House of Inanna is based in the San Francisco South Bay, and was formed in 2002. Our belly dance style is mostly based in American Tribal Style (ATS)® — as taught by Carolena Nericcio’s FatChance BellyDance (FCBD)® — and also includes elements of Old School Egyptian cabaret and Silk Road cultures from Morocco through Turkey and India. Our ATS® belly dance classes are held in San José, California, and we include moms, students, professionals, and goddesses.
Since we see dance as an expression of devotion, we enjoy blurring the line between performer and audience. We have performed at Tribal Fest™, Rakkasah, Beat Magic, Burning Man, and various SF Bay Area locations. House of Inanna is featured on the December Page of the 2008 Big Beautiful Belly Dancer calendar, and you can also find us on Facebook. If you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you!
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Currently the House of Inanna performance troupe consists of the following dancers: Petra, Hiya/Chaiya, Fox/Shannon, Cherie, and Tamara.
Past members include: Anitra, Rowan, Chelle, Sheila, and Jenn. Future members include: Sophia!
I had a life-transforming “A-ha!” while dancing in the chorus during practice at Noe Valley Ministry: I was “waiting” too much. I was waiting for the perfect time to start learning how to shimmy like “the big girls” in FCBD, and I was waiting for others in my life outside the dance studio, as well. Living in the waiting room, in fact. My inner voice said, ‘Stop waiting and DO it! Life is too short to wait for the perfect time to act!’ When this happened I started shimmying, and realized that I could do just about anything that I set my mind, body, and spirit to accomplish. I love sharing the potential break-through experience of belly dance with others.
I’ve always loved to dance, even though I was immensely self-conscious as a kid. My mom enrolled me in ballet and modern dance when I was young, but I had a hard time sticking with it — I was short and rotund, and really embarrassed about that. So I danced alone, to music in my room. As a teenager I was a little less concerned about what others thought of me and did really expressive dance at dance clubs, as well as pogoing and slam-dancing across Germany, then DC and Richmond, VA, during my punkarina years.
In 1995 I had the good fortune to find myself in Carolena Nericcio’s American Tribal Style belly dance class, having been dragged there by a friend. She took three classes and decided that it was not right for her, but I was hooked! I loved the grace of the experienced dancers, their ability to move in sync like a flock of birds, and the exotic expressiveness of the music we danced to.
Between 1995-2000 I was in Carolena’s class between one and three times a week, and was part of her understudy troupe, Second Skin. When I got a new job outside of San Francisco, though, I had to leave the FatChance fold. During the next few years I studied with a number of Cabaret teachers, including Magana Baptiste, Azar, Mashuqa Maya Murjan, and others. I love exploring all different types of belly dance, but ATS® is my first love — the improvisational capacity and moves are simply compelling for me. I missed it, and couldn’t stay away.
In 2003, at the request of a few friends and acquaintances, I began teaching mostly ATS® style in a small studio. Since then I’ve realized my passion and capacity for sharing ATS®, as well as infusing it with other dance forms — and the occasional yoga asana, too.
Since 2004 I’ve also broadened my awareness of the Body-Mind through getting back into yoga by earning a accreditation with Yoga Alliance as a Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Educational Seminars. I enjoy bringing asana, awareness of the esoteric body, and meditation into dance classes… this can really enhance dancing techniques and performance capabilities. Additionally, I’m on a long-term track to complete a Masters in Somatic Psychology — which is a fancy way of saying “therapy with a focus on mind-body connections for healing.”
It’s such a joy for me to dance, and I hope it is for you too!
As a troupe, House of Inanna loves to perform traditional ATS®, as well as occasionally work comedy into our routines, and we also enjoy performing with our dear friends and world-music performers Fontain’s M.U.S.E. We welcome new students and collaborators, any time. Please contact us to talk!
