So Disappointed :( [+Let's talk about males in belly dance]

Yame

New member
I just saw an interview with one of my favorite dancers (who shall remain nameless), in which she says that belly dance is an exclusively female dance.

While this does not surprise me, because she (much like many other dancers out there) focuses a lot on the feminine aspects of the dance and always refers to belly dance as a feminine dance, it still disappoints me that when asked specifically "Is belly dance an exclusively female dance?" and she had the opportunity to at least mention that there are male belly dancers, that belly dance comes from the folkloric dances of the Middle East, that some male dancers have contributed greatly to this artform, she did not say so, she simply said "Yes" and went on to talk about how feminine the dance is, etc, etc.

I'm disappointed and very upset. Does she just honestly not know that men belly dance? That male dancers have contributed so much to the development of this dance? If she honestly doesn't know, I am very disappointed in her ignorance. Or maybe she does know, but chooses to ignore them because she has her own agenda. If that's the case, I am disappointed on her for knowingly spreading lies and misinformation, and contributing to prejudice against men in our dance.

How can you be an "expert" in belly dance yet not know or refuse to acknowledge that men in some parts of the Middle East belly dance socially? Or not know about Mahmoud Reda and how so many Egyptian dancers of the Modern Era were part of his troupe?

I need someone to cheer me up. Let's talk about some significant male contributions to belly dance, and our favorite male belly dancers and what they bring to the table.
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
She is grossly misinformed. If that is how she views bellydancing, she is the one who is missing out on a lot of what it is all about. The influence of male dancers in my own life and my own training is priceless. I would have been really disappointed myself if I saw this interview as well because it is pure bunk.
 

Chani

New member
I agree. How disappointing. I'm sure she knows about male bellydancers both professional and all the men who live in Middle Eastern countries where it's the normal style of dancing for all. You might contact her with your thoughts and she might make a point of not misrepresenting the dance like that again.
 

adiemus

New member
The more female bellydancers fail to tell the GP about the origins of the dance and the place of dance in ME culture, the more we can expect the GP to carry on with stereotypical views of ME dance as akin to stripping or 'exotic' dancing. Grrrr.
 

Yame

New member
I actually thought about contacting her, but I doubt she'd even get to see the email. She has staff to check email for her and doesn't seem to do any of that stuff directly.

It seems like that type of misinformation is very common in Brazil, though (this is a Brazilian dancer). She might not be the only one. I don't know of any male belly dancers over there. There are some males who sometimes dance at belly dance events or do duets with the females but they do very folkloric stuff, like dabke or Georgian dances... no hip moves at all, no raqs sharqi.

Maybe she just really had no idea about the dance beyond her own borders, but if so, that is very sad. She is a very well-known and respected dancer, you would think she would have traveled, or done at least a little bit of research? Maybe that kind of information is hard to come by if you live in Brazil and only speak Portuguese?

Upsetting, nevertheless
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
I thought at first perhaps you were talking about Fifi Abdo whose attitudes on this subject are well known. There is, or at least was, a guy in Brazil who called himself "Ali Khalih" and a WebSite at: http://www.bailarinoarabe.com.br/ that isn't coming up for me right now. The site was done in flash (yea, I know) which at least means someone put some time/energy/effort/money into it.
 

shiradotnet

New member
How can you be an "expert" in belly dance yet not know or refuse to acknowledge that men in some parts of the Middle East belly dance socially?
She may have known this, but interpreted the question to refer to performance in public places. In the Middle East, belly dancing is considered fine for men to do in social situations, but NOT for them to do as paid public performers.

Or not know about Mahmoud Reda and how so many Egyptian dancers of the Modern Era were part of his troupe?
Mahmoud Reda does NOT consider his dance style to be a flavor of belly dance. Absolutely NOT. He considers his dance style to be an entirely different genre of Egyptian dance. And, when I think about what Reda Troupe choreography is like, I do agree with him on that. This is also the prevailing point of view in Egypt, that Reda Troupe is DIFFERENT FROM belly dance. Although it's admittedly true that Reda Troupe style utilizes SOME belly dance moves such as hip lifts, it actually LOOKS very different and FEELS very different on the body.

