Hot! Adventures of a Tattooed Tribal Country Gal # 8—Celebrating a Woman’s Body!


What I love about tribal bellydance is how the style compliments and celebrates a woman’s body! As you can tell from all these photos, this dance is for women of all ages and sizes. Some women come to the dance early and many start dancing in their forties and fifties. That rocks my world. The dance has a magnetic force, a call for community and friendship, for beauty, grace and fun. We dance as maidens, mothers and crones, with inquisitiveness, maturity, naivety, wisdom, joy, adornment, friendship and so much more. In general, it also celebrates life. And with the adornment aspect, of course, comes beautiful costumes, layers of jewelry, glittery makeup and tattoo art. And these gals know how to deck themselves out.

During these past gorgeous, end-of-summer weeks I have journeyed around the states, from Flagstaff to Boston to Orlando to Milwaukee, teaching workshops, performing with members of my troupe, videotaping my new online classes, interviewing for my blog and visiting many inspiring dancers… plus a tiny bit of sightseeing, too.

In one of my workshops, I met dancer Kristen Hullinger, who sported a huge backpiece! After the dancing, she immediately stripped down to show me more of her tattoo work. Yowza! Awesome work.


“I started Tribal belly dancing when I was thirty-two,” said Kristen. I started my ink collection before I started dancing. The only way for me to bring out my artistic side at that time was in my tattoos. Since people cannot see the creativeness of me on the inside, I express it on the outside for everyone to see. And now I have embodied both of the things I love: tattoos and dancing! Of all of my tattoos, only two of them have any meaning. My backpiece is for my two sons. I also have a yin yang on my wrists, half of it on one wrist and the other half on the other wrist. I have had two main artists over the last ten-plus years: Gene Heidman at Club Tattoo Glendale, Arizona and Scott MacKenzie. Both of them are excellent artists outside of tattooing as well, ranging from canvas to computer graphics.”

Miki and Cinzia

Following Arizona, with a brief stint at home in Portland, my Italian dancer, Cinzia, and her man, Miki Violetto, (whose tattoo book “Con Safos, Chicano Style Tattoo Art,” is newly released!) came to visit, and Cinzia performed with us with our troupe at the JamBallah Festival.

Angela Wimmer came to my workshop and I immediately accosted her to ask about her ink. The amazing pro photographer and dancer Zizi Zabaneh agreed to photograph her for me after our show. Angela’s performance was beautiful and I really enjoyed our short time together.


“I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t dance,” says Angela. “I think I came out of the womb dancing. However, I didn’t find bellydance until belly dance after my daughter was born. I discovered tattoos as a teenager and fell in love with them. I got my first tattoo before starting to belly dance, and feel both my ink and my dance are a part of who I am. They each show a different part of me. My ink expresses certain milestones in my life and spiritual path. My first tattoo on my shoulder represents my decision to live my life as how I want. To integrate art, dance, love, spirit into my daily life. It set me on the course I am on now. My second tattoo is on my ankle. It is mostly hidden when I dance, but reflects my animal totem of a dragonfly being reborn and the lotus flower that rises from the mud. The peacocks on my back where done when I achieved my first degree as a Wiccan priestess, and when I started dancing professionally. I chose the peacock as an image because of its connection to bellydance imagery. The two birds in my design represent both transformations from novice to teacher and priestess.”


When I was teaching last week in Orlando Florida, I was delightfully surprised by my hostess’s extensive ink work and also that her husband and business partner is a tattooist. Lacey and Alex Sanchez have a great collaboration besides their love of each other! Her dance studio and his tattoo shop (Inner Image Ink) are joined, as are their business ventures. Lacey is an amazing woman, full of fire and fury and passion, ink and more dance! Her festival was well done, and I was honored to dance and teach many amazing women, and a man, too!

Lacy and Alex

“I dance because I have to,” says Lacy. “There really has never been another choice. It’s who I am. My mediums have changed over the years, but bellydance has been with me the longest, and I’ve been able to grow with it and alongside it, so I know it will be there for me as I continue down my path. I grew up in tattoo parlors. Both of my parents are tattooed. I started bellydancing at fifteen, but I was too young to get work. I don’t really think of my ink in terms of my dance except that they are both a part of who I am. My ink is all very personal to me and my expression as is my dance. I am tattooed by just two artists: Mike Demasi and my husband, Alex.”

While I was in Milwaukee, I had the pleasure of dancing in the same show with Christina King, from Chicago, who has a lovely armpiece.


“I had my first tattoo pre-bellydance,” says Christina, “but all the others came after I started dancing. I’ve always been fascinated with ink, even as a child, and I see tattooing as a way to tell my story. I’ve always been fond of being adorned and different and tattoos were a way to achieve both, but with special meaning for myself. Many of my tattoos hold special meaning for me in relation to the dance. I have a blue lotus on my shoulder, a symbol of my troupe, Blue Lotus Tribe. On my lower back is a depiction of jasmine flowers to symbolize my teacher and mentor, Jasmin Jahal. Other images have a definite near or Middle-Eastern character to them, although they don’t signify anything specifically dance related. The newest of the tattoos is the word STRENGTH scripted across my left wrist. This is probably the most meaningful one to me right now. Seeing the word there is my anchor to have the strength to make the right decisions about my own life and to rise above what ails me.”


In case you are wondering how you too, can join in the dance, go to my website. So many gorgeous dancing women and their ink to explore and tell you about, but I must get packing again, as Jeff and I are off to England for more music and dance, friends and good times.

—Paulette Rees-Denis

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