The following post is by Caitlin Ray, a former instructor and performer at Belly Motions, Inc. a World Dance Studio located in Miami, Florida. For more information visit


Welcome to the world of American Tribal Style!

Never seen ATS before? Check out this video of Fat Chance Belly Dance!


In Part 1 we introduced Jamila and Suhaila Salimpour as Belly Dancers who laid the foundation for Tribal Belly Dance technique and stylization. Now, let’s look at two students who developed their own, boundary-breaking styles!

Masha Archer adorned in a necklace of her own creation!

Masha Archer had only been Jamila Salimpour’s student for two years when she decided to break away and form her own dance troupe. She was clearly influenced by Jamila’s Bal Anat costuming, but took it several leaps further with an eclectic fusion of influences extending  from the Middle East to Europe!

An artist at heart, Masha experimented with different types of music (other than middle eastern) and sought  performances in venues other than the traditional restaurants and cabarets. She referred to her style as “Authentic Modern American” and as you can imagine, her vision and attitudes towards the dance were extremely controversial! Masha Archer eventually left Belly Dance to channel her artistic energy into jewelry design (the likes of which have earned spots in museums!) However, her legacy is found in one of her students….

Carolena found her life’s passion in Belly Dance, her voice in it’s movements, and her own style that would spread across the globe!


Carolena Nericcio founder of ATS

Carolena Nericcio, one of Masha’s troupe members for seven years, broke away in 1987 to start her own troupe – Fat Chance Belly Dance! Carolena desired to return to the “authentic” roots of belly dance, keeping it’s spirit true to the culture. However, in doing so, she developed something completely original  in the art form – American Tribal Style (ATS)!

The movements in Carolena’s format are inspired by folkloric dances from the Middle East, North Africa, Spain and India. Many are even named by the country or culture they were borrowed from! However, what makes ATS innovative is the invention of a Belly Dance Improvisational “language.”

Each authentic movement is paired with a special cue or gesture. These cues give dancers a way to subtly communicate while performing, allowing for seamless group improvisation that looks like choreography!

All Fat Chance performances are improvised. If they are not improvised (i.e. choreographed before-hand) then they are not considered true ATS.

Carolina Dancing with her Fabulous Fat Chance Troupe!

Although unique in its vision amidst the history of Belly Dance, Carolena’s format retains the original, communal, sisterhood origins of the dance.

Perhaps what I find most exciting about ATS is its ability to unite Belly Dancers across the globe!

If you have studied Carolena’s format you can travel to another country, find a group of ATS dancers, and dance with them – even perform with them – without understanding a single spoken word!


American Tribal Style truly makes dance the universal language!


Hungry for more???

Check out part 1 of the series and our weekly Tribal Classes in Miami, Florida! OH! And don’t forget to swing by our fan page! 😉

– Love, Your Tribal Program Director