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

khanjar

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...
To say that, it's not feminine one has to define what feminine is first, and from what I can see, there is no hard and fast definition for that term, which indicates to me that the concept of feminine and masculine is a largely useless and restrictive concept that seeks to divide humanity.
 

Belly Love

New member
To say that, it's not feminine one has to define what feminine is first, and from what I can see, there is no hard and fast definition for that term, which indicates to me that the concept of feminine and masculine is a largely useless and restrictive concept that seeks to divide humanity.
I do not agree. I do not believe that the "concept" of feminine and masculine is useless nor do I think it is a restrictive concept used to divide humanity. There is such a vast difference between your thinking and mine, that I wouldn't even know where to begin to defend my opinion.

I will say this, I love being a woman and I love being feminine (although I do have masculine qualities as well). I think the differences in men and women and their traits should be celebrated, not denied.
 

Caroline_afifi

New member
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.
Dancing maybe centuries old, but 'belly dancing' is not.

It sounds like a pedantic argument, but 'belly dancing/Oriental dance in the ME was a female performance art/entertainment created by the early 20th century nightclub scene. And legally still is (as Shira) pointed out.

Belly dancing is something which occured more recently in BD history both here and in the ME. It is hard to pin point exactly when men in Egypt started to even belly dance socially, and I am not aware of anyone having wrote about or evidenced this?

From what I gather from talking to the older generation, it was probably 70's when men started to dance socially in a way that resembled 'belly dance' as we know it. We may have seen some men dance like this in the older films in comedy sketches, but it was not really part of every day life at this point.

Before that, for many it was the hands in the air stepping from side to side (and this is still very much present), or it was folk dance based steps. What has happend beyond the ME in male belly dance is a different story, and again, we can only really trace it back to the 60's US.

It is like splitting straws getting our heads around this, but I think there is alot of mis-information and over generalising about this subject.

The moving of hips is now ever present in shaabi style!

here is one of my favourite clips..

YouTube - egyptian old man dancing
 
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khanjar

New member
Thanks Caroline, that video of the old men dancing is just excellent and it also goes on to illustrate my personal theory on the evolution of of the dance which we now call belly dance, for I believe the dance came from the music. My theory is outlined somewhere down there in the debate section. So as to how old this dance is, and who did it, well, as dance is movement as an expession to music, one has to trace the music, not the dance. But my theories go deeper than that as to who spread this dance and variations of it through the associated region.
 

Yame

New member
Because martial arts is a male dominated sport and men, in general, aren't verbally expressive like women.
I have a different take on this. People who run martial arts studios know that there is a big market in women who want to learn martial arts for fitness or self-defense. Excluding women would lower the profit margin.

Even the hardcore MMA gyms don't exclude women... even though most women wouldn't be interested in doing that stuff, there are some women who are, and that's more money in your pocket to let them in.

It's a lot less shameful for a woman to perform an activity that is normally thought of as masculine than for a man to perform an activity that is thought of as being feminine. I used to have a coworker who was really big into jiu jitsu, the won competitions and everything... no one gave her flack for that. OTOH, a lot of men get a lot of flack for dancing.

When belly dancers exclude men from their classes, they might not even lose any money because in a lot of places there are literally no men interested in taking classes in the first place.


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.
Well, these are very complex topics and opinions on them are things that develop over time. I also love to be part of these discussions because I am always introduced to new knowledge I didn't have or to a different perspective and I have changed my mind on a lot of things as a result.

How you view belly dance will always have something to do with the way you view yourself and the way you live your life, your culture and the way you were raised to view others, and things in general... my opinion of what is feminine and what is masculine is clearly different from yours and there is nothing wrong with that.

Just to be clear, I don't have a problem with people thinking belly dance is a feminine dance, or describing it as feminine. It is just an adjective, a description, and as with all descriptions it is a matter of opinion and it is in the eye of the beholder. Although I don't personally think of belly dance as being feminine, I see how by the standards of our society and most societies, that is what it is.

What made me upset and the reason I posted this topic was that this dancer completely neglects the existence and achievement of any male belly dancer. Not that she thinks it's a feminine dance, but that she thinks men have no place in it. I find that to be untrue and offensive.
 
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Yame

New member
From what I gather from talking to the older generation, it was probably 70's when men started to dance socially in a way that resembled 'belly dance' as we know it. We may have seen some men dance like this in the older films in comedy sketches, but it was not really part of every day life at this point.