There's still a lot of homophobia (anti-homosexual) sentiment in the Middle East, including Egypt. And a belly dancing male is considered to be too homosexual-seeming for most Middle Eastern people's comfort level. There is NO SUCH THING as a "belly dance license" for men in Egypt, only a folkloric license. Tito is the most high-profile male dancer in Egypt, but he's only able to get away with it by dressing in a gallabiya (traditional men's garment) and doing his performances at Red Sea resorts, which are far away from the stricter enforcement of Cairo.

So, in this woman's defense, she may have been thinking in terms of the things I said above. In the eyes of Egyptians, belly dance AS PERFORMED FOR AN AUDIENCE is indeed an exclusively female dance.

Now, I could say a lot about men as choreographers for belly dancers (Ibrahim Akef, for example)....
 

Amulya

Moderator
A major pet peeve of mine! Such ignorance :(. I can't stand that talk about 'feminine dance' or worse, when they start about goddesses... I won't start, because I'll end up ranting away!
 

Nejmeh

New member
Doh, I Just realized what GP means...

Such a shame! I would like to add something to shira. Yes, their is more homophobia there then in Bush`s bedroom, but on the other side, things we consider as 'gay'are completely normal there.(arms around eachother, kissing on cheeks, rubbing stomachs etc) I know that at least in the palestinian areas their are men doing some sort of bd(they would not call it that, but I know a camel/saidi/hipdrop when I see one!). Just as most of the girls, most will not do it in public.
 

Yame

New member
Mahmoud Reda does NOT consider his dance style to be a flavor of belly dance. Absolutely NOT. He considers his dance style to be an entirely different genre of Egyptian dance. And, when I think about what Reda Troupe choreography is like, I do agree with him on that. This is also the prevailing point of view in Egypt, that Reda Troupe is DIFFERENT FROM belly dance. Although it's admittedly true that Reda Troupe style utilizes SOME belly dance moves such as hip lifts, it actually LOOKS very different and FEELS very different on the body.
I know that. That still doesn't negate his influence in belly dance, nor does it negate the fact that a lot of modern-day belly dancers came from his troupe. Just because what he does is something, and what they do is something else, doesn't change the fact that their experience in his troupe had an effect on the way they dance, which thus affects the entire evolution of the dance.

So, in this woman's defense, she may have been thinking in terms of the things I said above. In the eyes of Egyptians, belly dance AS PERFORMED FOR AN AUDIENCE is indeed an exclusively female dance.
If that is what she meant, she would have said that. There is no misunderstanding on my part. In her answer, she even went on to talk about how belly dance is called "dança do ventre," and emphasized the word "ventre" (which is a word that denotes the female belly, reproductive organs, et al) as a requirement of sorts for someone to be able to do this dance. There is no misunderstanding on what she meant she said "ventre," because she went on to say it is the place where the uterus is. Men do not have uteri. She also says that this dance is meant to develop femininity.
When she talks about the benefits of this dance: confidence, self-esteem, better posture, etc, she always finishes the sentence by saying "to the woman." As if this dance could only improve a woman's posture, but not a man's! LOL


There's still a lot of homophobia (anti-homosexual) sentiment in the Middle East, including Egypt. And a belly dancing male is considered to be too homosexual-seeming for most Middle Eastern people's comfort level. There is NO SUCH THING as a "belly dance license" for men in Egypt, only a folkloric license. Tito is the most high-profile male dancer in Egypt, but he's only able to get away with it by dressing in a gallabiya (traditional men's garment) and doing his performances at Red Sea resorts, which are far away from the stricter enforcement of Cairo.
It might be taboo for males to perform belly dance in public in Egypt, but that doesn't change the fact that there are male belly dancers performing in public in Egypt, and, obviously, outside of Egypt as well. It does not negate their existence. Just like it's taboo for females to perform in public in Egypt, but yet, they still do. Egyptians thinking that someone shouldn't perform in public--be that person male OR female--won't make that person disappear.

Of course, there are a lot more females performing than males. Still doesn't change the fact that males do perform. Ignoring their existence would be like saying ballet is a female-only dance because there are way fewer males performing ballet than there are females. It is also somewhat taboo for a man to be a ballet dancer in the West, due to the stereotype of ballet as a feminine dance and the conclusion that a man who wants to dance ballet must be gay (and homophobia exists here, too, we all know this). Does that mean ballet teachers everywhere should start saying ballet is a female-only dance? That would be absurd.

