Where do you fit in ?

khanjar

New member
I have been off dancing for a while, not been going to my weekly classes that I enjoyed so much, the initial reason for that, was the recession as it came my turn to be hit by it, I could not afford to go. Then came the questioning of myself, the question being; where do I fit in to this dance ?

As a male dancer, has anyone experienced that, where they question themselves where they fit in ?

Now I have come to understand the reason I have questioned myself such, is because I need to dance, and by that, join the mob and dance in public, but have because of shyness and lack of self belief not done so in the few years I have been taking classes, I have come to a stop, albeit one forced by recession, but a stop nontheless, and this is where I feel the doubts set in.

But I intend to get back into dancing and that, because I miss the sheer joy of the movement, fine, one can dance at home on one's own or at work where I often do, (much to what I detect as the embarrassed amusement of the blacksmith) to his choice of heavy metal music, but I miss dancing with others but it will have to wait until my financial situation improves, as this recession is difficult.
 
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Shanazel

Super Moderator
Hey, honey, welcome back. I've missed you.

One does not have to be male to question where one fits into the dance, though I know you'll be interested in the experiences and thoughts of other men. Many dancers deal with shyness and self doubt and lack of funds; you are in good company, male and female.

For many, many years, I was first the sole, then one of very few women working in a predominantly male field, so I can kind of relate to what you are going through emotionally by being in the minority. There's a lot more support for male dancers than you might realize, but as for the non-supportive flks in the world: the best adice I can give you, though you didn't ask me for advice, is to never let 'em see you bleed. Hold your head up, do what you want to do as if you haven't a doubt in your mind, and sooner or later those doubts will fade into memory.

I think the twelve step version of this is "fake it till you make it." ;)

I'm glad you're back.
 

Lara

New member
As a female dancer, I have experienced this, lol! I moved to a tiny place with *no* dancing for a while, came back and there was a performance group but no one teaching classes any more, but a yearly workshop. I danced for years without performing, then performed off and on with a casual group, then started teaching, then joined a performance troupe, then resigned for family issues... My own identity in dance has shifted several times over the 20 years that I have been dancing, but the one constant was *my* need to dance. Everything else sorts itself out eventually, as long as I stay true to my drive to dance and my desire to do right by the art form I fell in love with.
 

Aniseteph

New member
Hello Khanjar, great to hear from you again! :cool:

Again, not a guy, but I wonder where I fit in a lot. Not a commercial enough prospect to ever think of going semi-pro, not in a troupe, not teaching or planning to, taking it a little more seriously than just a social giggle... :confused:
 

walladah

New member
Well, the real question is the reverse one...

where does dance fit in our lives when we are in a difficulty, when we are at a critical point of our personal history?

I think that this is a major question, given that i also face similar issues and yes, i miss it very much that i cannot attend regular lessons for financial reasons. I also feel very weird that i dance alone at home and i only attend very few workshops...
I am female, so i really do not know whether my little story is of any use to you but think about that: dance has helped me to recover from physical difficulty, to keep my mind in place when everything else was collapsing, to be grateful in disaster because i was able to enjoy the music and express it and yes, to be able to transmit some of the joy i receive from dance, to others.

I did not intend to do all the above, i was not able to think anything about such things at several points in my life (which means that you are still in a good shape, if you can see yourself "from outside" the situation), i just danced when i felt so. i think that sometimes we do not need to think, we need to do what heart says...
 

Mosaic

Super Moderator
I am sort of going through the self doubts now, although I am still dancing - up to 3 classes a week and relief teaching ( which I do enjoy) So as has been stated you are not alone. I think my doubts come from turning 63 in a weeks time. The mind is willing but the body takes its time to do things - I don't have the agility I once did, it is very frustrating. I think many of us come to self doubt for various reasons in our lives, but you still love the dance as I do, so keep going, even if for the moment you can only dance at work/home.