Before that, for many it was the hands in the air stepping from side to side (and this is still very much present), or it was folk dance based steps. What has happend beyond the ME in male belly dance is a different story, and again, we can only really trace it back to the 60's US.
This might be splitting hairs when it comes to this topic because whether or not men danced like this before raqs sharqi was invented and became popular, they dance like this today and have been for a few decades now.

BUT it's still very interesting information and if true, I think it's very relevant and I'd love to hear more about this theory.

Because I've seen so many Arab men dance mostly the same way that Arab women do (the rough, unpolished belly dance that is danced socially) I just thought this is how they danced socially for as long as women have danced socially the same way, which is before Badia Masabni and the Casino Opera and similar clubs around that time and everything that ensued.

I am still inclined to think that, but of course people copy what they see, they copy the movies and I am sure even the way women danced socially before then has changed since as a result of movies and television, so why not the men? And of course it is possible that the men did not do hip moves, shoulder shimmies, etc until belly dancers in movies and television came along. Unfortunately I don't have these answers.

Regarding the sweeping generalizations, I think it's impossible to avoid them in some way or another. We know very little specifics about the way this dance evolved beyond what we can see in videos and a lot of things we will never know. Often times we are making assumptions that probably aren't even true.

Also, the Middle East isn't a big homogeneous blob so anytime we are talking about it there will be generalizations made that won't be true for everything. For example when I said "Arab men" a few paragraphs above, I was referring mostly to men I know or have seen from Egypt, Jordan, and other countries in the Levant. I knew a guy from Morocco who would never dance like that, and I doubt for example that a Saudi would. But if we have to specify so much every time we speak, it will be really hard to communicate concisely.
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
Dancing maybe centuries old, but 'belly dancing' is not.

It sounds like a pedantic argument, but 'belly dancing/Oriental dance in the ME was a female performance art/entertainment created by the early 20th century nightclub scene. And legally still is (as Shira) pointed out.

Belly dancing is something which occured more recently in BD history both here and in the ME. It is hard to pin point exactly when men in Egypt started to even belly dance socially, and I am not aware of anyone having wrote about or evidenced this?

From what I gather from talking to the older generation, it was probably 70's when men started to dance socially in a way that resembled 'belly dance' as we know it. We may have seen some men dance like this in the older films in comedy sketches, but it was not really part of every day life at this point.

Before that, for many it was the hands in the air stepping from side to side (and this is still very much present), or it was folk dance based steps. What has happend beyond the ME in male belly dance is a different story, and again, we can only really trace it back to the 60's US.

It is like splitting straws getting our heads around this, but I think there is alot of mis-information and over generalising about this subject.

The moving of hips is now ever present in shaabi style!

here is one of my favourite clips..

YouTube - egyptian old man dancing
Good point in that it wasn't called bellydancing but it is true that men have been dancing Middle Eastern styles forever. That is what I was trying to say.

What I can't figure out is who came up with the "rule" that bellydancing is only for men. BTW, I love the clip!
 

shiradotnet

New member
From what I gather from talking to the older generation, it was probably 70's when men started to dance socially in a way that resembled 'belly dance' as we know it.
I can definitely trace it back to the early 1960's - Mahmoud Reda told me that when he and Farida toured Egypt to collect folkloric movement formats for use in choreographies, in the Nile delta region the men didn't have a unique movement style of their own. They just did raqs baladi. So Reda's challenge was to figure out how to use movement to depict Nile delta male dancing in particular, to differentiate it from other parts of Egypt. (In contrast, the women carried jugs, so that was an element that he could use to show a differentiated style of movement for women.) So, for male dancers, he decided to use floor patterns that would show the men in a line, because he noticed that when they were picking cotton in the fields they tended to fan out in a wide line and move together as a group through the field, maintaining their line.

Reda troupe did its first performance in 1959, which at the time was based solely on Cairo baladi culture (according to what Mahmoud told me), and Mahmoud & Farida did their field research a year or two later, which is how I place this as early 1960's.

