Male belly dancers considered "shameful" by ME males

Aisha Azar

New member
"feminine essenced activity" !!!???

Furthermore, if we go all the way back to the Paleolithic, the best archeological and cultural anthropological research indicates that MEN were the first dancers- dancing around the evening fire, telling the story of the hunt through dance. Using this same distorted "logic" about belly dance being feminine, and only for women, then based on what we can know about prehistory, women should not be allowed to dance at all. Any style! After all, dance in general was invented by men, and set on men's bodies.

Furthermore, I live in the US, and could care less what "Middle Eastern men" think about males belly dancing, assuming they really are monolithically against it, which I doubt.

Dear Rico,
Can you please direct me to this research? My original goal in life was to be a paleo-anthropologist,and I have never run across this info myself. I have run across much research that shows that men and women are so differently constructed that it is possible to to tell a a million year old skeleton's sex, merely from its bone structure. It is even possible to tell the AGE of some of these old skeletons. When we reach skeletons that are merely hundreds of thousands of years old, we are able to tell even MORE infromation. The thickness of a female skull, for example increases as she ages, yet it is still possbible to tell that she is a female and different from a male. This is one of the slight clues that old skeletons give us. When we get to such characters as Australopithicus Robustus, it is REALLY easy to tell males from females with just a few inches of skull bone becasue of the ridges in the skull where powerful jaw muslces attached. We don't even need pelvic evidence, which shows whole bunches of info.
I would be interested in any journal titles with year, date etc, or any books, with author and ISBN and page numbers if possible. If there is paleolitihic evidence that one sex danced before another, I REALLY want to study that information. I hope you will share your sources.
It is also immaterial whether or not you believe me when I say males from the Middle East think that belly dance is shameful for men to perform. Truth is truth regardless of what a person believes. I would also have to add that this point of view is nearly universal regardless of where one is in the Arab countrties.

And if you really could care less about cultural and social aspects of Middle Eastern dance, then I feel sorry for you and for the dance, because you have automatically, by not caring, lost a whole dimension of the dance.

Dear DaVid,
You are correct, I am not prejudiced against male dancers. However, I also never refute the fact that it is considered to be "shameful" among Middle Eastern males. I DO believe that there are differences in movement as well as in essence in male and female in the animal and human kingdom, and that movement itself has distinct meaning, aside from cultural meaning. I once debated this point with Tarik ( whom I really adore as a human being), and I pointed out that nobody ever crouches down and cowers in the corner with joy. Some movement has specific and universal meaning.
I think that just anatomy alone means that movement sometimes also has specific masculine and feminine meaning, though of course this is a general statement not taking in mesomorphic or any of the other morphic body types. It is not that both genders can not do the same movements (though I hear that this is also the case in some few things that human bodies are able to do). it is that it is universally accepted that when a male or female does a certain thing, that it is gender specific.

All that aside, I do believe that both men and women can be amazing belly dancers, and that even in the Middle East, there are those who secretly enjoy males performing as much as they do females. This is my personal belief, however, and I do not confuse it with the social realities of the Middle East. I think that in the hundred or so years that there has been belly dance, there have also been males dancing in secret, and later in the open. There has been a long history of male dancers in public as well, but this was actually before the development of belly dance.

And YES!!! My dance company and I are greatly looking forward to having you here in October. For anyone who is interested and close enough to attend. DaVid will be here for a performance and workshop Oct. 14th/15th. For more info go to baharatdancers.com.

Regards to you both,
A'isha
 
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Moon

New member
hadassah said:
'm sure there are male dancers in Egypt who do cabaret, and there might be an underground movement toward that, but I think A'isha's right about the Arabs seeing it as "shameful."
Maybe they will change their opinion about male dancers in the future, you never know! ;)

I think it's great men do bellydance too (although most of the time I like the women's costumes better ;)). Keep dancing, guys!
 
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Aisha Azar

New member
Males, etc.

My first experience on a personal level with a male dancer was with Raffa last month. I took a workshop with him, and found him to be very affable and a good teacher. His movements were quite masculine, but still the same basic movements of bellydance. He didn't "try" to masculinize them, they just appeared different on his body. His undulations were the same as ours, just not as soft.
I do agree with A'isha that the majority of Arabs dislike seeing a man dance sharki. One of my dancer friends is married to a Lebanese man, and every time a man gets on stage at a show, he gets upset. I don't now why it's this way, but it is. The last workshop I was at, There were two Saudi men in the audience at the show. They were laughing at a lot, but especially at the men. I know it's not nice, but in their culture men don't "belly-dance" per se - they do folkloric or just celebratory dances. I'm sure there are male dancers in Egypt who do cabaret, and there might be an underground movement toward that, but I think A'isha's right about the Arabs seeing it as "shameful."