Do you keep in touch with any of your class colleagues? Maybe some one from the class would like to share an hour with you on occasions and you spend the time dancing around your living room, or can you afford to save a little money and every few weeks/couple of months do a private class? If not - don't give up you love to dance so much and you have the right to dance as much as the person.
Good to see you back.
~Mosaic
 

BigJim

New member
This ... is a very deep question and I'm not sure I can answer it for you. Where do you fit into this dance or where does a male fit in?

There are 1000's of female dancers and not that many men... so we maybe considered an oddity. At this time there is the question of "what the heck is a guy belly dancing for".... Well I'm dancing for probably the same reason you do... I enjoy it. The music, the challenge of learning, the movements, the whole nine yards... at this time we might be viewed as someone who doesn't have all their oars in the water or ...maybe that we are doing the ground breaking for others... who knows in 1-2-5? years maybe male belly dancing will be the rage... but I'm old enough to not care what others think... I can see my dance career being limited by physical problems in the future but I'm going at it as hard as I can right now and enjoying every second of it while it lasts...

From reading your post I sense a feeling that you are a little lost right now. Due to circumstances beyond your control you've been forced to give up the social aspect of the dance by not being able to attend classes. Things will get better... if not tommorrow then next week or next month.... but they will get better. In the meantime work on things that need improving by practising by yourself. Continue to improve and keep practicing. It's something you enjoy doing so do it. Use this time to work on a solo performance and when the time is right share it with others... it will be an accomplishment for you...

I'm not sure if this will help or not but I hope it will... Jim
 

Tarik Sultan

New member
Where I fit in

As a guy I am aware that this field is female dominated and most people have no idea that men are a part of this. However, it was of great importance that I was able to go to Egypt, mingle with Egyptians and see them dance. That was important because it showed me that we westerners view the dance in a backward fashion. We see the dance primarily as an activity done by professional performers, where as in Egypt dance is primarily a social activity done by ordinary people. Professional dancers are in fact the minority and far removed from the reality of most people's lives. Most Egyptians exposure to professional dancers is on telivision and in the movies. In real life, everybody dances, men and women, but the entertainment industry created an aspect of the dance that was female dominated because that was what the market wanted at the time and it was that aspect that was popularized in the media.

To me, being a male dancer is to reflect a more culturally accurate representation of the dance, that is that it is an activity that is done by all people, not just one sex. Yes, for the most part is is a more theatrical expression than what is done by the average guests at weddings and parties, but tge foundation is the same dance. Therefore, to have male and female dancers is a more truthfull reflection of the actual culture. In the past this was not shown in the Egyptian media, but things are changing now. Weddings now typically feature troupes of dancing boys and resorts like Sharem now feature male oriental dancers. We are not as odd as people believe us to be. If you have an Egyptian or Lebanese community in your area I'd suggest hanging and mingling with them. Dancing in the dance in a social context will help you more than you know. If not, keep practicing and use youtube for your source of inspiration. Seeing other men dancing naturally will help you. There's no reason why your dancing has to stop.
 

Duvet

Member
Not sure if this is usefull to you Khanjar, or even an answer, but anyway;

As a male dancer in th UK myself, the more I’ve made myself seen the more accepted I realise I am. I’ve been very fortunate to have had open-minded and generous teachers, and met some really supportive students. But it’s taken a lot of time and effort, and I’ve had my wobbly moments of wanting to give up.

I've been surprised to come across (admittedly amongst a minority) the sexist view that “men don’t/shouldn’t/can’t bellydance”, and found this view exists more within the bellydance scene than it does out of it. When I tell people, both men and women, that I bellydance, I get surprise or disbelief, but while they might find it peculiar or slightly amusing, I have never had a non-belly dancer suggest that I should not be pursuing a hobby that gives me so much pleasure. Only belly-dancers seems to have an issue with it, and it really knocked me back when I encountered it.

Fortunately people can change their minds, and I know that some have altered their opinion due to my perseverance, and hopefully seeing my genuine enthusiasm for the dance.

Frustratingly though, now that I’m starting to feel I fit in, getting more confident, and feeling more accepted, other dancers are having difficulty identifying for themselves where I fit in. An increasing number of people want to tell me that I should dance in a particular “masculine” way. I find this amusing, but slightly annoying, as, regardless of how I do dance, I thought belly dance was about finding your own expression, and not fitting in to someone else’s concept. I also find myself becoming a show piece – “let’s see how a man would do this” – as if I have some secret knowledge or peculiar ability to impart.

