It’s Time for Part 2 of the Headliners’ Early Years!   Earlier this month, we shared some adorable photos of tribal dance headliners BEFORE they started dancing.  NOW it’s time to enjoy some reflections on these fabulous dancers in the formative days of their careers. We’ve got early FatChance Bellydance,  Jill Parker and Ultra Gypsy with the photos from the first EVER tribal fusion choreography that “opened the floodgates of tribal fusion innovation” (quote from Heather Stants 2008).    We’ve got baby Rachel Brice dancing American Cabaret in nightclubs before transitioning to tribal diva.   And Michelle Sorensen long before she was a Massive headliner….

Let’s dive in, shall we?!

FatChance BellyDance

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That’s FatChance BellyDance founder and creator of ATS® Carolena Nerricio-Bohlman second from the left, and Jill Parker on the far right.  I don’t know the story behind the context of this photo, but thanks to Jill Parker for scanning it along with her Ultra Gypsy photos and sending it to me!

Ultra Gypsy

(Co-founders Jill Parker and Michael McElhaney.   Early members include Sharon Kihara and Rachel Brice)


The first Tribal Fusion dance company (although there was no name for it at the time, they simply called it Belly Dance Theatre) was Jill Parker’s Ultra Gypsy.  Jill Parker is often referred to as the “mama of Tribal Fusion”.  Ultra Gypsy expanded on the American Tribal Style repertoire of movement, costuming, and music. “In the late 1990s Jill and her dance company, Ultra Gypsy, began to scale down the tribal costume, expand the movement vocabulary, work with modern DJ mixed music and play with theatrical themes in their performances.”    From Wikipedia’s detailed article on Tribal Fusion. Take the time to read this article, it’s well researched and written. Thank you to Ariellah for bringing the article to my attention!

The above photos, Jill says, are from the first ever tribal fusion choreography performance, circa 1997-8 which includes  Ultra Gypsy co-founder Michael McElHaney. Below are a few more of their early marketing material – see if you spot any other familiar faces.


And here’s a fun throwback video of Ultra Gypsy:

Rachel Brice

In addition to the early tribal fusion years she spent with Ultra Gypsy (above), we have Datura Online to thank for these little gems that Rachel Brice posted, saying simply,  “From my previous life as a Cabaret dancer.”   


“My bellydance journey began in the 80s, 1988 as an American Cabaret dancer in nightclubs. My first nightclub gig was the first day I was able to be in a nightclub, on my 21st birthday I got hired. I worked improvisationally doing American Cabaret style with live music for a decade.”  – Rachel Brice




Michelle Sorensen


Michelle Sorensen is known these days for her bold and fierce performances – her killer strong body can move in ways that most humans can’t. But I found out this week when she sent me this fabulous shot of her earliest days as a dancer that she has some guilty pleasures like the rest of us. ” I really love Twizzlers Nibs and the Munchies Cheese bag with doritos, cheetos, pretzels and cheeze-its!”  (Girl, Munchies are my favorite snack of all time….)   “And I would much rather play in the dirt and climb mountains than dress up fancy and go out. Totally a tomboy at heart.”   Well, you’ve got nothing to worry about, because you can rock any look, from your super sexy glam looks of today to this old-school circus get-up!



I hope you enjoyed a trip down memory lane. IF I got anything wrong, let me know!   Please let me know if you know any other faces in these photos that I didn’t mention, so I can tag everyone and give them all the credit they deserve for being such badasses and pioneers!

Keep the photos coming, dancers!    Message me here or on Facebook or Instagram if you have something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like me to pursue!  Please drop your email address in our subscribe bar if you enjoy what we do!