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  1. #1
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    Hi,

    I've been dancing for eight years. I have taught classes and led troupes, auditioned for the Belly Dance Superstars and worked in Hawai'i, Canada, and Minnesota. My initial dance style was Jordanian, as I was taught the family's traditional dance style by my first teacher (who was from Jordan). Since then, I have learned Egyptian, American cabaret, and tribal styles (much to the horror of my original instructor, who was a diehard purist). I will hopefully be competing in Wiggles of the West and Bellydancer USA this summer.

    I have a general question that has been bothering me for years. I worked for several years as a student assistant to an elderly Egyptian professor from Cairo. He would have me go to his house and dance for his family (his wife, sons, daughter, etc) and we'd have dinner, then his Egyptian friends would read fortunes in the grounds of the Turkish coffee we drank. My French teacher, who became a good friend, was from Algeria. All these people, including my original instructor, have a VERY different view of belly dance than what has been out on the Net and in most classes I've attended ever since. It has been difficult for me to find places to learn more because I don't believe in the Mother Goddess/only-for-women/female empowerment idea of belly dance. I tend to believe what the Middle Easterners around me tell me. Perhaps a good way to sum it up would be what the old doctor once said, "There are two women. One you have fun with...she is bellydancer. Other woman, she is wife."

    None of that attitude bothers me. I teach men, and when I teach women I tell them what my Middle Eastern instructor told me and what the Middle Eastern people I know have also said: this dance is meant to be sexual/sensual. This does not make it stripping, or dirty, or anything of that nature. In their eyes, it is a celebration of that which everyone does: make love. It is not meant in a disgusting way, as it would probably be viewed...considering that my Egyptian boss asked me do it with his family around. I think that it is difficult for most people to watch something that is intended to express sexuality in any form, because of the 'dirty' label.

    A good example of this is that two of my friends were watching (I believe) Alexander. Through all the gore and violence a woman and her two little boys sat there, but the moment the sex scene started she made a disgusted noise and grabbed the boys, running out of the theatre. Odd that we have such a taboo on sexuality that pornographic violence was more acceptable!
    I have also read of American dancers that go to Cairo and were so obsessed with keeping the sexuality out of the dance that their audiences didn't enjoy it; once they accepted that was a part of it, everything was fine.

    I hope I am expressing this accurately. I realize there are a lot of people in the belly dance community that would find it horrifying that I teach belly dance as a beautiful expression of sexuality. This is also the reason I teach men, and enjoy watching men dance. Then again, I've always thought men were beautiful and I have always appreciated them as much as men appreciate looking at women; I read something on another board that said 'women don't WATCH men the way they do us'. Perhaps I had a different sort of upbringing, but I openly do so. If we can celebrate sexuality in this beautiful dance, I don't see what's wrong with that.

    My question is in regards to whether dancers here feel that this dance is completely devoid of sexuality and is about female empowerment, or if they feel that there is sensuality/sexuality in the dance. The woman who read the coffee grounds (I forget her name at the moment) told me that she's had several people tell her she's incorrect about the dance and she asked me, 'How can they say so? I am Egyptian, from Cairo.'

    Mother Goddess or expression of sexuality? I am curious to know your opinions.

    -Brea

  2. #2
    V.I.P. Maria_Aya's Avatar
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    Welcome with all my heart Brea !!!!
    This was the most amaging introducing message I've ever read.
    And I'm so glad you are among us.

    Just someone tell me what is not about sex in our life at the end of the day?
    And I'm speaking with the philosophical/nature/surviving the universe sense and also with the reality.
    Cars are designed with special geometry to give subconsious signals about sex.
    And a dance where a women is half naked, moving even with the most teqnical/artistic/musical way her body, isnt?
    Its just not consious (from westerns mostly). But its there.

    On the other hand at least for me, its one of the few surviving and living so strong dances today with such cultural connection with the nations that was raised from. The arab world.

    And for me its not an illusion anymore, that I can only do my best but I will never reach the level of connection with this culture, this music and this dance as the native dancers or even enjoy to the level arab audience do, a dance from Fifi for example, even if my heart breaks and melts when I see her dancing baladi.

    Because I'm just not (unfortunately for the love of oriental dance) arab.
    Greeks are near to arabs but heyyyyy we do miss things.

    Maria Aya Athens
    Last edited by Maria_Aya; 04-27-2007 at 05:34 AM.

  3. #3
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    Welcome. I really enjoyed reading your introduction. Alot of us dance for the enjoyment of dancing, not necessairly for the mother goddess, female empowerment. There is also a percent of people here who work hard to keep the true cultural meanings of dance alive. I think people forget you can dance with a certain amount of sensuality without being in your face sexual and once it goes that way, it crosses a line and is not the same dance anymore. Just my opinion. Welcome.

  4. #4
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    Hi Brea
    Nice to'meet' you.
    I am English as far away from your culture you can get, I think but I love the dance, I have never felt comfortable with dancing until I tried 'arabic dance', as it is called on my course. My personal opinion is that it is a dance that allows the dancer, whoever that may be, to express themselves elegantly with great enjoyment and as a woman it makes me feel graceful, sensuous and yes, slightly exotic but not in a lewd way and no I don't believe in a 'mother godess' way. I think it is a dance for all to enjoy.
    I 'envy' you that you have been brought up with it.
    What little I know I'm trying to impart to my children (GIRLS AND BOYS).

