Not sure if this is usefull to you Khanjar, or even an answer, but anyway;
As a male dancer in th UK myself, the more I’ve made myself seen the more accepted I realise I am. I’ve been very fortunate to have had open-minded and generous teachers, and met some really supportive students. But it’s taken a lot of time and effort, and I’ve had my wobbly moments of wanting to give up.
I've been surprised to come across (admittedly amongst a minority) the sexist view that “men don’t/shouldn’t/can’t bellydance”, and found this view exists more within the bellydance scene than it does out of it. When I tell people, both men and women, that I bellydance, I get surprise or disbelief, but while they might find it peculiar or slightly amusing, I have never had a non-belly dancer suggest that I should not be pursuing a hobby that gives me so much pleasure. Only belly-dancers seems to have an issue with it, and it really knocked me back when I encountered it.
Fortunately people can change their minds, and I know that some have altered their opinion due to my perseverance, and hopefully seeing my genuine enthusiasm for the dance.
Frustratingly though, now that I’m starting to feel I fit in, getting more confident, and feeling more accepted, other dancers are having difficulty identifying for themselves where I fit in. An increasing number of people want to tell me that I should dance in a particular “masculine” way. I find this amusing, but slightly annoying, as, regardless of how I do dance, I thought belly dance was about finding your own expression, and not fitting in to someone else’s concept. I also find myself becoming a show piece – “let’s see how a man would do this” – as if I have some secret knowledge or peculiar ability to impart.
But still, one minute I feel I fit in, but then a glance, a word, action or thought can suddenly make me wander – do I really belong here? Belly-dancing has the big stereotype in the West of being for the young, thin, flexible, pretty female floating about in the not-a-lot-left-to-the-imagination outfit, which, even if we all know is wrong, we still know is out there. This affects both men and women, but whereas women (regardless of size, shape or age) automatically fit one part of the stereotype, for Western men it’s more difficult.
Self-doubts about my own ability and self-image, the judgements of others, whether imagined or not and whether ignored or not, coupled with the judgements I put on myself can be very limiting and frustrating, if not down-right depressing. And increasingly I realise that it's all just my own hang-ups; nobody's really judging! But I think that this can affect everyone, regardless of gender. I keep telling myself "The only person stopping me is ME."
I dance because I love the music, and I love the movement. When they go together well, the emotions can be overwhelming, and even if you’ve only ever experienced that once, you know the potential is there whenever you dance. I guess that’s why it’s addictive for me. It’s a very personal way of expressing yourself within a supportive social scene, and I’d hate to think that I, or anyone else, couldn’t indulge in it.
I hope you can get back to it soon, Khanjar. Even if you can’t attend the classes, you can play the music, watch youtube and dance at home. We all need to do what we love. Are you still in contact with your old class? Perhaps you can go to their next hafla and perform?
I’m really glad you still dance around the smithy; just don’t drop anything hot or heavy on yourself (or the radio).
Thank You everyone for the encouragement, I am duly fortified now in my desire to get back to dancing when the situation allows, and there make every effort to get over my self disbelief issues.
@Duvet, there is a lot of wise words and truth in what you say, that I can recognise, but I do find it odd where when I first started I had overcome my doubts, the only male dancer in the class and all that but a few years later, an enforced stop, and the doubts appear, what is it, could it be a general mood that these hard times have caused perhaps, because I know my mood has changed, cynicism seems to have appeared.
But yes, if I can't class dance, then, at least getting back in some form or other maintains the interest, coming back here has gone a long way with that, but what else, h'mm, perhaps finish that video I made last year and post it on the web, and perhaps get back on with my belly dance inspired affordable jewellery for belly dancers production instead of flitting from one idea to another idea which usually ends up incomplete. As that is what I think this recession is doing, it is instilling a sort of panic in those it affects, a panic which leads to the muddying of thought.
But it is good to hear from other British male dancers, and that because they can perhaps very well relate, because blighty is not the same as other western countries, it to me seems to be stuck in the past in too many respects.
But as to my dancing to death and thrash metal in the smithy, a dark, dirty place, it being fired by a coke forge, with rusty dust everywhere and unyielding metal piles in anywhere where machines aren't located. I find belly dance movement enables a light sinuous movement around the danger, belly dance for me, has taught me how to naturally change direction with hip movement,which amounts to weight shifting off centre to force direction change by the controlled loss of balance, so, I can usually avoid the stuff that glows the various shades of red and the nastiest, the insidious back heat and anything else that likes to cut or bruise the unwary. As to what I do in there, well I can do the hot metal work, but I am not physically able to do the really heavy stuff, as I am slim, light and well, weedy, my forte is the light metal work, jewellery making and intricate work.
