Mimi Fontana

Artistic Director - Mimi Fontana
Mimi Fontana is one the driving forces behind the New York City Tribal Belly Dance community.

A former figure skater and bass guitarist (with several major label credits and a world of touring under her belt) for the last 17 years has devoted herself to ethnic dance forms and specifically American Tribal Style® Belly Dance. Mimi continues her study of ATS by attending workshops throughout the US and by hosting workshops in NYC.  She is a certified Fitness and Pilates instructor and can geek out on anatomy for hours.

For more information on Mimi, visit visit her bio page.

Debbie Despina Cartsos

Debbie Cartsos, aka Despina, is a founding member and official stylist for Manhattan Tribal™ (MT). Debbie was born in the US, but was raised in Athens, Greece, and grew up listening to Tsifteteli (Greek belly dance music). Her appreciation of Middle Eastern music and dance, folkloric costuming, and the sense of a dance community, is what drew her to ATS®. She loves to perform, and as a child, spent three years in clown school performing balancing acts.

Debbie is an intimate apparel and costuming designer by trade and this background informs her role as the costuming coordinator for MT. Under Debbie’s direction the troupe maintains a cohesive aesthetic look while allowing for individuality. She served as the official stylist on Manhattan Tribal’s Tribal Revival DVD. Debbie also creates customized costuming pieces for the troupe and other dancers. You can see some of that work at dwebbdancewear.com.

Heather Bondra

Heather Bondra, a founding member of Manhattan Tribal™, began dancing and performing at the age of 3. She grew up studying various forms of movement including ballet, jazz, modern and contemporary dance, discovering her passion for American Tribal Style® and Tribal Fusion belly dance in 2005. Heather received her FatChanceBellyDance Sister Studio status in 2015. Her favorite aspect of ATS® is the spontaneity and uniqueness of each and every performance. In addition, she is a long time student of Sera Solstice and has performed in East Coast Tribal shows. Heather has been featured in the World Dance New York DVD’s “Tribal Revival,” “East Coast Tribal: Solar Belly Dance” & “East Coast Tribal: Lunar Belly Dance.”

When not dancing, Heather utilizes her art background working as a Design Associate for a children's clothing company, photographing abandoned buildings and helping to keep the troupe supplied with graphics and promotional material.

Maria "Naja" Richardson

Born in Brooklyn, now on Staten Island, NY, Naja (Maria Richardson) has been belly dancing since 2002. She has studied under Mariyah of Brooklyn, NY, and from 2004 -2006, was a member of the Alchemy Tribal Collective directed by Sarah Johansson Locke. Since 2006, she has been a core member of Manhattan Tribal, directed by Mimi Fontana, NYC’s first American Tribal Style® belly dance troupe and Fat Chance Sister Studio. In 2009, Naja created and is Director of Tribe Hamsa, Staten Island's first ATS® belly dance troupe and Fat Chance Sister Studio.

When not teaching or performing with Manhattan Tribal or Tribe Hamsa, Naja is a Records Information Management professional at a major international law firm. 

Rachel Ehrlich

The newest member of the troupe, Rachel Ehrlich joined Manhattan Tribal in 2010. This is her fifth year of ATS® study and performance with Mimi Fontana. Rachel has also studied the Indian classical dance form Bharata Natyam, one of the many styles of world dance that influenced the evolution of ATS®. A drummer for many years, Rachel’s love of rhythm and percussion contributes to her appreciation of the unique instrumentation and cadences of Middle Eastern music.

It could be said that counting meters and combining steps comes naturally to Rachel, an architect specializing in new construction of affordable housing in New York City.

Stephanie Rubino-Ginsberg

Stephanie Rubino-Ginsburg, a.k.a Thunder, joined Manhattan Tribal in 2008, and has studied belly dance since 2005. Although she initially started out in cabaret, once she learned of tribal style, she never looked back. What appeals to Stephanie most about ATS® are the nuances of the dance form and the high impact of even the slightest adjustment. She enjoys coming up with novel ways to present moves, and is the creator of “Thunder Four Corners”, a Manhattan Tribal signature combo.

Given her training as a librarian and years working in the criminal justice reform movement, Stephanie helps keep the troupe organized and out of trouble.  

Kate Reid

Kate Reid began her ATS dance path in 1998 and is a founding member of Manhattan Tribal.  She is a FCBD Sister Studio and the Director of Westchester Tribal Belly Dance.