Before I get flack for that ballet analogy, I do realize men are an integral part of ballet in a way that they are not in belly dance. But even if they were not needed in ballet the way that they are, it would still be absurd to ignore the fact that they perform and contribute to the dance just because it is taboo and some people don't accept it, or just because fewer of them do it than women, or just because people have the perception that the dance is very feminine.

So back to belly dance, the average Egyptian won't associate Reda with belly dance, and they might not know about Tito and believe belly dance as a performance art is only done by females. But we are belly dancers, and we SHOULD know about Reda's influence in belly dance and that Tito and other male performers do exist and that it is valid for males to perform. If this dancer was indeed adopting the Egyptians' attitude towards male belly dance, then why pick and choose? Why not adopt their attitude towards female belly dance, as well? Oh, because then, she would have to start thinking of herself as a whore and stop performing. And THAT one wouldn't benefit her, would it?
 
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Rania

New member
I agree. How disappointing. I'm sure she knows about male bellydancers both professional and all the men who live in Middle Eastern countries where it's the normal style of dancing for all. You might contact her with your thoughts and she might make a point of not misrepresenting the dance like that again.
I agree:)
 

Belly Love

New member
Whoa, how did referring to bd as a female dance get turned into homophobia?!!

I'm definitely not as educated in bd as many of the others are on the forum, but from what I have learnd so far is that it is a feminine dance and it's greatly about celebrating women. I realize there are male belly dancers out there (and very talented ones) but I have never watched a male belly dancer and thought, "Wow, that is a very masculine dance!"

The vast majority of movements are very feminine. Obviously if you're getting into fusion styles, they also incorporate more masculine movements, but I don't see how calling it a female dance makes someone anti-gay.

How often do you hear someone say, "female belly dancer"? You don't, because it's assumed that when referring to a belly dancer it's a female. Well, if it's not a feminine/female dance, then why does everyone do this? It's only when it's a male do people say, "male belly dancer".

*I realize my statements are general, but this is such a web of a subject, I don't even know where to begin...
 

Yame

New member
Whoa, how did referring to bd as a female dance get turned into homophobia?!!

I'm definitely not as educated in bd as many of the others are on the forum, but from what I have learnd so far is that it is a feminine dance and it's greatly about celebrating women. I realize there are male belly dancers out there (and very talented ones) but I have never watched a male belly dancer and thought, "Wow, that is a very masculine dance!"

The vast majority of movements are very feminine. Obviously if you're getting into fusion styles, they also incorporate more masculine movements, but I don't see how calling it a female dance makes someone anti-gay.

How often do you hear someone say, "female belly dancer"? You don't, because it's assumed that when referring to a belly dancer it's a female. Well, if it's not a feminine/female dance, then why does everyone do this? It's only when it's a male do people say, "male belly dancer".

*I realize my statements are general, but this is such a web of a subject, I don't even know where to begin...
Repeatedly referring to belly dance as a female-ONLY dance is exclusive. It excludes men and can often (although not always) be traced back to an attitude that men should not be involved in activities that are thought to be feminine.

Masculinity and femininity are often cultural, subjective concepts. Some things are fairly universal and others less so. A century ago a woman's place was in the home and in the kitchen and it would probably be unthinkable for a woman to ask her husband to cook or houseclean. Today although these activities are still mostly thought of as the woman's job, there are many men who are not ashamed to help around the house. Many of the things we think of as being masculine or feminine have less to do with the inherent nature of things than with our culture at a given time... which of course is subject to change.

In any case, whether or not you think "masculine" or "feminine" are inherent qualities of things, so what? No one would say martial arts are feminine activities but I don't see any martial arts schools in my area constantly talking about how masculine their classes are, about how masculine they'll make you, about how only men do it, etc. I don't see any martial arts schools excluding women from their classes.