But still, one minute I feel I fit in, but then a glance, a word, action or thought can suddenly make me wander – do I really belong here? Belly-dancing has the big stereotype in the West of being for the young, thin, flexible, pretty female floating about in the not-a-lot-left-to-the-imagination outfit, which, even if we all know is wrong, we still know is out there. This affects both men and women, but whereas women (regardless of size, shape or age) automatically fit one part of the stereotype, for Western men it’s more difficult.

Self-doubts about my own ability and self-image, the judgements of others, whether imagined or not and whether ignored or not, coupled with the judgements I put on myself can be very limiting and frustrating, if not down-right depressing. And increasingly I realise that it's all just my own hang-ups; nobody's really judging! But I think that this can affect everyone, regardless of gender. I keep telling myself "The only person stopping me is ME."

I dance because I love the music, and I love the movement. When they go together well, the emotions can be overwhelming, and even if you’ve only ever experienced that once, you know the potential is there whenever you dance. I guess that’s why it’s addictive for me. It’s a very personal way of expressing yourself within a supportive social scene, and I’d hate to think that I, or anyone else, couldn’t indulge in it.

I hope you can get back to it soon, Khanjar. Even if you can’t attend the classes, you can play the music, watch youtube and dance at home. We all need to do what we love. Are you still in contact with your old class? Perhaps you can go to their next hafla and perform?

I’m really glad you still dance around the smithy; just don’t drop anything hot or heavy on yourself (or the radio).
 

khanjar

New member
Thank You everyone for the encouragement, I am duly fortified now in my desire to get back to dancing when the situation allows, and there make every effort to get over my self disbelief issues.

@Duvet, there is a lot of wise words and truth in what you say, that I can recognise, but I do find it odd where when I first started I had overcome my doubts, the only male dancer in the class and all that but a few years later, an enforced stop, and the doubts appear, what is it, could it be a general mood that these hard times have caused perhaps, because I know my mood has changed, cynicism seems to have appeared.

But yes, if I can't class dance, then, at least getting back in some form or other maintains the interest, coming back here has gone a long way with that, but what else, h'mm, perhaps finish that video I made last year and post it on the web, and perhaps get back on with my belly dance inspired affordable jewellery for belly dancers production instead of flitting from one idea to another idea which usually ends up incomplete. As that is what I think this recession is doing, it is instilling a sort of panic in those it affects, a panic which leads to the muddying of thought.

But it is good to hear from other British male dancers, and that because they can perhaps very well relate, because blighty is not the same as other western countries, it to me seems to be stuck in the past in too many respects.

But as to my dancing to death and thrash metal in the smithy, a dark, dirty place, it being fired by a coke forge, with rusty dust everywhere and unyielding metal piles in anywhere where machines aren't located. I find belly dance movement enables a light sinuous movement around the danger, belly dance for me, has taught me how to naturally change direction with hip movement,which amounts to weight shifting off centre to force direction change by the controlled loss of balance, so, I can usually avoid the stuff that glows the various shades of red and the nastiest, the insidious back heat and anything else that likes to cut or bruise the unwary. As to what I do in there, well I can do the hot metal work, but I am not physically able to do the really heavy stuff, as I am slim, light and well, weedy, my forte is the light metal work, jewellery making and intricate work.

Why I believe my dancing amuses perhaps embarrasses the black smith, is because he is a big hairy biker, picture the stereotype.
 
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Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
You don't have to be male to wonder if you have a place in the community because I've never been sure of mine either, and I've been dancing for seven years. I think self doubt is our biggest enemy, and sometimes we are the only believer in ourselves (until others figure out that we are worth believing in).

I, too, was out of it for awhile last year due to health issues (and I still have some) but I contented myself by practicing at home, doing drills, workouts, and played around with combos and random choreography, as well as doing improv to songs that caught my ear. Believe it or not, those random movements play a part.

