Why do males dance?

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Shanazel

Super Moderator
Very crisp and snappy.

Oh, guys, I am trying very hard, but it has not been easy for me to get my mind around the idea of men as belly dancers. I can appreciate the skill, I can appreciate the desire to dance, I would never ever say to a male, YOU CAN'T DO THAT, but I still watch and find myself thinking, this is just so odd... I'm sorry. I'm working on it, but it does seem to be a very stubborn prejudice that is apparently limited to belly dance. I have no problem with dancers of either gender in any other style I can think of. Give me time. Tell me why you love it. Keep showing me video clips. Be patient with me. For what it is worth, I know what it is like to face gender bias, and I am sympathetic even while I am thinking, this is so odd...
 

samira shuruk

New member
Very crisp and snappy.

Oh, guys, I am trying very hard, but it has not been easy for me to get my mind around the idea of men as belly dancers. I can appreciate the skill, I can appreciate the desire to dance, I would never ever say to a male, YOU CAN'T DO THAT, but I still watch and find myself thinking, this is just so odd... I'm sorry. I'm working on it, but it does seem to be a very stubborn prejudice that is apparently limited to belly dance. I have no problem with dancers of either gender in any other style I can think of. Give me time. Tell me why you love it. Keep showing me video clips. Be patient with me. For what it is worth, I know what it is like to face gender bias, and I am sympathetic even while I am thinking, this is so odd...
Interesting Shanazel.
Maybe it's all the hip work that's not connected with obvious machismo culture (such as Latin dance).
What do I love about men dancing? Same thing as I love about women, honestly. Expression of the music and themselves, sharing of emotion etc.
 

Moon

New member
I can understand what you're saying, Shanazel. I also think it's great that men can also bellydance, but still I don't like it very much when watching clips. Not really because of the movements, but more because of the costumes. Why do so many male dancers wear those belly-showing shirts? Is it obliged??
I would like it more to see them wearing longer shirts, or no shirts at all ;)
 

Mouse

New member
I have to admit, I used to find it a little strange, but since my son has started to dance I see things from a new perspective. Together we have done a lot of researching through the net and I have come to really enjoy watching the mens dances and appreciate them in their own right. I especially enjoy the ones that dance in a very masculine way, but have certainly developed an appreciation for all the male dancers regardless of their style.

The clip in the current discussion is no exception. That backbend is awesome - I wish I could do that!
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
Shanazel -

Thank you for having the courage of admitting your prejudice and your willingness to try to overcome it. Although I personally have had VERY little prejudice, there are some who have had to overcome a LOT - esp. in the UK apparently.

My WebSite is full of my ravings about male dancers and where I feel we should fit in. To it I refer the curious.

I will only make two points here:

I dance because I, like any other human being, like to feel beautiful, exotic and all that (The concept of masculine beauty has been largely forgotten in today's world). Its lots of fun and I get to play dress up. Sound familiar? Hey! Guys are human too.

For Moon's comment re: costumes. Costuming is a highly personal issue - especially for males in this dance form. I wear various belly revealing outfits - why wouldn't I? I'm a Belly Dancer and want to look like one. The whole two peice costume is a result of British colonialism anyway, so the "authenticity card" can't be employed here. Besides, it *is* designed to show off the dancer's body to the best possible advantage - regardless of gender.

I *DO* *NOT* like male Belly Dancers in shirts or other covered costumes. This assumes they are doing Belly Dance, not traditional male folkloric dances. If they're doing Belly Dance, I want to see some skin and I want to be able to see what they're doing! Shirts et al are boring.

Bare chested? Not my cuppa, but I don't have a problem with it. A male wanting to dance bare chested needs to avoid the BDSM look - "X" chains and the like. Some kind of top helps frame the torso and shows off isolations better than totally bare.

Dem's me thoughts...
 

Aniseteph

New member
I dance because I, like any other human being, like to feel beautiful, exotic and all that (The concept of masculine beauty has been largely forgotten in today's world). Its lots of fun and I get to play dress up. Sound familiar? Hey! Guys are human too.
:D Yay!!! Go Zorba!
 