“She has an attitude to kill for. Petra looks like she just arrived from Egypt, and that dance is her everyday life routine!” ~ Alika
I first saw belly dancing at a party in Honolulu. I expected to be disgusted by this insult to the feminist I am. What I saw was beauty, strength, and a sensuality that was completely owned and gifted by the woman who danced. Years later I moved to California and joined the SCA, the Society for Creative Anachronism, which tries — with varying levels of authenticity — to recreate the Middle Ages. There were belly dancers there too, and soon I was taking classes from one of the teachers: Siobhan of Cloverdale. I began to understand the differences between Cabaret and Tribal, because I was always drawn so strongly towards Tribal.
I joined the “bellydancer invasion” at Burning Man, and eventually a group of about 30 dancers — many of whom did not know each other — ended up in front of “The Man.” It was a dance celebration, not a performance. There was no stage, no particular audience — though we certainly attracted a crowd. Someone began leading, and we all followed — a scattered tribe come together as one. The lead changed; someone else gave a cue and the rest of us followed along. It was magical. I wasn’t very experienced in tribal style at this time so I knew some of the moves, but not the cues (in my favorite picture of the group of us, I’m facing the wrong way!), but my heart sang with the joy of it — a collective of dancers dancing as one. I came home with a rededication to the dance, and to tribal in particular.
I am happy to be a member of House of Inanna, having joined in 2005. Since 1998 I have been dancing with great joy in my living room, on the playa, and in the SCA. I can usually be found wearing purple, surfing Tribe.net, and posting on Facebook. I am also known as “The Cookie Lady” for gifting cookies from my head-balanced basket!
Fox originally started dancing at four or five years, when her mother decided she had too much energy and signed her up for a Jazz dance class one summer. Fox enjoyed the very active dance, including kicks, splits, and cartwheels, but didn’t do much dancing after that until high school. That was when she started marching band, with two years each of bass clarinet and baritone sax. The choreography and teamwork appealed, as did standing in as practice dance partner for a friend who was a professional ballroom dancer.
Modern society teaches women to turn inwards, to be small and unnoticed, to give way to others. For Fox, therefore, dancing is a feminist act — a beautiful and creative means of taking space, of exercising and gaining muscle, of crafting ornate and glittering costumes, and of being part of a joyful community of women dancers. She has been dancing with House of Inanna for several years now, and was drawn to ATS® in particular when she saw a Fat Chance Belly Dance photo shoot in a tattoo magazine. She fell in love with the practical, down-to-earth costumes in natural colors and materials, the beautiful tribal jewelry, and the firmly grounded feeling she got from the women portrayed. These were women who were truly comfortable and at home in their own bodies!
Fox loves being creative, especially since her grandmother was an art teacher and encouraged her. Favorite hobbies are photography, beading, cross-stitch, knitting, crocheting, and resin-casting. She frequently crafts many of the props used by the House of Inanna dancers, most recently the crowns used in the Rising Tara dance set. Her favorite colors are black and blood-red, and she loves long walks on the beach, poking dead things with a stick, and trying to get her mom to dance with her. Maybe now she finally will!
Cherie has been dancing on the earth — or under the moon — in one form or another since she was a young girl. Back in those days it was jazz and ballet at the local dance studio; after high school she took a few belly dance classes in Boston, but getting in and out of the city during the week, especially during the winter months, was a bit of a challenge from where she lived in the ‘burbs. It wasn’t until she moved to Northern California in 2009 that she was able to more fully pursue belly dance with the myriad of options here in the Bay area. She has practiced with several different instructors but found her home with House of Inanna during the summer of 2010.
Cherie left a long career in the Information Technology field back in Boston, and is now interested in pursuing opportunities that challenge the right side of her brain in addition to or instead of the left. An avid reader ever since she could hold a flashlight under her bed covers, she now has her fingers in a lot of book-related projects and online groups, and even manages a small forum for a close-knit group of BookCrossers.
