article "Masculine Belly Dance" by Stefan

Pirika Repun

New member
Good point, why if those out there 'doing it' have to point out to all and sundry how flawed it is, why is it still there ?

Because the author believes his point of view, and he wants to let everybody know he is correct, and he knows everything about male dancers. Sadly, maybe many people (include our own community) also want to believe his point of view, but not reality.
 
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duskshade

New member
Still, it would help if Pink Gypsy took that darn thing down...

I don't know how much time I, personally, have wasted having to explain to various and sundry about that article being worthless. I'm sure Tarik has too!

Well, I know two people have their own sites, would anyone be willing to host a rebuttal piece in response? I have a little writing skill if anyone would like to edit/correct a response piece...
 

Duvet

Member
The website was last updated in 1998, by Stefan himself, so presumably he is the web-administrator. If anyone still knows him, have they asked him about the article, and whether he could remove/update it? But then again, the whole website is so out of date perhaps he isn't interested any more. Tarik knows Stefan and he isn't a dancer, but back then he definately portrayed himself as such (or at least an aspiring one);

"Most of the above tips were either taught to me by Shyzhd...or came from observing male dancers whose style I liked...There were also a few counter-examples along the way, who showed me what I absolutely didn't want to look like on stage. Even after a good grounding in masculine style from an excellent teacher, I'm still learning how to 'filter' and/or 'convert' the moves..."​
Since that's over 17 years ago, I wonder what greater experience has taught him? Hopefully, the confidence to dance/live as himself and to create his own image, as opposed to worrying about the ones other people might impose on him.
 
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duskshade

New member
The website was last updated in 1998, by Stefan himself, so presumably he is the web-administrator. If anyone still knows him, have they asked him about the article, and whether he could remove/update it? But then again, the whole website is so out of date perhaps he isn't interested any more. Tarik knows Stefan and he isn't a dancer, but back then he definately portrayed himself as such (or at least an aspiring one);

"Most of the above tips were either taught to me by Shyzhd...or came from observing male dancers whose style I liked...There were also a few counter-examples along the way, who showed me what I absolutely didn't want to look like on stage. Even after a good grounding in masculine style from an excellent teacher, I'm still learning how to 'filter' and/or 'convert' the moves..."​
Since that's over 17 years ago, I wonder what greater experience has taught him? Hopefully, the confidence to dance/live as himself and to create his own image, as opposed to worrying about the ones other people might impose on him.

I would hope that he had found his way in dance. If I hadn't had an understanding of dance already, I would have taken misunderstandings and totally ran in the other direction.
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
If I hadn't had an understanding of dance already, I would have taken misunderstandings and totally ran in the other direction.
This happens quite a bit because of that article - it has wasted hours of my (and Tarik's, and...) precious time already.

As for rebuttals, a large part of my site does just that! But the more voices the merrier - I'd be happy to host another one!
 

duskshade

New member
thats nice to know. Maybe find another person or two to host the same article and it will bump that bad article down off of the top of Google...
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
thats nice to know. Maybe find another person or two to host the same article and it will bump that bad article down off of the top of Google...
It would be nice if it at least disappeared from the "top of Google" - 'cause that's where it is. *retch*
 

duskshade

New member
Done!

I bounced this article I was writing around a couple of dancers (Not necessarily BD) and was happy in that they thought it was good to go.

I would like to put a working copy on this thread, and see what others think. Or would anyone like to have a personal copy and address it here?

I can send it via OpenOffice, MS Word doc, or something else if you'd like a personal copy.
 

duskshade

New member
the rebuttal article part 1, please comment

Male Belly Dance, A Different Perspective

There seems to be scant information on the male dancer on the net, and what’s out there tends to be inaccurate. As a new dancer, learning what other male dancers have discovered, it seems like it’s time to address some of these misconceptions.. This article addresses certain inaccuracies concerning male belly dance.

The article Masculine Belly Dance, by Stefan has been used as a primary source of information concerning male belly dancing. Among male dancers, this article has been hotly debated because of numerous technical, physical, and performative inaccuracies related to male belly dance. This article seeks to redress those inaccuracies and to give more accurate data suited for the beginning male bellydancer.

