Believe it or not, Carolena Nericcio
started belly dancing as a teenager because she was
shy. While some might think that the unabashedly feminine
and seductive dance would be the last thing a shy
teen would want to do, Nericcio was more pragmatic.
"I wanted to dance, but I wasn't good at the
talking-to-boys thing so I needed a dance where I
didn't have to be asked to be someone's partner."
One thing Nericcio likes about belly dancing is its
adaptability and flexibility. The dance has been constantly
changing throughout its history, she says, and is
different just about everywhere it is danced. Before
modern times no one ever really wrote belly dance
instructions down. "Every thing is passed down
from teacher to student," she says.
At Fat Chance Belly Dance , her studio, she teaches
a style called tribal belly dance, also referred to
as American fusion. The tribal style takes traditional
belly dance and incorporates elements from flamenco,
gypsy, North African, and Indian dance and music.
Her career got its start when she began dancing outside
the traditional belly dance venues of Middle-Eastern
restaurants and clubs. This exposed belly dance to
a new audience and allowed Nericcio and her troupe
to experiment with their style and escape the constraints
of traditional belly dance.
At Nericcio's studio, all body types and levels of
dance ability are welcome. Beyond learning the steps,
students learn about the rituals and traditions behind
them, and pick up a new appreciation for their own
bodies. The beginning students' self-consciousness
is driven away by the loud, melodic ringing of the
zils, metallic finger cymbals a dancer uses to accompany
her steps. After classes, adult students act like
little kids playing dress-up in Mom's closet as they
try on the exotic skirts, scarves, headdresses and
jewelry Nericcio sells in the studio's lobby area.
Name: Carolena Nericcio
Occupation: Director of Fat Chance Belly Dance, a
belly dance studio with professional and amateur dance
Responsibilities: Nericcio teaches several belly
dance classes a week at her studio and another studio
in Berkeley, performs frequently with her professional
belly dance troupe at festivals, private parties and
public venues, and handles the business aspects of
running the studio.
Education: "I never had any formal dance training.
I taught myself and incorporated things I learned
from other belly dance teachers."
Route to the job: "I started teaching in 1987.
Every little thing I did, every performance, every
class, was a step towards having this studio. For
about 10 years I worked so hard I couldn't see straight.
I was working out of tiny little spaces all over the
Bay Area, without a place of my own. Some friends
of mine who were in real estate were taking classes
from me and they said 'Why don't you get your own
studio. We'll help you look for a space.' Well, they
found this studio and I realized that I needed to
go for it if I wanted to have a real life
If I could change one thing about my job, what would
it be and why? "I wish I had more time to put
into each individual thing that I do, so that I would
know that I had done it well. Right now everything
is a deadline for me, I'm re-writing our new catalog
(of belly dance related merchandise) while doing this
interview and waiting for the UPS guy."
Life Goal: "I never had one, but I guess this
is it. Actually, I always knew when I was growing
up that I just didn't want to end up with a job selling
junk to people, or manufacturing junk that people
didn't want or need. And in that regard I've succeeded
because people seek me out (for classes and performances)
and they like the things I sell at the studio. Creating
something relevant for people was the goal."
From the Hip:
Most valuable job-related course: "I took
the course necessary to become a certified personal
trainer. Although I took it quite a while after
I became a belly dance teacher, it taught me a lot
of things about body mechanics that helps me now."
Favorite Course: "No favorite course, just
"Hate" course: "Ironically, I really
hated math and science classes when I was in school.
In my business I have to use those skills a lot
but now I like it. I was preparing a belly dance
video and had to count out all the steps and the
different patterns and that mathematical aspect
made me appreciate the art of it differently."
Course I wish I took: "I don't think there's
a class out there that I should have taken. I'm
Greek and Italian and I think I inherited a pretty
intuitive sense of business from both sides of my