Dear Hadassah,
Raffa spent years as a Latin dancer and retains some of that macho essence as well as having the very uplifted carraige through the chest, rather more than in belly dance usually. His stocky build and his looks also add to that masculine feeling.
One of the things that he and I worked on was bringing some "earth" into his dance and using a more grounded stance as a texture against which to use his uplifted stff. He was magnificent at creating this texture once it was pointed out to him and we worked with it, and I hope he retained it. I have not seen him for a couple of years, but chat with him and Aziz on occasion.
Your experiences with Arab males seem almost identical to mine in their response to male dancers. I do think there is the occasional male who does not have this opinion...but not very many of them approve of males belly dancing.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Demelza

New member
I've never held a conversation with anyone from the middle east about male dancers but I can tell you what I see.......

I've NEVER seen a proffessional dancer in Egypt. (Apart from Sufi dancers)......but in the clubs, discos, parties etc. they always get up and boy do some of them move what their mama gave them !!! I'll be honest with you, when I first went to Egypt many many years ago I used to giggle when I saw a guy belly dancing..I used to get embarrassed FOR THEM...I just used to think that they looked so gay - a bit like when 2 straight male friends will hold hands as they walk through the streets of cairo! :eek: however it grew on me (not the holding hands thing - still don't get that :eek: !) However the guys belly dancing did grow on me. . . I think what happened was I fancied this guy and then one night I saw him dance. . . from that day on I saw the beauty in it - I find it very sexy now. Well to be honest (and we are all aloud an opinion) I am not a big fan of the costumed and public performance male dancers, I think that should be left to the woman, I like to see it when they just feel like they wanna enjoy the music as a spur of the moment thing....but hey that's just me xx
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Males

Deare Demelza,
Usually what you see done at parties by men is not belly dance, according to the Arab males I have spoken to about it, but they usually say Shaabi or Beledi. Very similar to belly dance in movement, but very different in essence and feeling and meaning.
Usually my female Arab friends also find it not acceptable to for males to belly dance. I have to say, however, I have seen female Arabs change their minds when they see a great male dancer!! Males????.... not so much.
I think that we have to trust people to know what their own dances are all about.... and accept the way that they look at their own dances. However, I also feel that there is no reason why men can not dance as long as they do so without changing the inherent nature of the dance. I have in fact, never heard an Arab say that men don't belly dance... only that it is a shameful activity for them. This might mean that there are those who are aware that men have belly danced in less than socially acceptable sitatuions for a long time. I see no reason why they should stop dancing now.
In Muslim cultures, there is often a very clear line between what is considered masculine behavor and what is considered feminine behavior. It is not our perception that we are talking about here, but their's. It is not a matter of what one can do, but a matter of what is acceptable to do. I think when we try to just act as if their opinions and ideas about their own culture do no matter then we are in fact indulging in the worst kind of prejudice, and treating other human beings with concepts different from our own as if Manifest Destiny were still the order of the day. I deeply resent that attitude in anyone. They know what dances dances are about and who in hell do we think we are that we can just ignore that?
If male dancers for any reason, feel the need to change the nature of the dance, I think they need to re-name what they are doing so as to make it clear to audiences that they indeed are not belly dancing, but doing a hybrid form of dance that includes movements from Middle Eastern dance. I would expect that women who are doing hybrids should do the same.
Regards,
A'isha

REgards
 

Jamil

New member
what an insult

Many of the responses in this post require many people to be UTERRLY ashamed of them! :mad:
How some people think that they can express the opinion of a whole culture based on a few interminglings they have had in their life time is disgusting! :eek:
I am a professional male belly dancer from a STRICT cultural and religious Arabic family. So if anything has to be preached here about ethno central topics I don’t think they should be made by people that think they have a 'vast grasp of the culture.'
Shameful? :confused: what an interesting word to use... 'Shameful'
For many of those who are actually reading this post, let me deliberate something to all of you... male belly dancers are considered as 'shameful' to m/e audiences as female dancers are! :eek: don’t be shocked! From an Arabic point of view any movement that is 'socially distasteful' is abhorred by the Arabic community in general, so let’s not just pinpoint males.
secondly; initially, when I started performing, fear overwhelmed me when anytime I knew that my audience that I was about to dance for were Arabs (and I mean petrified) due to such stupid ill researched opinions about 'shameful opinions.' however in my experience, this has been thrown out OVER and OVER again. Any time I perform for an Arabic audience, instead of being booed off the stage as I had been brought up to expect, me and many male belly dancers I know personally have been embraced with the upmost respect and admiration. I remember one wedding where I was individually presented with 50's by no other then many of the mature males in the audience. (Very awkward moment)
The simple fact of the matter is, in the Middle East, there are no harsh subliminal stereotypes given to people like there are here in the west. A man that shakes his hips is not GAY, he is talented, or in touch with his feminine side. A man is only considered gay in the Arab culture when he is caught doing homosexual acts. Arab audiences are among the most accepting of the cultures when it comes to male belly dance, ironically. The older generation look at it for its talent and skill, the younger generation of males are still primed with homophobia and although many of them snigger when I enter the stage, I often leave with requests of an encore.
Equating the opinions of a culture based on a few friends that one has is like saying that every feminist burns her bra to make a point; every computer technician is a geek etc... Understand that in life we must also distinguish people’s biases in the comments they make and remember that not all people think alike, every individual in every culture seeks life and its experiences in varying ways.
Sorry to rant, but some peoples just SHIT me (oh and btw, yes I do take things personally)
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Males, etc.