We may have seen some men dance like this in the older films in comedy sketches, but it was not really part of every day life at this point.
Yeah, a scene I like to show in my Dance in Egyptian Cinema lecture is the one from Habib el Omr (a 1947 movie, English name is Love of a Lifetime) in which several male friends of Mamdouh (Farid al-Atrache's character) get up and dance as they listen on the radio to Mamdouh (in Syria on tour) singing a song about loneliness and missing friends. Toutah (Samia Gamal's character) is in the room with them, and she laughs as they do it. The style in which the men are dancing is definitely being played for laughs, and one of the actors is Ismail Yassin (a very famous comedian). This dance scene is clearly intended to counter-balance the mournful nature of the song.

There's also a comedic scene in Khally Balak Men Zouzou (1972 movie) in which the character played by Samir Ghanem dances around in his boxer shorts. Again, clearly being played for laughs.

And also al Fatenah w-l-Salouk (DVD available with English subtitles under the title Beauty and the Scoundrel)... I don't know the actor's name, but he's an older man, wearing a tarboosh (which by the time this movie was released in 1976 would have been considered old-fashioned and kind of comedic in its own right). He gets up and dances in an attempt to impress one of the female characters, and again the scene is played for laughs.
 

Pirika Repun

New member
Here is Tito's interviews from YouTube. He explained why he became professional Oriental dancer. Being professional Oriental/Belly dancer in Egypt is very difficult. You can be folkloric dancer, but NOT Oriental dancer. But he is one of well known dancer.



In this clip, narrator said about Tito that "Only ONE man (Tito) does for living (as professional)" BUT this is NOT true. There are many professional Oriental dancers in Egypt, and especially Nama Bay @ Sainai.

In this clip he said that if he wear tight cloth, he can't be accepted (in Egypt) BUT now he start wearing tight costume! :shok: I'm sure he doesn't wear tight costume IN EGYPT but other countries. ;)


This is his interview at Gilded Serpents in Toronto 2008.



Sound is not clear, so it hard to understand what he was saying. Here is description of his interview.

"Its very hard to be a bellydancer in Egypt, a male bellydancer. " ...He started out as a folk dancer before he actually danced as a bellydancer.... now that he is Tito, everyone knows him and he doesn't care... he is well known now ...???... he wants to keep his manhood... he doesn't want to look like a lady dancing, he is still a man bellydancing...he keeps his own style.

Stavros asks hima question that I didn't quite understand but he explains that he was curious about how the society responds when gender boundaries are transgressed. Stavros wrote a book about this.
Tito had natural talent for dancing and then he joined a folklore troupe.
Like men enjoy the woman bellydancer, the women enjoy watching him.


Yame: What made me upset and the reason I posted this topic was that this dancer completely neglects the existence and achievement of any male belly dancer. Not that she thinks it's a feminine dance, but that she thinks men have no place in it. I find that to be untrue and offensive.
I totally agree. My teacher Tarik Sultan IS male, and I feel very offended by anybody denied/neglected existence of male Oriental dancers. I learn everything what I can learn from female teachers form him. He is not only great teacher but great dancer/performer too.
 

Belly Love

New member
Yame - I have a better understanding of where you're coming from now. Because of the previous comments I was under the impression that it was wrong or negative to think of bd as feminine.

As far as martial arts go, I've personally been around it for years and while it's not common for women to do it, they are definitely not excluded. It's kind of the reversal of bd in my eyes. When referring to a fighter, they never say "male" but when referring to a female fighter, they always say, "female fighter." I think it's the same for bd but reverse.

I think because I'm open-minded and my culture is somewhat open-minded, I don't think of it as a negative thing for a male to do something that would be considered a feminine dominated activity/art. But I can see how one might be sensitive if it's considered innapropriate in other cultures.
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
Pirika - all I can wonder is that if Dina is turning everything upside down, then why not the males? If Dina wears outrageous costumes then I can see how Tito is now wearing tight costumes as well. It seems that in Egypt, the entire dance itself is being turned upside down - sort of their own cultural revolution.
 

Caroline_afifi

New member
This might be splitting hairs when it comes to this topic because whether or not men danced like this before raqs sharqi was invented and became popular, they dance like this today and have been for a few decades now.

BUT it's still very interesting information and if true, I think it's very relevant and I'd love to hear more about this theory.
Dont get me wrong, I am sure men hip dancing has been around for quite some time, but the development of men in actual oriental dance is far more recent.