Gender and Dance

In order to understand the male dance perspective, the discussion of gender has to come first. Since dance is a performance, then gendered expression in dance should probably be looked at from a performative gender theory. Judith Butler specifies the difference between sex and gender in her book Gender Trouble. Butler states that since sex is biological, gender must be cultural, and expressed through behavior. In Western thought, then, we’ll find that gender is part of a dancer’s identity, so everything they do is filtered and flavored by their gender. If we use this definition, we can put the idea that belly dance is inherently a female dance to bed, because the dancer’s gender will automatically flavor the dance with feminine or masculine expression. In other words, if you are a man dancing, then you dance a masculine dance. If you are a woman dancing, then you dance a feminine dance. The dance is filtered through the identity and behavior of the dancer.
Seems silly to have to spell this out, right? But think about it… belly dance has always been culturally held in Western thinking as a female dance style, because women dance it. Yet, if you are a guy, are you dancing a female dance? The answer should be no. A movement by itself is not gendered, simply a movement. Hips move, arms move, but the gender of the mover is what makes the moves feminine or masculine. To assume that belly dance is a feminine dance only is to try and make a dance vocabulary have a gender, which it does not.

Instead of theory, though, let’s look at this from a practical perspective. If a male dancer and a female dancer learn and perform the same movement, the female offers a feminine interpretation and the male offers a male interpretation of that movement. Grace and agility can be found in various states across both genders, but imparting gender to a dance as male or female is merely sexist and derogatory to the women and men who dance that particular style.

Bone Structure

Stefan’s article states that there are some movements that are more suited to females than males due to hip structure, or that the male pelvis will sustain injury doing some moves. This is not a true statement. While it is true that the female hip structure is broader and larger than the male pelvis, there is no inherent structural limitation that curtails either male or female hip movement. The lack of male hip movement in many Western men is a cultural artifact, not biological. To illustrate this, let’s look at samba. Sambistas of both genders have strong side-to-side hip movements, without the men having to do some preliminary tucking first. Therefore, to assume that one gender risks injury doing a hip movement that the other does easily is ludicrous. Evolution allows both male and female structure to be different yet perform movement just as well. Hips are capable of pivoting and moving in the same directions, regardless of gender. It’s a conceit to think that one gender can move in some ways better than the other. Men may find difficulty moving their hips due to lack of training and cultural expectations, but the physicality of both genders is equal in their ability to move. Male hips do not need to avoid any movement for fear of damage.

Attitude

Stefan’s article also references male roles in dance troupes as enforcers, defenders, and general guardians of the troupe. There is no real historical documentation indicating that males occupied any such role on top of their roles as dancers. Even assuming that this role was a male role to be had in the past, to assume that a male’s role in dance troupes was limited to bouncing and muscle is demeaning to males. It negates the idea that a male can have a place on a dance troupe on talent and skill alone, instead requiring the male to not only dance and perform, but to be the bodyguard, too. Historical evidence of gender roles in dance troupes is scarce once you go past the Renaissance anyway, so any sweeping generalizations of ancient roles in troupes would be conjecture at best, and wild speculation at worst. Therefore, there is no reason to expect a male dancer to behave in any protective way, other than to dance with the troupe. There is no need to ‘act alpha’ or to behave like a boor - to perform is to perform, and the male dancer’s role is to dance, not to behave like he is protecting his harem. And if someone gets to the point where a physical intervention is needed - well, that’s another story.

Posture

Men are generally bigger than women in terms of stature and height. Movements don’t need to be made big or exaggerated, because they won’t be feminine in the first place – they’ll have a male flavor, simply because the male dancer is doing them. Men do not need to exaggerate any male qualities in the dance, like taking up more space or moving in some odd way. The male dancer should simply move and dance as the choreography demands. There is no reason to do anything other than ensure proper posture and movement as the dance calls for.

part two continues next post...
 

duskshade

New member
rebuttal article part 2, please comment

Choreography

Since the root of looking masculine or feminine comes from the gender of the dancer, and not from the dance itself, there are no reasons to reserve certain movements for specific genders. Dancers should move in accordance with the choreography, and there are no proscriptions for specific directions being gender-specific. Directions, arm and hand positions, all are open for both men and women. Dance is for dancing and no one motion is reserved as strictly male or female.