Beware - long and personal

Shanazel,
Great post and thread first of all. I commend you for stepping up and actually asking and researching instead of just turn your back and be hostile as many others do. I personally have been lucky not to experience too much of this - maybe 5 times through the 22 years I have been dancing. *knock wood*

My reply to your post is based on my personal experience as an Egyptian technique and style dancer and reflects nothing upon other male dancers. It is merely my personal views and standards that *I* hold myself up against.

I dance because I love the concept of movement. The concept of movements in MED charmed me at 10 and I actually started taking lessons at 18. It all started out as an intent to use these lessons as a motivation booster for my Indian dances as I was getting a bit....bored with them. My teacher put me on stage - I had no intent of performing actually, but after she put me on stage and people started asking where they could see me next time and if I taught - I all of a sudden felt an obligation to continue. Not to mention that I felt it would be disrespectful towards my teacher(s) not to keep it up after the generosity and patience they had showered me with while teaching me.

So, why I dance? I love dance. I have spent all my life dancing and MEDs are some of the styles that have gotten to me and I have fallen in love with. At the time and point in life, development and career I am at now - it is natural for me to perform and display what I do and love, but it is also a tool. A tool to promote the artforms that are so close to my heart - and to motivate others to start/keep at it. My goal is to show all my instructors, contributors and supporters that I honour their investment in me and further their legacy through teaching and giving the knowledge they have given me to others. Today I am performing and teaching. In August I will start a Diploma Program furthering the knowledge so many have given me. Next year I may create teachers to assist me with this. The year after I might sit back and handle the administrative part while I let others step up and assist me with the practical part of furthering and uphighing the dance forms.

I see a natural development as a dancer. You take your first lesson, you do your first performance, you become a dancer, you teach your first class, you give your first workshop, you become an instructor, you give your knowledge to others and keep on educating yourself at the same time - providing your students with continous flow of knowledge.

Why I love the dance? Well, at first it was because I enjoyed it and it was a break from boredom with Bhangra and Bollywood. Then I loved the attention...until I realized the responsibility that was put upon my shoulders (not to ashame my instructors and supporters). Now I love the dance because of the fulfilling feeling it gives me - because of the relationship we have developed over time - because of the triumph I see in my students' eyes when they get a move right or realize something new or different about the dance - because of the fact that these dance forms have enabled me to give something to others that will fill their lives with the same kind of fulfilling feeling the dance gives me. And not to forget, I love the fact that my relationship with the dance never ends and keeps on developing into new dimentions every day, every week, every month, every season, every year.

As a male dancer it is important to not immerse yourself and fall in love with the fact that you are a novelty, but rather push yourself to work past the novelty act and being the oddity. Work towards becoming a good dancer in general, not just a good male dancer - and not just a male dancer. A dancer's goal is to achieve the highest quality of execution and performance no matter what your gender is. Unfortunately, many male dancers get stuck at being the novelty and the clown act rather than work their shimmies off to continously improve themselves. Luckily, I see a slight trend of change on this subject. More and more male dancers are pushing themselves to reach their highest ability level possible. I bow to thee and applause thee for that! Thank you so much.

I regard myself as a humble student of my instructors living up to the responsibility the put upon me when teaching me to further the knowledge and inspiration they gave me. I regard myself as a provider of knowledge and inspiration for my students. And if willing - I will put the same responsibility upon them as my instructors put upon me to further the beauty of these art forms and uphighing them.

My life goal is not to perform forever, my life goal is to share my dance in any capacity possible. So far - thanks to the great support I have received all over the world, I have been able to share my passion and love for the dance on many stages, videos, discussion forums, at events, festivals, etc. I couldnt have done it without support from everyone out there though. However, tomorrow I might be sharing my passion and love for the dance in a different venue as an instructor and coach. I will not be bitter as long as I still am enabled to share the dance with people. The day I can not share the dance with people myself any longer, I will not be bitter as long as I see the dance being furthered through other performers, instructors and so forth.