Finally, people don't say "female belly dancer" very often because when people are talking about a specific dancer, they don't usually need to specify the person's gender. I know if I am talking about a belly dancer who is a woman, I refer to her as a "belly dancer" just as much as when I am talking about a belly dancer who is a man I refer to him as a "belly dancer." For example my friend Daniel who is a belly dancer, well... I might just tell people "this is Daniel, he's a belly dancer." I don't say he's a male belly dancer because that's a given. I guess some people do, because yes, people are used to belly dancers being female. Obviously, most professional belly dancers are women. Doesn't make it right or not redundant, though. Most lawyers are men, but when I am in the office I don't refer to our female attorneys as "female attorney."

Often times when we are talking in general terms about belly dancers we use feminine pronouns, but again, often times when we are talking in general terms about doctors or professors we use masculine pronouns. It is what we are used to, but it doesn't mean a particular gender does or should own that profession and does not justify prejudice and exclusion.
 
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Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
It's the same thing as constantly correcting people that bellydance is not stripping. People are so embedded in false beliefs about bellydancing that it is a full time job correcting the GP. Just today I had to (again) correct a male friend of mine when he told me to "shake it baby," I had to remind him that we "shimmy" instead. "Shake it" just sounds so cheap, not to mention that I still wonder what he really thinks of the dance. Same thing with people thinking it's a feminine dance - it is not a feminine dance only. Anyone who reads the history of the Ottoman Empire knows that male dancers only performed for all male crowds all the time, and this went on for centuries.
 

Belly Love

New member
Repeatedly referring to belly dance as a female-ONLY dance is exclusive. It excludes men and can often (although not always) be traced back to an attitude that men should not be involved in activities that are thought to be feminine.
Okay, that makes sense. And it's basically insulting to men who are belly dancers and take it very seriously. But I can't get the idea out of my head that it is a very blantantly feminine dance... in general. Of course, there are exceptions and you can put disclaimers on them, as with any activity, but who in the world has the time or energy to edit every little thing they say?

In any case, whether or not you think "masculine" or "feminine" are inherent qualities of things, so what? No one would say martial arts are feminine activities but I don't see any martial arts schools in my area constantly talking about how masculine their classes are, about how masculine they'll make you, about how only men do it, etc. I don't see any martial arts schools excluding women from their classes.
Because martial arts is a male dominated sport and men, in general, aren't verbally expressive like women.

Finally, people don't say "female belly dancer" very often because when people are talking about a specific dancer, they don't usually need to specify the person's gender. I know if I am talking about a belly dancer who is a woman, I refer to her as a "belly dancer" just as much as when I am talking about a belly dancer who is a man I refer to him as a "belly dancer." For example my friend Daniel who is a belly dancer, well... I might just tell people "this is Daniel, he's a belly dancer." I don't say he's a male belly dancer because that's a given. I guess some people do, because yes, people are used to belly dancers being female. Obviously, most professional belly dancers are women. Doesn't make it right or not redundant, though.
I think when referring to belly dancer(s) in general, not a specific person, often times people do not use the word "female". They only do this when it's referring to a male. Is that wrong? Or is is that way for a reason?

Most lawyers are men, but when I am in the office I don't refer to our female attorneys as "female attorney."
I definitely see where you're coming from... I don't know if I entirely agree or think those are fair comparisons... I have a lot of thoughts swirling in my head about this so I have to think about it for a while... I'm wondering if I'm completely off in how I've been viewing belly dance this whole time.

Sidenote: This is why I like to ask questions and throw out ideas, it helps me learn and have a better understanding. Hopefully it does the same for others...
 

Farasha Hanem

New member
ARRGH, again, I can't rep you, Yame and Greek! :confused: I agree with the points that you both made, and they were well-put.

As far as the mention of homophobia, Shira was merely explaining the cultural feeling and attitude of the Egyptians concerning public performance. It's unfortunate, but it is what it is, and we all know that Islam has a formidable hold on the Middle East, so yes, homophobia plays into the attitude towards paid male dancers.

I do not hold to the opinion that bellydance is a "feminine dance," although the majority of dancers are female. As Tarik Sultan and Morocco teach over and over again, it is a cultural dance, performed by men, women, and even children on special occasions and gatherings. In the following video, Tarik explains his position very well:





Emphasis on the word "theatricalized."