Hands

Other than conveying grace by being controlled in accord with the aesthetics of the dance form, hands for males are held in an appealing way. Males do not need to hold their hands in some special way to appear more masculine. Believe me, our bigger hands will convey that without needing to move or not move in some special way. So, males do not have to fist their hands, or hold them straight. Expressive hands are expressive.

Facial Expression

Men do not need to have a specific expression either. The audience is able to distinguish male and female pretty easily. The dancer expresses gender in the dance, so this idea that identity creates gender in the dance continues to hold. Belly dance interprets music, so facial expression should reflect the song, not some artificial gender construction.

General Style

By this point, the discussion of gender and dance has either been proven to the reader, or discarded. If you are still with this, let's continue, ok?
There really isn't a need to emphasize any artificial notion of what males move like when males dance. So, male dancers don’t need to make their motions particularly different. Males do not need to lend any special sharpness or angularity to their movements. This means men don’t have to stay flat on their feet, they can dance on demi if that is how their choreography calls for them to dance. Males don’t need to project an explicit, exaggerated masculinity into the dance, we just need to express the dance. Masculinity comes out as a part of the fact that the male dancer is dancing.

This also means that male dancers should not worry about looking weak. Males are a small portion of dancers in a world of female dancers. By dancing, males are already braving a world others won’t. Therefore, a male dancing in confidence looks like a man dancing confidently. Worrying about being masculine in dance just leads to excess worry about something that is already conveyed as part of being a male dancer. If you enjoy the dance, then dance. Those who choose to interpret a male dancer’s movement as feminine have their own issues with what makes male and female – nothing can fix that.

What about drag dancers? Dancing in drag expresses an alternate gender, proving the point that the dance is not inherently gendered. In the case of drag dancers, the dancer is specifically expressing alternate gender, and therefore is moving with cues designed to signpost the alternate gender. In this instance, the dancer is expressing dance through an alternate gender, and thus while being a genetic man or woman, the gender expressed is filtered through the dancer's identity at the performance, and thus gendered through the identity, not the genitalia.

Conclusion

This article is meant to clear up some misunderstanding and frankly sexist viewpoints that are often used as gospel for some dancers, or as a first point of information for aspiring male dancers who are looking for something to help them figure out what they want to do. Other male dancers who have already gone out and carved a place have expressed that there is misinformation in the viewpoints that are expressed in some other articles All it takes is to look at YouTube - watching established male dancers will show that males dancing look like males dancing. There’s no need to convert anything – the steps, the motions, all of it is filtered by the person’s gender before the motions occur.

So, don’t worry that the dance doesn’t look masculine, as a male. If you are male, you will make it masculine. The dance itself is just a dance, the dancer gives it the gender.

With that in mind, dance with all your heart, with all your mind, and with your spirit in joy.
 

khanjar

New member
Very well done, but I am also thinking of something along these lines, not something in the depth you have gone to, but something if all agree is a good enough to put out there, then the more that is put out there might do well to drown the offending article and any other that spreads misinformation about the male's role in this dance.

In fact, why not here, perhaps this is the place to birth new information, male dancers that come here, write what you think from your; as a dancer be that professional or amateur experience and there hopefully many more male dancers might be the future, as it occurs what there is out there on the net, might actually have scared a few off.
 

Kashmir

New member
Good article.

Small point that the variation within the sexes swamps the differences between them. For instance, I (a female) have narrow hips and big hands and feet (although I do have frontal bumps). I have seen women who naturally move without grace and men who move like angels.

I would add that in the countries where the dance comes from there is no restriction on men dancing in a social situation (although in many cases there are restrictions on professional perfromance - but there is that great male dancer in Morocco's "The Marrakesh Folk Festival & More" who does schikkatt and tea tray). Personally I saw a (local) guy get up in a coffee house in Old Cairo and start dancing to the piped music - what he did would be recognized by anyone as "belly dance".

