire
to flatter the movements via the costume (i.e. a long
fringe that sways with the steps, tassels that "pop"
with the hips, close-fitting long sleeve cholis that
accent the line of the arms). At one point, after
auditioning for the SF Ethnic Dance Festival, the
judges commented that our look was too diverse, so
we really worked on a costume that was consistent
but not a uniform.
DBD: What are important points to consider when pulling
together a costume in this style? What do you try
Carolena: Hmmmm...I would say a group should consult
with each other as to what works for all the members
as opposed to each dancer just picking what she feels
flatters her the most.
DBD: How does jewelry affect the look? Are there
distinctive jewelry styles that you prefer?
Carolena: I feel that the jewelry brings in an element
of opulence and elegance. Historically, dancers wore
their dowries and displayed their wealth while keeping
it secure on their bodies. My favorite jewelry is
old Afghan and Indian silver, the really massive pieces
that are getting rare. But, the most affordable is
the low-end mixed metal (Afghan and Indian) jewelry
that we sell in the FCBD Mail Order Catalog. It's
"real" in that it's not costume jewelry,
but the same thing as the more expensive collector's
pieces, just made of a lower cost metal.
DBD: How does the costuming affect performance? Often,
the style is a more natural, and modest look, such
as a panel or multi-tiered skirt with the legs and
abdomen covered. How did this occur? Were there any
factors that affected the evolution of this look?
Carolena: Costuming affects the performance in many
ways. It makes the dancer feel the movement, as in
the difference between wearing a tee shirt to class
or wearing a choli. It just feels right when the costume
is part of the presentation. The swish of the skirt,the
snug fit of the shawl and belt, the formality of the
headdress, the uplift of the bra, or the weight of
the jewelry can all cause the dancer to present with
more purpose. It affects the audience, usually because
they are not expecting such a detailed and lush costume.
The costume looks like a Mucha print or a Bakst painting.
The eye is drawn over and over the costume, finding
something new each time.
The covering of the legs can be seen as a modest
look, but I see it as part of the line of the costume.
We want to emphasize the use of the upper body. The
arms, torso, the face make a statement. Although there
is motion in the hips and the steps come from the
feet and legs, we want to draw the audience's eye
upward instead of down.
As far as the abdomen being covered, we don't do
that as much any more, but that I would see as modesty.
I covered myself during the filming of Tattooed One
because I wasn?t feeling well. I was developing the
symptoms that would eventually be diagnosed as Multiple
Sclerosis, but we didn't know that at the time.
The evolution of the costume was both chance and
intent. Sometimes one of the troupe members will bring
in something and we all like it. Other times I get
an idea and experiment with shapes and textures until
I get what I want.
DBD: Many of the costumes are made of striped fabric.
Is this by design, and if so, what do they mean?
Carolena: I believe that the striped fabric has something
to do with dancers who want to appear in period costume.
Woven stripes were one of the first patterns to appear
on fabric. Printing came later. So, I think stripes
show up at the Renaissance Fairs and SCA events for
DBD: Carolena, thank you for sharing with us your
thoughts on style and dance.