Because I've seen so many Arab men dance mostly the same way that Arab women do (the rough, unpolished belly dance that is danced socially) I just thought this is how they danced socially for as long as women have danced socially the same way, which is before Badia Masabni and the Casino Opera and similar clubs around that time and everything that ensued.
I am not so sure they have. I think the 60's and 70's saw a big change in trends in Egypt and I think it become more popular and part of the norm around this time. This era was also the birth of a different genre of music which had also been around for some time but came into it's own in this period.. that was sha'abi.


I am still inclined to think that, but of course people copy what they see, they copy the movies and I am sure even the way women danced socially before then has changed since as a result of movies and television, so why not the men?
I am sure that happend, but men came much later and not to all men I might add. This is still absolutely not the norm for all men to dance this way.


And of course it is possible that the men did not do hip moves, shoulder shimmies, etc until belly dancers in movies and television came along. Unfortunately I don't have these answers.
The answers are there if you look for them, it depends on how much someone wants to research this. I have done to some degree and the older people I have spoke to have all said to me it was not the norm years ago.


Regarding the sweeping generalizations, I think it's impossible to avoid them in some way or another. We know very little specifics about the way this dance evolved beyond what we can see in videos and a lot of things we will never know. Often times we are making assumptions that probably aren't even true.
yes. I just like to try and be specific when having these conversations on forums because there have been plenty of times where 2+2 +10. This happens with many topics, not just this one.


Also, the Middle East isn't a big homogeneous blob so anytime we are talking about it there will be generalizations made that won't be true for everything. For example when I said "Arab men" a few paragraphs above, I was referring mostly to men I know or have seen from Egypt, Jordan, and other countries in the Levant. I knew a guy from Morocco who would never dance like that, and I doubt for example that a Saudi would. But if we have to specify so much every time we speak, it will be really hard to communicate concisely.
Like I said, I know plenty of Egyptians who would not either. Lets not forget that belly dance was imported to these countries too.
 

Caroline_afifi

New member
Good point in that it wasn't called bellydancing but it is true that men have been dancing Middle Eastern styles forever. That is what I was trying to say.
People all over the world have been dancing the style from their region forever.. now they try dances from other places, and in some areas gender barriers have broken down too.

What I can't figure out is who came up with the "rule" that bellydancing is only for men. BTW, I love the clip!
Men had the money and belly dance was a form of escapist entertainment.

It was the same as music hall entertainment all over the world.
 

Caroline_afifi

New member
I can definitely trace it back to the early 1960's - Mahmoud Reda told me that when he and Farida toured Egypt to collect folkloric movement formats for use in choreographies, in the Nile delta region the men didn't have a unique movement style of their own. They just did raqs baladi.
I have seen film clips from the 50's with men doing some beledi style.

Perhaps it was the 50's? makes sense as we had Elvis! lol I know the people I have spoken tyo in Cairo said it was not anything like it is now but you may have had one or two at a party who did it as their party piece.

Reda troupe did its first performance in 1959, which at the time was based solely on Cairo baladi culture (according to what Mahmoud told me), and Mahmoud & Farida did their field research a year or two later, which is how I place this as early 1960's.
I think it would be an idea to ask him how popular it was in the main though.

Yeah, a scene I like to show in my Dance in Egyptian Cinema lecture is the one from Habib el Omr (a 1947 movie, English name is Love of a Lifetime) in which several male friends of Mamdouh (Farid al-Atrache's character) get up and dance as they listen on the radio to Mamdouh (in Syria on tour) singing a song about loneliness and missing friends. Toutah (Samia Gamal's character) is in the room with them, and she laughs as they do it. The style in which the men are dancing is definitely being played for laughs, and one of the actors is Ismail Yassin (a very famous comedian). This dance scene is clearly intended to counter-balance the mournful nature of the song.

There's also a comedic scene in Khally Balak Men Zouzou (1972 movie) in which the character played by Samir Ghanem dances around in his boxer shorts. Again, clearly being played for laughs.

And also al Fatenah w-l-Salouk (DVD available with English subtitles under the title Beauty and the Scoundrel)... I don't know the actor's name, but he's an older man, wearing a tarboosh (which by the time this movie was released in 1976 would have been considered old-fashioned and kind of comedic in its own right). He gets up and dances in an attempt to impress one of the female characters, and again the scene is played for laughs.
You know more about film clips than I do, but I have yet to see men dancing in a film which is anything other than to add comedic entertainment.

