Dressed to dance

Michelle Paloma

Photo By katherine Green

Michelle Paloma is a dance enthusiast who opened Lunatic Fringe Belly Dance Essentials in downtown Chico (163 E. Third St.) in late October. She relocated the store from Sunnyvale after recently moving to Chico to be near family. She has been a dancer all of her life, and is interested in all types of dance, though she says she’s most comfortable doing belly dancing. Paloma also had a studio in Sunnyvale, with five instructors, and she hopes to someday recreate something of that nature in Chico as well.

What are the “belly-dance essentials”?

Well, I’ve pared down a little bit since I moved, but I carry swords, which are dance props. I carry shoes, finger cymbals—which is the instrument [belly dancers] play when they dance. I sell hip wear, practice wear, performance wear, the scarves, the veils and the jewelry. There are also a lot of street clothes in here.

How did the business get started?

I wanted one of the costumes. Just one. I have about 30 and an entire store now. I went into class and they were wearing fringe scarves and using these really simple veils, and I thought, “I can make that.” So I started making and selling stuff in class. I started out sewing and making my own stuff, and then I did little festivals with the stuff I had made. As much as I love sewing, I love shopping more. I make some of the veils still, and I make the little tutus.

What is the most fun part of the job?

I love the shopping. I get to play Barbies with all the girls. I get to buy cute little things that don’t even fit me, which is fabulous. And get to dress up cute girls: “Here, put this on. This looks great on you!” I couldn’t wear it, but I can help other people wear it. Where else can you get to wear your rhinestones all the time? I’ve bought a piece of jewelry and made a whole costume around this one thing that caught my eye somewhere. [Belly dancing is] a very creative outlet for a lot of women, and makes them feel good about themselves. And there are a lot of curvier, bigger, older women doing it, and it helps them feel confident and good about themselves. It’s a very supportive community that way.

What are your goals?

I’d like to make rent. That would be good. And probably move up and do the studio next. I’d like to host some more events. I used to host quarterly events where I was before. It’s called a “hafla” with belly dancing—it’s kind of a dance party—and I’d like to start doing some of those. Getting the studio would be nice. It keeps a nice flux of people coming in on a regular basis, keeps a good flow of energy.