Besides belly dancing and reading, Cherie’s other passions are bunnies — of which she is mommy to two very adorable sweeties — aerial yoga, Pilates, hula hooping, fitness, clean eating, & various other witchy pursuits. She describes herself as an eclectic tree-huggin’ bookworm geek chick, which seems pretty spot on if you ask me!
For Tamara, dancing started as a physical thing. She’d always wanted to dance but never tried since she felt she was overweight and lacked coordination. Fortunately, when she fell and broke her foot and elbow Tamara decided it was time to learn how to control her body in motion. She dragged her best friend to a “belly-robics” class, and shortly after that they decided they wanted a “real” belly dance class. Tamara studied with Alima, an amazing dancer who had been dancing Egyptian cabaret for over 30 years, for about a year before moving from northeast Georgia to the metro Atlanta area.
A friend told her about Jahara Phoenix, a troupe offering classes in the area to which she’d moved. After attending a local performance, Tamara fell in love with their more theatrical tribal fusion style of dance. Gone were the sequin bras and hip belts — these women were fierce in metal jewelry with flaring pants and voluminous skirts. The Co-Director taught ATS®, but initially Tamara was intimidated by how challenging it was. She kept trying though, and her “aha!” moment was learning the Ghawazee shimmy combo. Within a year she progressed out of level 1 class and started performing with the student troupe Sherar.
In December of 2014 Tamara and her family moved to the Bay Area; the very first thing she did was look for an ATS® Troupe. She officially joined House of Inanna in February of 2015; and as she puts it, “They are my people!” Their combination of sacred and silly made her feel right at home.
ATS® has helped Tamara learn to accept and appreciate her whole self, including her body, and to become more assertive. The physical, mental, and emotional support she received were all things she didn’t realize she was looking for until she found it in belly dance. She’s been dancing for almost 10 years, and recently started student directing and choreographing larger pieces. Occasionally she’ll solo, mostly a mix of ATS® with some tribal fusion and cabaret moves thrown in. Her greatest enjoyment is the costuming and telling a story through the dance.
In her spare time Tamara is an avid reader, mostly of romance and fantasy. She also loves British period dramas based on books, and considers herself a total fan of TNG Star Trek, Doctor Who, and everything comic-book related.
I’m proudly half-Lebanese. I grew up celebrating my culture through listening and dancing to Lebanese albums my mother bought (cabaret belly dance; I never learned debke), and making traditional foods on special occasions. My sister made the best bi’lawee (baklava)! I joined the SCA in high school, and my first costume was similar to what’s called Tribaret now. I did start to learn a bit of belly dance on my own, as well as from watching others, and danced through my college years. However, finding out that I was deemed pretty and desirable shocked me out of public performance.
Thirty years and more pass: I’m no longer youthfully lithe, there’s more of me than before, and I’ve had a child — who is now a young adult! I was introduced to Petra and ATS® through a mutual friend; a member of the troupe. I started lessons, and within two years of starting I began performing again — very nervously at first!
I’m improving my techniques and skills, and I’m more at ease in performance. In July 2011 I soloed again for the first time in way too many years. What the music tells me to do is not always quite tribal, nor tribal fusion, and I enjoy solo dancing as a way to express these inspirations.
I am really enjoying learning more advanced moves/steps and routines with the troupe, and I love that we incorporate several different styles in our dance, like spices in an otherwise ordinary dish. I really enjoy the “reverence, tradition, and mirth” that infuse our classes, moves, and choreography, as well as the fellowship with my troupe sisters.
Rowan started dancing in junior high when the mother of one of her friends got together and taught a troupe of girls. However, being a Navy child, she soon had to leave those friends. She didn’t dance again until late high school, when she took lessons from a Turkish bellydancer in the Washington DC area in the late 1960’s. She was in the chorus of the play Carnival with the Arlington Community Theater, where she played “The Bellydancer” and was introduced with the lyric: “From out of the East / You’ll watch a jewel / Who fled a harem in Istanbul.” Throughout the 1970’s she danced in the SCA and with various teachers and groups in Florida. She became most interested in bellydance as Goddess culture and childbirth conditioning, and especially enjoyed dancing with Julia Morgana of Tallahassee and Jacksonville. Julia later toured with composer and flute play Kay Gardner.