And if stereotypes are what concern you, well, the stereotypical bellydancer also has insecurities as well, some are haters and some come from themselves. Just keep on dancing because you have to and just do what you can.
 

SidraK

New member
Why I believe my dancing amuses perhaps embarrasses the black smith, is because he is a big hairy biker, picture the stereotype.
You should show him some Jim Boz footage, then. Jim is a big guy, a power lifter, and if I remember his bio right, he used to play in a metal band.
 

Duvet

Member
Perhaps this time is a pause for breath, rather than a stoppage. Time out to review where you want to go next, what you’ve learnt, and how you’ve changed, but it sounds like you’re doing that. You’ve achieved being a male belly-dancer; perhaps you now want something else? You don’t want to lose contact with the bellydance, but you’re not sure what form that contact can take. You sound like you’ve got quite a few possibilities, and talents to match.

As to dancing at work; I used to operate machinery in a factory, and can relate to your sense of weaving around in an environment that seems so opposite to what you can express. The engineers thought I was barmy.
 

Saamiyah

New member
So I'm not alone? great! Being a male belly dancer is OK after all.
Over the last 3 years, I have had the pleasure of hosting several male dancers, Tito Seif, Karim Nagi, Jim Boz, David of Scandinavia, Frank Farinaro, Nath Keo, Tarik Sultan. In 2012, I will again host Tito, Nath and Tarik along with Mohamed Shahin. In addition, I have many other male dancers who attend the workshops, teach and perform. It is an awesome experience to behold. I can comfortably speak on behalf of my female and male attendees, our workshops would not be the same without our male belly dancers. These icons of bellydance are overwhelmingly accepted and embraced because of their teachings, experiences and contributions to the art.

So, from my perspective, being a male belly dancer is not "OK after all." It IS actually quite awesome as each of these male dancers have embraced who they are and followed their dreams. If belly dance is what you enjoy....."just do it." Surround yourself with dancers (male and female) who will support and encourage you to pursue your love:dance:

Saamiyah
www.blackorchiddanse.com
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
As a male dancer, has anyone experienced that, where they question themselves where they fit in?
You're a dancer, just like any other.

Yea, you're male. So what?

Be the best dancer you can be, love your art, and the rest will fall into place. Just like it does for female dancers.

I never apologize for being a male - but at the same time I don't think or worry very much about it either.
 

khanjar

New member
Thanks Zorba.

Well I have been out of the Raks scene for a year now, well more like ten months, I have tried to forget about it and do other things, but something has changed with me. Music and what it does, any music even, as a non dancer prior to learning BD music was just, well music, now I hear music I catch myself moving to it with hip and shoulder movements a sort of subdued belly dance and when I do this, I am enjoying the music more, not the lyrics, they fade into insignificance, but the movement the music evokes I love it. So, I guess what I learned over the course of about 30 months of BD classes has sought of sunk in and as I realise this, the drive to get back into tuition is so immensely strong, so I have emailed my tutor to ask to be allowed to come back.

But the odd thing is, since I started dancing, my friends also non dancers have started to take dance classes, not BD of course, but other stuff like Salsa and Flamenco and one something called Rumba.

Down the pub tonight, talking to a chap I know, a Professor of North American history who happens to be unemployed in the UK, he was trying to demonstrate Viennese waltz in the pub car park as it was in past US history, I was impressed. I asked him what he thought of dance and was it a man's game, his reply was that whether it was a man's game or not is not the point, the young are not taught to dance anymore, so what the young who become old say is based upon not having learned to dance. But for him personally, the ability to dance to music is something he is so glad he learned as it puts a different dimension on music.

So I am understanding if one cannot do, then there is less likelihood one can appreciate and if one cannot appreciate then what else is there to do, if alone walk away, if with friends make fun, but the latter is the gang mentality, strength in numbers and every one of them feeble hiding behind the bravado of whoever speaks first.

So, sod it, I am going back to belly dance and if it does not please others, it pleases me.

My next goal is public performance and then only if I am confident with my ability as I am rightly or wrongly, a bit of a perfectionist, my confidence comes from my ability.
 
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