  5. #5
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brea View Post
    Mother Goddess or expression of sexuality? I am curious to know your opinions.
    Brea, what a great post and a great question.

    Having Egyptian friends makes me realize that our two cultures are SO very different. "Sexy" and "sexual" mean different things to us.

    Americans, for whatever reason, have really tried to strip bellydance of its sexual/sensual/physical overtones and connotations. Why? because Americans in general have the same attitude about sex that 13-year old boys do. It's giggle-worthy. Naughty.

    I have a male Lebanese friend who tells me that certain energetic bellydance movements are "sexy." I took this to mean that he was "turned on" by watching those movements. I was wrong.

    We talked about it and he finally was able to make me understand. To him, what was "sexy" about those movements was the joy and energy reflected in the dancer. It was "Sexy" when the dancer shared her energy and made the audience smile with that energy. In this connotation, "Sexy" had nothing to do with the private parts. It had to do with the heart.

    Sex is a part of life. Romance, attraction, flirting, the sex act itself, being pregnant, giving birth, falling in love -- it's all part of life. Dance should reflect life. How can we "scour" life clean of sex? We can't and we shouldn't.

    That doesn't mean that we need to go the opposite direction either. I logged onto tribe.net the other day and saw one of my "friends" had posted a picture of his "male member" for all to see. ???? I didn't need to see that! I don't have any aversion to the penis, but come on!

    There have been performances I've seen that I think have been too over-the-top. If you look like a cat in heat, I think it's too much. I don't want to see you SELF-EXPRESSING your sexual hang-ups and needs. I didn't see the Rakkasah debacle of last year, but apparently there was an act that was over-the-top there.

    There are two coast lines: OVER THE TOP and STERILE.
    There is a LOT of room in between. That's where the best dancing is, in my opinion.

    As to the mother goddess, I think that's an altogether different take on feminine sexuality. I know a lot of women who felt "empowered" by bellydance. Great! Anything that makes you stronger and more confident is usually a good thing. And I love it when fat women and old women come together and dance and look in the mirror and think "Dang, I'm HOT!" and they ARE!!!!!!!!!!

    I'm fat and I'm getting old. So what? It's natural. I'm still hot. Bellydancing helps me to remember that.


    once again, two extremes. Somewhere in the middle is reality.

  6. #6
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    I agree that there should be a vast difference between doing a sexual/sensual dance and one that is, well, filthy. That again could illustrate the cultural differences, as your Lebanese friend pointed out: because sexuality is seen as 'dirty', the dancer tends not to know that there is a different form of expression than 'dirty'. When I danced for the old doctor's family, his extremely fundamentalist Muslim wife said, 'You dance well...you dance so tastefully!' The doctor also said he was confused by Americans complaining about the heavier woman he employed as a belly dancer for his son's wedding. He didn't understand why they kept asking him 'why did you hire a fat woman to be the belly dancer?' He still doesn't understand why they asked him this. His wife, and other Egyptian friends, said they hired her because she was a fantastic dancer. Even having the dancer at the wedding raised several eyebrows, all American.

    I believe that the dance is about sex, the kind that you are all talking about: life, birth, falling in love, etc. I don't like anything sleazy. I would say that there is a difference between 'sleazy' and 'making love'. The second one is the one I try to portray through my dancing. Unfortunately I don't have a video clip of any of my performances, or I would post one and show you. I doubt it looks that different from what most dancers do, but I am aware that my approach and ideas are dramatically different from many people in the dance community at large.

    However, when I danced, the old doctor and his friends got up and danced with me, so I like to think I do a decent job.

    Thanks for the warm welcome, everyone!

    -Brea

  7. #7
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    What a fascinating thread - welcome Brea!

    IMO if it is all completely devoid of sexuality something is very missing. Not having had much to do with the goddess ethos I just don't get the association between devoidness of sexuality and female empowerment.

    For me, an amateur with a non ME background, it is empowering and the sensual/sexual side is part of it. Partly it is learning a new skill and getting more in tune with my body, but the belly-dance specific thing that makes me love it is that you can be sensual, and yes, sexy*, and and where else do we get the chance to do that without causing general embarrassment? Huge generalisation I know, but a lot of Western culture doesn't like to acknowledge the sensual/sexual side of anyone who is not youthful and perfect. Whereas belly dancing doesn't have a problem with it at all....

    And I love it when fat women and old women come together and dance and look in the mirror and think "Dang, I'm HOT!" and they ARE!!!!!!!!!!


    * not simulated "private moments"/private parts sexy, but what Aziyade described about life and heart and energy. So many people don't seem to be able to tell the difference - maybe that's why other people feel they have to expunge sexuality from bellydance. I feel sorry for people who don't see the difference. Is this a cultural thing or just the way some people are? Sad

  8. #8
    Member belly taz's Avatar
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  9. #9
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    Hi Brea,

    I do not think I gave you an warm welcome...LOL!!!! Welcome and happy posting!

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