In 1981 Rowan moved to California and started to dance, but tragedy struck and she suffered a back injury in 1984. Despite disability, whenever possible she continued to take bellydance lessons to strengthen her muscles. A local teacher named Dunia — who later started the Desert Dance Festival — was instrumental in supporting Rowan in this effort and helping her find moves she could do. During the 1980s and 1990s Rowan didn’t dance out, but continued to dance for her own pleasure and spirituality.
Tribal dance teacher Petra Pino moved to the Peninsula and then South Bay and began giving classes here. Rowan enrolled and was encouraged to begin dancing out again with the troupe House of Inanna since its inception in 2002.
At the end of a dark tunnel in her life, a tiny sequin shone from afar… and Michelle sought out a belly dance class. She had tried the videos before, but the magic wasn’t there; frankly, she just wanted to get out of the house a bit. Michelle walked into an improvisational tribal fusion class taught by an amazingly talented dancer — Neshema — and walked out a dancer.
Michelle has been bringing together flow and grace through dance for five years, training under Neshema, Ashley Lopez, Petra Pino, and at Fat Chance Belly Dance Studios. She’s fluent in ATS® and knows a couple of tribal fusion ditties, too.
House of Inanna: House of Who?
“And when you dress in my robes,
I shall dance in your feet and sing in your throats.
No man shall be able to resist your enchantments…”
— Randy P. Conner, author: “Blossom of Bone”
Inanna is a goddess of ancient Sumeria, unique among female deities in her personal journey and characteristics. She is one of the earlier known goddesses on the Inanna-Ishtar-Asherah-Aphrodite-Venus continuum.
Inanna (pronounced i-NAH-nah with a short “I”) is variously represented as a goddess of love, war, and fertility. She was a major goddess during those ancient times, with many priest/esses worshiping her. She is a very human goddess, multidimensional like us, as opposed to representing only one aspect of life — for example, Venus was reduced to only being a goddess of sexual love, although I’m sure she started out representing far more than that.
Inanna’s stories start off with her as a young woman who has nothing too special about her, except that her parents are gods. Fairly uniquely among female deities*, she initiates a trip into the underworld for herself. She lets go of clothing and accoutrements that symbolize, among other things, wealth, status, and beauty. She is flayed alive in the underworld — a sort of shamanic dismemberment — and is eventually saved by allies and born again into the land of the living.
There are several variants on this story, but the main thrust of it — a young woman finding her own way, dealing with troubles, having to give up some things to have others — resonates with me. So many myths of this type have a male hero — notably the Arthur cycle, as well as Ulysses, to some degree. It’s nice to have a female role model!
At one time our troupe name was Gipar Inanna, translating roughly as “Dwelling (or Temple) of Inanna.” But that was too confusing for the poor announcers who were attempting to roll this name off their tongues, so we made it simpler. “House” can also mean “temple” or “dwelling,” as seen in many religions of the African Diaspora.
* Another such goddess: the Boddhisattva Tara. It’s told that the male monks in her village taunted her regarding her devotion to Buddhism, saying, “Too bad you’re a woman — if you were a man, you would be a Boddhisattva!” Then… she became one. A good resource for her: taradhatu.org. Om! Tare Tutare Ture Svaha!
- Wikipedia: Inanna
- The White Moon Gallery Presents Inanna
- Inanna’s Descent: An Archetype of Feminine Self-Discovery and Transformation by Andrea Deagon
- Star Light’s The Secret Doctrine of Being Beautiful
- The Myth of Asushunamir
- UNRV: Venus
- In Praise of Inanna and Dumuzi
Images of Inanna:
- Inanna, by Wendy Andrew
- Inanna, by Thalia Took
- Inanna, from Barbara Knott
- Inanna jewelry & more, from Sacred Source