I think it is important to realize the responsibility we all have to this dance and choose what arena we want to enter.

Now, why I dance the way I do....my main supporters are women. My main students are women. My main audience members are women. I would consider myself an insult towards the dances I practice if I was presenting anything less than a professional female dancer should. There is no excuse for a male dancer to hide behind their gender and be insufficient - and be supported for it. Yes, any effort should be supported. But no dancer should let this *limit* them from bettering themselves and eventually, in their own pace and spirit, reach a level where as they are presenting the best material they possibly can. In order to prove myself worthy of my instructors' time, worthy of the tremendous support from colleagues/friends/family/sponsors out there - I pride myself upon working as hard as I can to dance just as good as any woman out there. No, correction - I pride myself upon working as hard as I can to dance just as good as any dancer out there. Movement has no gender - and neither has dance - it is the person presenting and the expression/stylization of what is presented that gives the movements and the dance a gender. I choose to convince my venues that I can adapt a female expression as well as a masculine expression. It takes a lot of effort for a man to adapt a female expression well - and I like to challenge myself. One day, I might have enough representatives of my female expression through my students, proteges, instructors and what not - that I may withdraw myself from that expression and confine myself to a masculine expression. But until then, I am the only sample of both of my expressions available - so I'd better be displaying both so my audience can be convinced that I master my work - to some extent at least.

As for costuming - I myself would have no problem dancing in just boxerbriefs even. I am proud of my body, I have great legs and my muscle work would be MUCH more visible if I did dance in boxerbriefs only. However, there are certain things that are subject to cultural limitations and connotations - such as nipples triggering a sexual connotation or having a bulge on the front of your pants doing the same. In lack of better constructed costumes that enhance the movements we men, just like women, intend to execute when performing - we guys end up with all kinds of costumes. Some more successful than others. It is essential to show midriff if you are executing a lot of ab work. You may cover up if you are doing more of a folklore piece. Another factor is - that more tightly fitted leg wear will make technical necessary movements visible in unflattering ways, and since dance is a visual art form displaying esthetic and pleasing visuals for the eyes - we guys tend to go a bit wider in our legwear. Heck, some even wear skirts to hide the hideously looking jiggle that appears at times - or wierd leg positions that happen when doing certain movements.

My costuming is directly based off of Disney's Aladdin and a hybrid of an Orientalist fantasy....be it in the western world or the eastern world. Lately, my designs tend to be more about preference, fashion, colors, trends and exciting new stuff than being the typical "too short harem pants and a cut tshirt" look.

I as a male dancer do not ask you as an audience member to be all jolly good about male dancers or me. however, I do ask that you look at the technical, visual, esthetical and style specific presentation - and if it pleases you, appreciate my dedicated and honest efforts to uphigh the dance alongside my female colleagues. There is always areas that can be bettered and worked on no matter what level you are on - but consider the level, experience, reputation, marketing and presentation of the dancer and "judge" accordingly.

I hope this post will shed some light upon this subject, if not according to all male dancers - at least according to me.

DaVid
 
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Ohhh, adding: I sometimes get requests from people to dance "more like a man"... however, I am a man - whatever I do is dancing like a man in the respect that I am a man by gender. My personal opinion is that expressions can, should and have to be diverse - otherwise it would be very boring to do what we do, which is dance. Also, one of the most aknowledged dance styles is Ballet and men are respected and acclaimed for their performances within this style - but if we're pulling the macho card... how macho is it to run around on toe in skin tight stretch lycra while jumping up and down on the floor with a huge pouch on the front of your pants with white makeup on your face? My opinion is "dance is about the concept of movement. A well executed, articulated and performed movement and well presented expression is what I look for - not the gender of the person doing it". I get just as sad when I see bad dancing by men as I get when I see bad dancing by women (all relevant to the factors I mentioned above).