And of course, I must pay tribute to the men who have taught me so much about this dance - Dr Mo Geddawi, Yousry Sharif, Momo Kadous and Mohamed Kazafy. Stefan's article is plain silly when you meet such men and see them dance.
 

mimi walad

New member
iam a male dancer!! and i dont think that there is a such thing as a masculine bellydance - coz once a ( man ) join this passion and enjoy it - he cant avoid been feminine or even effeminate - ask me .....
 

Tarik Sultan

New member
iam a male dancer!! and i dont think that there is a such thing as a masculine bellydance - coz once a ( man ) join this passion and enjoy it - he cant avoid been feminine or even effeminate - ask me .....

That's not exactly true. If a man has a feminine or effeminate character then that is what will come out when he dances. The dance has a sensual aspect to it and often times, especially in western cultures, people confuse being sensual with being feminine. In other cultures, this is not the case. I can't stress this enough, we have to keep in mind that this dance is based in the traditional social dances of Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean. Most dance in fact takes place in the social context. Its only professional dance that is female dominated and that is only because of economics, the clientele was/is predominantly male and so this is the aspect that was promoted in the media. However, there is no reason why men can't and shouldn't take what they do traditionally at home and adapt it to the stage as well, as was the case with female dancing.
 

Tarik Sultan

New member
Good article.

Small point that the variation within the sexes swamps the differences between them. For instance, I (a female) have narrow hips and big hands and feet (although I do have frontal bumps).


And this is what I often think when people say that the dance is based on the shape of a female body. Which female body? I think that western culture has a concept of an "ideal" feminine shape, (the hourglass figure), and that is what we all aspire to as the feminine ideal. But this negates the fact that that is only one aspect, or variation that exists within the real of the female fgorm. Narrow hips and small breasts are also part of the variety that exists, so to are rouder shapes with no curves. In fact, if you look at 19th century photos of Ghawazee, none of them had hourglass figures. They were all plump with no curves and moderate to small busts. Being a woman is many things, looking like a woman is many things. What people prefer to see in body shape is an altogether different thing.

I have seen women who naturally move without grace and men who move like angels.

Exactly.

I would add that in the countries where the dance comes from there is no restriction on men dancing in a social situation (although in many cases there are restrictions on professional perfromance - but there is that great male dancer in Morocco's "The Marrakesh Folk Festival & More" who does schikkatt and tea tray).

Bingo! And lets not forget that being a dancer is considered first and foremost a job in those societies and not a very prestigious one at that. There are many, many men who are extreemly gifted dancers, but with all the options available to men for professions, why would any of them want to choose one that is low status and for the most part, low paying as well? Very few will choose to go that route.

Personally I saw a (local) guy get up in a coffee house in Old Cairo and start dancing to the piped music - what he did would be recognized by anyone as "belly dance".

And I'll bet there wasn't anything neccessarily feminine about him either. Yes there are effeminate men and often times, ironically, they are the ones who have the courage to get out on a stage and strutt their stuff, where as the more "masculie" men are afraid of hurting their image as don't do it.

And of course, I must pay tribute to the men who have taught me so much about this dance - Dr Mo Geddawi, Yousry Sharif, Momo Kadous and Mohamed Kazafy. Stefan's article is plain silly when you meet such men and see them dance.

I just finished hosting my first seminar. I presented Nath Keo, a phenominal artist, (I was a smash success by the way:dance::clap:). We had the show last night. He wasincredibly sensua, but there was nothing "fem" about him. Then I danced. Two guys, but two very different energies and expressions, and yet we were both recognized as men in everything about us. Not every man is masculine i the same way, not every woman is feminine in the same way and within each sex there is a spectrum that runs from very "masculine" to very "feminine". More often than not, its our own prejudices and hang ups that keep us from acknowledging these facts. I can personally attest to being guilty on that account, but I am growing up and realizing that I don't need to feel threatened or offended at the sight of a feminine/effeminate male dance, even though I don't aspire to be that way myself. Nor does it mean that a man HAS to express himeself in an effeminate manner. The key thing for a male dancer, or female for that matter, is to be intouch with, confindent in and accepting of yourself above all things and not live in the fear of how people may perceive you.
 

duskshade

New member
Good article.