Do you remember the big guy sat opposite you in Tuna's club who danced?
He and his father are very well known for their party dancing. What I know from them is it is about fun and playfulness and making everyone in a happy mood and making them laugh. This is the essence of baladi and Sha'abi of course, Oriental dance has a different vibe/energy and this is perhaps the biggest challenge facing male dancers today.
 

shiradotnet

New member
Do you remember the big guy sat opposite you in Tuna's club who danced?

He and his father are very well known for their party dancing. What I know from them is it is about fun and playfulness and making everyone in a happy mood and making them laugh. This is the essence of baladi and Sha'abi of course, Oriental dance has a different vibe/energy and this is perhaps the biggest challenge facing male dancers today.
Ah yes, I remember him well! And yes, I totally get what you mean about playfulness.

I'll have to give some thought to baladi/sha'abi having a different vibe from Oriental. Because even Dina, with all her sexiness, also has a big dose of "playful" in her Oriental style....
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
To say that, it's not feminine one has to define what feminine is first, and from what I can see, there is no hard and fast definition for that term, which indicates to me that the concept of feminine and masculine is a largely useless and restrictive concept that seeks to divide humanity.
Yep. Someone who GETS it.

"If it ain't biology, it ain't real."
 

Belly Love

New member
Yep. Someone who GETS it.

"If it ain't biology, it ain't real."
Femininity comes from traits that are common in females. Some of these traits are biological. Most women have high voices and most men have lower voices, therefore a high voice would be considered feminine and a low voice would be considered masculine. To say this doesn't exist is just ignorant.
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
Femininity comes from traits that are common in females. Some of these traits are biological. Most women have high voices and most men have lower voices, therefore a high voice would be considered feminine and a low voice would be considered masculine. To say this doesn't exist is just ignorant.
But of course. The voice is biologically determined - no argument here!
 

Caroline_afifi

New member
Ah yes, I remember him well! And yes, I totally get what you mean about playfulness.

I'll have to give some thought to baladi/sha'abi having a different vibe from Oriental. Because even Dina, with all her sexiness, also has a big dose of "playful" in her Oriental style....
Yes, you are right and most Oriental dancers have a playfulness/cheeky element to their dancing. This is probably due to the fact that it is a form of entertainment and this style was born in the nightclubs (although people seem to forget that bit). An oriental dancer will express amny emotions in one show.

It is perhaps about the range of emotions men are allowed to display when dancing. Culturally, some of the more refined elegant moves along with public emotional display which is not comedy can cause discomfort.

I was out with that same group in Tuna's old club and another member got up to dance and was far more serious and elegant display of Baladi, the men pretended to recieve mobile calls and left the room til it was all over.

The guy then got told off by other members of the group and was told never to do it again.
To anyone watching the situation it would have seemed strange as many men were dancing. I dont think the issue is totally connected to the moving of the hips (although this does play a part) it is also about how the danced is expressed and the vibes.

It seems like it is ok for men to 'express' if the hips are taken out and they sing along with the words or respond to a particular song. I am talking Egypt here and my own experience, research and observations.

I think it is very easy to view this in Egypt superficially and reach lots of conclusions.
 

khanjar

New member
Femininity comes from traits that are common in females. Some of these traits are biological. Most women have high voices and most men have lower voices, therefore a high voice would be considered feminine and a low voice would be considered masculine. To say this doesn't exist is just ignorant.
I believe in the concept that both male and female hold both male and female tendancies, the so called getting in touch with one's femininity or masculinity, that also with the biologiocal fact that what determines a gender is only one chromosone, we are are in effect the same material until that chromosone makes itself known, just like the flipping of a coin, a chance happening, so that being so, we are not that different at all. But if one accepts that both male and female each have both male and female tendancies, we are aside from our reproductive function, essentially the same, one is not superior nor inferior to the other, each can do whatever it is they wish to do in life aside from the obvious function, but I like to think the sexual function is not what defines either gender, for there is more to people than that.

Reading recently I came across an interesting article where anthropologists have now debunked the Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus theory, and have established what each gender comes to do in later life is less to do with that gender and more to do with nurture ;

Male and female ability differences down to socialisation, not genetics

First we had centuries of patriarchy, then we had women's lib and now scientists are revealing the truth, which can only be good for everyone, and in time perhaps the patriarchal societies that still exist may also see sense and with hope a better world for all.
 
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