Why I believe my dancing amuses perhaps embarrasses the black smith, is because he is a big hairy biker, picture the stereotype.
Last edited by khanjar; 09-21-2011 at 07:39 PM.
Reason: typos,my keyboard lacks letters.
You don't have to be male to wonder if you have a place in the community because I've never been sure of mine either, and I've been dancing for seven years. I think self doubt is our biggest enemy, and sometimes we are the only believer in ourselves (until others figure out that we are worth believing in).
I, too, was out of it for awhile last year due to health issues (and I still have some) but I contented myself by practicing at home, doing drills, workouts, and played around with combos and random choreography, as well as doing improv to songs that caught my ear. Believe it or not, those random movements play a part.
And if stereotypes are what concern you, well, the stereotypical bellydancer also has insecurities as well, some are haters and some come from themselves. Just keep on dancing because you have to and just do what you can.
You should show him some Jim Boz footage, then. Jim is a big guy, a power lifter, and if I remember his bio right, he used to play in a metal band.
Originally Posted by khanjar
Perhaps this time is a pause for breath, rather than a stoppage. Time out to review where you want to go next, what you’ve learnt, and how you’ve changed, but it sounds like you’re doing that. You’ve achieved being a male belly-dancer; perhaps you now want something else? You don’t want to lose contact with the bellydance, but you’re not sure what form that contact can take. You sound like you’ve got quite a few possibilities, and talents to match.
As to dancing at work; I used to operate machinery in a factory, and can relate to your sense of weaving around in an environment that seems so opposite to what you can express. The engineers thought I was barmy.
Over the last 3 years, I have had the pleasure of hosting several male dancers, Tito Seif, Karim Nagi, Jim Boz, David of Scandinavia, Frank Farinaro, Nath Keo, Tarik Sultan. In 2012, I will again host Tito, Nath and Tarik along with Mohamed Shahin. In addition, I have many other male dancers who attend the workshops, teach and perform. It is an awesome experience to behold. I can comfortably speak on behalf of my female and male attendees, our workshops would not be the same without our male belly dancers. These icons of bellydance are overwhelmingly accepted and embraced because of their teachings, experiences and contributions to the art.
Originally Posted by Jim.808
So, from my perspective, being a male belly dancer is not "OK after all." It IS actually quite awesome as each of these male dancers have embraced who they are and followed their dreams. If belly dance is what you enjoy....."just do it." Surround yourself with dancers (male and female) who will support and encourage you to pursue your love
You're a dancer, just like any other.
Originally Posted by khanjar
Yea, you're male. So what?
Be the best dancer you can be, love your art, and the rest will fall into place. Just like it does for female dancers.
I never apologize for being a male - but at the same time I don't think or worry very much about it either.
Well I have been out of the Raks scene for a year now, well more like ten months, I have tried to forget about it and do other things, but something has changed with me. Music and what it does, any music even, as a non dancer prior to learning BD music was just, well music, now I hear music I catch myself moving to it with hip and shoulder movements a sort of subdued belly dance and when I do this, I am enjoying the music more, not the lyrics, they fade into insignificance, but the movement the music evokes I love it. So, I guess what I learned over the course of about 30 months of BD classes has sought of sunk in and as I realise this, the drive to get back into tuition is so immensely strong, so I have emailed my tutor to ask to be allowed to come back.
But the odd thing is, since I started dancing, my friends also non dancers have started to take dance classes, not BD of course, but other stuff like Salsa and Flamenco and one something called Rumba.
Down the pub tonight, talking to a chap I know, a Professor of North American history who happens to be unemployed in the UK, he was trying to demonstrate Viennese waltz in the pub car park as it was in past US history, I was impressed. I asked him what he thought of dance and was it a man's game, his reply was that whether it was a man's game or not is not the point, the young are not taught to dance anymore, so what the young who become old say is based upon not having learned to dance. But for him personally, the ability to dance to music is something he is so glad he learned as it puts a different dimension on music.
So I am understanding if one cannot do, then there is less likelihood one can appreciate and if one cannot appreciate then what else is there to do, if alone walk away, if with friends make fun, but the latter is the gang mentality, strength in numbers and every one of them feeble hiding behind the bravado of whoever speaks first.
So, sod it, I am going back to belly dance and if it does not please others, it pleases me.
My next goal is public performance and then only if I am confident with my ability as I am rightly or wrongly, a bit of a perfectionist, my confidence comes from my ability.
Good for you, Khanjar. All the best.
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