Dear Jamil,
I know nothing about you, but I would sure like to know what Arab country you come from, where both female and male belly dancers are looked on as "equally shameful". That is a huge bunch of bunk. Yes, female dancers who are not rich are not respected and many are thought to be sharmutas, but even more so is the shame on a male dancer and if you are really Arab, living in a Arab country, you know that to be true. I have lived among Arabs for over 30 years and spoken to people from many different countries and their response is usually just as I stated it to be. They say it is "shameful" for men to belly dance.
And if you live in an Arab country, you know that there are plenty of "harsh stereotypes", just as there are in the west and for that matter all over the world. Speak the word "Saidi" in Cairo and ask what it means. Speak the word "Grouey" in Saudi Arabia, or be a Phillipino servant in Kuwait, or a Christian in Jordan, or a Hindi at the docks in the UAE. Be a Shiite in a Sunni country or vice versa. I would like to see you tell my Palestinian friends that there are no "harsh stereotypes" in the Middle East, when they have suffered at the hands of many, just because they are refugees.
Islam and Arab culture in general has very strong dividing lines betwen male and female activities and it is "haram" to cross over many of those lines, still today. Belly dance is one of those dividing lines, and yes, most males who dance belly dance in the Middle East would be considered gay, whether or not they really are. If you are Arab, you know as well as I do that often in Arab society appearance is more important than truth.
And I don't have a "few friends", my very closest freinds for the last 25 years have been Arabs, so maybe you had better know what you are talking about before you get nasty with people and call them ignorant of the Arab culture.
I would also like to add that I highly resent your snotty little attitude. We don't talk shit here. We try to educate people to the realities of the dance and you seem to be ignoring them. I would really be interested to know where it is that you live since you seem to be claiming at the very least Arab ancestry. "Religiously strict" Moslems do not approve of dancing of any sort and that would mean your parents must highly disapprove of your activities, unless perhaps you are a Christian, or Druze, or perhaps you do not realize what exactly "religiously strict means". Even in Egypt there are people who do not dance because good Moslems have been told by Mohammed (peace be on him) that they should not. I can try to find the Sura for you if you like. ( My Master's thesis was on Islamic Law)
I have taught some of the finest male dancers in the United States. I have done so without prejudice, but with full knowledge of the cultural issues involved. You had better be willing to back up your words if you deny the truth of this prejudice in the Middle East, because I can go to any number of Middle Eastern males and get their take on it right now, and report back word for word.
A'isha Azar
 
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Recnadocir

New member
Who cares?

Unless one is living in a Muslim country, or planning on performing in one, who cares how they feel about male belly dancers- It's irrelevant!

Since I don't plan to travel to the Middle East any time soon, it being very low on my personal list of places to go (other than Egypt), and since I have performed, and most likely will continue to perform, only in the Western Hemisphere and in Europe, I have to say that I don't really care what Arabic people think of me doing belly dance. I would say what I do is American belly dance, anyway, fusion or otherwise, and Arabic people, all people, planning to live and work in America are required by our laws and culture to respect the American tradition for tolerance, tolerance of all opinions, all sexual, religious, etc. orientations, and all forms of artistic expression.

Sure, someone of Arabic dissent is free to dispprove of my performing belly dance, and to express their disapproval vocally or in writing, as long as they don't get in my face about it or try to unlawfully obstruct my dancing.

Again, and underlined: I really don't care what anybody thinks, whether they are Arabic, Eskimo, or from another galaxy. Unless of course they have oodles of money to give me and/or my dance company.
 