Small point that the variation within the sexes swamps the differences between them. For instance, I (a female) have narrow hips and big hands and feet (although I do have frontal bumps). I have seen women who naturally move without grace and men who move like angels.

Agreed.

I would add that in the countries where the dance comes from there is no restriction on men dancing in a social situation (although in many cases there are restrictions on professional perfromance - but there is that great male dancer in Morocco's "The Marrakesh Folk Festival & More" who does schikkatt and tea tray). Personally I saw a (local) guy get up in a coffee house in Old Cairo and start dancing to the piped music - what he did would be recognized by anyone as "belly dance".

And of course, I must pay tribute to the men who have taught me so much about this dance - Dr Mo Geddawi, Yousry Sharif, Momo Kadous and Mohamed Kazafy. Stefan's article is plain silly when you meet such men and see them dance.

Kashmir,
The sad thing is that there is an illusion of male exclusion that floats about belly dance... and more to the point, who cares? If you enjoy dancing this dance, then why let anyone stop you?

Tarik and you have both pointed out that there needs to be some historical data concerning social dancing versus performance dancing. I think your point of including that commentary in there would help the aspiring male dancer get a grip on his sensibilities and contradict that 'BD is effeminate" crap.

Tarik also made a valid point about types of masc/fem energy. There are mulitple aspects of masc/fem energy, and none are invalid.

Tarik said
More often than not, its our own prejudices and hang ups that keep us from acknowledging these facts. I can personally attest to being guilty on that account, but I am growing up and realizing that I don't need to feel threatened or offended at the sight of a feminine/effeminate male dance, even though I don't aspire to be that way myself. Nor does it mean that a man HAS to express himeself in an effeminate manner. The key thing for a male dancer, or female for that matter, is to be intouch with, confindent in and accepting of yourself above all things and not live in the fear of how people may perceive you.

and I think its spot on about feeling threatened by something that doesn't conform to our personal idea of masculine or feminine. Being in touch with your own expression is enough, I think.

please excuse the nonlinearity of my commentary - I was responding to one when another posted up with stuff I wanted to add in...
 
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khanjar

New member
An interesting article found by way of doubleveil.net, yeah, Zorba's website ;

The “Masculine Principle”; the “Feminine Principle,” Just What Are These Supposed to Mean, Anyway? - by Susan Reed ( Sisters of the silver-branch. org)




Now the article is concerning spirituality, but the subject of the article is much the same as what we talk about here, that being exactly what is masculine and feminine as it applies to us, you know; people and sort of explains a lot to me, as does the website this article was found via.
 
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Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
...but I am growing up and realizing that I don't need to feel threatened or offended at the sight of a feminine/effeminate male dance, even though I don't aspire to be that way myself. Nor does it mean that a man HAS to express himself in an effeminate manner. The key thing for a male dancer, or female for that matter, is to be in touch with, confident in and accepting of yourself above all things and not live in the fear of how people may perceive you.
Thank you!

So, we'll see you performing that skirt dance any day now? :dance::clap::tongue:
 

duskshade

New member
I find that the article leads me back to why I selected Judith Butler and her theory of gender for my answer to Stefan's article...

Judith Butler believes that if you look at what we identify as masculine and feminine, if you go far enough into the gestures, behaviors, and other identifiers we use to make the concept of masc/fem, they eventually all break down into arbitrary.

So, gender (and this is the point of using Butler) quits being intrinsic to the behavior and becomes performative. IN other words, if you believe your are conveying a behavior in a masculine way, it becomes masculine through the performance of the behavior.

If we take that conception and apply it to this dance, then we get to the point of not having to worry if the dance is masculine or feminine. If you identify as one gender, the performance of the dance vocabulary will always follow in that gender identity. Feminine and masculine, therefore, become something you perform as part of your identity when you dance (Butler says for everything, but I am applying her just to dance).

IN other words, if you perceive yourself as male, then your motions will be masculine.

This dovetails quite nicely with Tarik's idea that there are different flavors of masculine and feminine energy.
 
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