Kids dancing their cultural dance:



Interview with Sharif Farouk concerning the cultural significance of what we call bellydance:



Tarik dancing in a coffee house in Cairo:



Those who only think of bellydance only as the glitzy, glammed-up, commercialized version, or who think that bellydance is a celebration of femininity should expose themselves more to the real thing, straight from the people themselves.
 

Belly Love

New member
It's the same thing as constantly correcting people that bellydance is not stripping. People are so embedded in false beliefs about bellydancing that it is a full time job correcting the GP. Just today I had to (again) correct a male friend of mine when he told me to "shake it baby," I had to remind him that we "shimmy" instead. "Shake it" just sounds so cheap, not to mention that I still wonder what he really thinks of the dance. Same thing with people thinking it's a feminine dance - it is not a feminine dance only. Anyone who reads the history of the Ottoman Empire knows that male dancers only performed for all male crowds all the time, and this went on for centuries.
Yes, but stripping has absolutely nothing to do with bd, whereas (sp?!) feminine dancing has a lot to do with it. On some levels, it doesn't matter what was done centuries ago or what was considered masculine or feminine centuries ago, it's what we consider to be masculine and feminine today.

I realize the dance is not for females only or a feminine dance only, but in my eyes, the vast majority of styles and movements are very feminine - so how am I or anyone else for that matter, supposed to describe it?

I actually feel completely thrown off by this subject!
 

Belly Love

New member
I watched a bit of the vids- I must say, the couple in the 2nd vid were adorable! They looked so happy.

Anyway, I don't see dancing in general as a female activity. The guy in the 2nd vid dancing did not look like he was doing what I see most belly dancers do in a performance. Casual dancing and performing are two different things and when I am referring to belly dancers, I'm referring to people who are learning it as a specific art form and/or performers. I think that's what most people are referring to when mentioning belly dancers.

it's just that much of bd comes off as feminine to me. I just don't see it as a bad thing...

In regards to the subject of male dominated activities being brought up: No one is going to watch a woman play football and then argue that football should be considered feminine- it's not feminine and I doubt ever will be considered to be. That doesn't mean women can't play it and be great at it, it just means that it's not a feminine activity- there is nothing wrong with that.

Too many thoughts swirling in my head...
 

khanjar

New member
Masculine, feminine, why does this concept matter so much in everything when male and female are just the opposites needed for reproduction of the species. Dancing is not an act of reproduction, so why does it matter so much to many, what do they see when they view the dance, artifact or a sex act.

A lot of what we see, I feel is very much to do with male insecurity and the belief that males should be their idea of masculinity, a concern that consumes all that they are and with that the adoption of the herd mentality, not the unique human being that they were created to be. Anyone that is aware of their individuality bucks the trend, seperates themselves from the herd and there opens their mind to all the possibilities that exist in the world and more, they are evolution, for to do otherwise is just a dog chasing it's tail.

Evolution is for the adventurer, those that do not fear the unknown, and in their adventure they slowly do their bit to drag humanity further along and in terms of belly dance and many other notions from the past attempt to dissolve the act of gender objectification in what is in reality a celebration of what it is to be just a human being free from the shackles of human imposed gender role conformity.

My belief in this dance and other forms of creative expression, this seperation and division of our species is a thing needed by the male of our kind, because of our need to define and label to understand and by that accept the labels of security defined by others from the past and a past of more clearly defined gender roles. Much of this is created by the religions of old, even those who do not identify as having faith in at least the God3 cling to ancient religious ideas for the human imposed order of humankind.

So my thoughts when a person male or female questions my involvement in this dance, is that they if they fail to accept, is that they knowingly or not perceive this dance as an act of sex and sadly clinging to the wrongs of the past and they in fact have a dinosaur mentality, which just like the creature may very well and hopefully on my part, become extinct as I believe in evolution not devolution.

But as to famous faces and those in the public ear that to others fail in their comment when quizzed, I see simply a failure in communication, perhaps a misunderstood question, or lack of an articulate answer unless what is said is a direct and stark rebuke to that question, there showing it is all in the wording used. In this genre of creative expression I feel it is too damaging to isolate oneself with words that might come to change with the mellowing of the character and time worn education.
 
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