Moon

New member
recnadocir said:
the American tradition for tolerance, tolerance of all opinions, all sexual, religious, etc. orientations, and all forms of artistic expression.
huuuhhhh??? :confused:
(sorry I know this is a little off topic but I just couldn't hide my feeling of surprise)

Furthermore, Rico, I think you are right. As long as you're not performing for people who think male dancers are immoral, let them think whatever they want and do what you like, dance for the audience that approves you and and I know they'll find you great! :)
 

Demelza

New member
Sorry guys ! but I have to agree with A'isha on this one......I do understand that coming from a society where free speach, free will, free expression, free EVERYTHING is the norm, you are under the assumption that anything goes, however I believe that as you are performing what you call 'Belly Dance', you should respect the fact (or at least be aware of the fact) that in parts of the middle east (can't speak for all of it as I've only been to Jordan, Palastine, Libya and Egypt) it is classed as taboo. Even if you were to say that you do respect the roots of the dance and the general middle-eastern view on the subject (as it is 'belly dancing' that you are performing right?), but that you are doing your best to move the feelings towards that of acceptance would be good....but to say that you really don't care, I think is a bit harsh. In my opinion 'Belly Dance' is not a dance of the world, it has strong roots. It is a dance of the middle east and that should not be forgotten. Yes A'isha's right, in Egypt even a female belly dancer is automatically thought to be a Sharmuta (hooker/prostitue) and that can even be said about the greats, the rich, the famous (I'm not saying they are but if you ask any Egyptian they will say that they assume they are).

Having said all this, as I mentioned in another thread, I do see (and enjoy to see) men and boys dancing in clubs, at parties etc. However I have NEVER seen a professional Male dancer there (they might exist I've just never encountered one) and certainly not in makeup and a crop-top. Having said that, maybe there are some that wish they could, but that they can't, I don't know....but as for you guys, That is fine if that is what you want to do, my point is not that you should stop, I've seen some of you dance and I personally am impressed at your skills, but you SHOULD know the roots of the subject in hand, and respect that.

Demelza
xxxx
PS. Jamil, which part of Scotland are you from ? xx
 
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Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
I have to agree with Rico's recent posts here...

For the record, I do indeed have respect for all cultures, including the middle east.

But....

Rico's right. If someone doesn't have respect for me, why should I have respect for them? Its a two way street. From what I read over and over and over again, Belly Dancers in most parts of the middle east are considered whores or otherwise undesireables. To my mind, they are figuratively being spit on.

Fine - then those who are doing the spitting have lost all right to define/complain about Americans/whoever co-opting "their" dance! The collective "they" are doing their very best to WIPE OUT the artform in its native land(s). "They" OBVIOUSLY don't want it - so its up to "us" to take it on (at least until our own "American taliban" religious whackoes succeed in banning it here).

Not only that, but it is my *PERSONAL* feeling that this dance is far older than the current religion/culture/people that are currently extant in the middle east - in other words, "they" didn't create the dance, they merely inherited it. We all know the debate about the origins of the dance - it isn't my intention to reopen that debate here. I think almost all theories have some basis in fact - the world is a big place in time and space.

To bring this thread back on topic - I've had many M.E. males leave the room or look away when I'm performing - and I've also had many M.E. males congratulate/compliment/thank me. Younger ones are particularly accepting - probably because they're "Americanized".

No offense intended to anyone - as always, these are my opinions only.
 

Salome

Administrator
Moderator message
Hello newcomers to this thread, it may seem a bit disjointed, my apologizes. It’s a spin off from another topic that deserves it’s very own thread. Happy posting!
 

Recnadocir

New member
Interesting about the younger Arabic males seeming to be more accepting of males belly dancing. Probably more true than with young American males in many parts of the country.

Homophobic? No doubt. And when Tom Rehor and I performed two weeks ago at the LA Convention Center, several of the people got up and left, all Latino from what I can see on the video, mostly 40-ish and older. In each case, it looked liked the male half of the couple was dragging his wife or whatever away. Oh well, there is another traditionally machismo culture. What are you going to do?
 

Moon

New member
Strange so many men immediately think you male dancers are gay... If they see a female troupe perform, why don't they immediately think they are lesbian?
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Males, etc.

Dear Moon,
This is because belly dance is a feminine essened dance. In Middle Eatern countries, there are some very clear lines between male and female activities. When a male does something that is considered to be a female activity, he is then labeled as "gay' whether or not he is. Unfortunately, homosexuality is consdiered a huge no no and an offense against God, so there is all this other baggage taken into cultural context if one is thought to be gay, as we also see here in western and predominantly Christian countries. To me, this hideous prejudice is what is really shameful and has caused a lot of wonderful people terrible suffering.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Moon

New member
A'isha Azar said:
To me, this hideous prejudice is what is really shameful and has caused a lot of wonderful people terrible suffering.
I could not agree more with that!
 
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