Im currently fixing some new clips for my website - however, they will not be longer than 1 minute each due to copyrights etc. But, it will be an updated taste of what I do these days :)
 
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Moon

New member
Please don't understand me wrong,
I didn't say that I think men schouldn't wear belly-showing shirts, I just said I don't like them ;)

Just like, in "real life" I don't like golf shirts on men or those horrible shoes with pointed toes on women ;)
 

Selkie

New member
I enjoy watching male dancers of any dance genre, but I am particularly enjoying the male belly dancers. Women's dance can get a bit 'same old same-old' after a while, but the men are often fighting the perception that this is women's dance only. They fight the idea that these movements are only for women, men aren't supposed to shake their booties or twist their spines. So they work out for themselves what it means for them to dance, and the result is a rich variety of dancing styles. Some men dance in a fluid, "feminine" way, while others dance in a 'stiffer' fashion. Yet others make a dance that is difficult to describe, its difference is difficult to pin down in words, but is nevertheless distinct. Each dancer owns his dance in a way that a lot of the women dancers I've seen don't seem to.

But when I watch a dance, any dance, its not the gender that I'm first drawn to, its the skill of the dancer. I like to watch good, skilled dance, I like to appreciate the mastery that the dancer has gained over his or her body. I don't care who you are, this 'layering' stuff isn't easy! :D

Such controversies over men dancing isn't unique to belly dance though. Male ballet dancers have faced prejudice for years, including the ubiquitous accusations of being gay - which is ironic, because ballet started out as men-only dance. Same with my native Highland dance - most ironic thing I ever saw was a few years ago, some ignoramus yob catcalling a boy doing the Sean Truibhas, calling him queer for wearing a 'skirt' and doing 'girlie dance'!! :eek: :D (a small riot broke out and Mr. Ignorance was escorted off the premises...... *LOL*)
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
Ohhh, adding: I sometimes get requests from people to dance "more like a man"... however, I am a man - whatever I do is dancing like a man in the respect that I am a man by gender.
Yes, yes, YES!!

Men are human beings too, and should be allowed to dance like human beings, not as as chariature of someone's idea of "Masculine".

Ditto on what DaVid said about wanting to dance well, blah, blah. Don't let him fool you - he is TOPS as a dancer and an instructor.

Me? I'm a hack, but I try!
 

Yshka

New member
Originally Posted by Moon:
or those horrible shoes with pointed toes on women
I love those..:D

I do like bellyshowing shirts on men too though. In general I just love seeing men dance.
Before I also used to be like what Shanazel describes (Shanazel, interesting topic btw), but then I went to Bruxelles and saw Amir Thaleb.
He was the first male dancer I ever saw and IMO very masculine..he danced so beautifully, I can't even begin to mention all that I liked about him (I won't lol, I'm tired and it's late), but I just totally fell in love with males dancing.
I have been taking every chance I get to see male bellydancers perform and take workshops with them.

Male bellydancers rule;)

Originally Posted by Zorba:
I dance because I, like any other human being, like to feel beautiful, exotic and all that (The concept of masculine beauty has been largely forgotten in today's world). Its lots of fun and I get to play dress up. Sound familiar? Hey! Guys are human too.
Amen!

Oiginally Posted by DaVidofScandinavia:
Ohhh, adding: I sometimes get requests from people to dance "more like a man"... however, I am a man - whatever I do is dancing like a man in the respect that I am a man by gender.
"Dancing like a man"? That's total B*llshit. You should ask them to show you how next time:D They'll know immediately what a stupid remark they just made and it gives you a good laugh..

I have more to say, but I'm just tired now lol. Will get back on this after some sleep.
 

Recnadocir

New member
Actually, I hate belly dancing...it's so hard! I just keep doing it so I can be around hot women. Hoping I'll get lucky. It hasn't happened yet, in almost ten years, but I"m the eternal optimist!
 
Hi Everyone, My thoghts on the topic pretty much revolves around the concept of belly dance as a woman's dance. If you think about it, how many times has this dance been described as "for all shapes, sizes and ages for women". Or good exercse to burn off unwanted pounds or better yet the concept of the "goddess dance" It's easy to subconsciously believe that there is no place for males. Belly dance as we know it today(and all of its permutations) is a performance art, complete with glittery /tribal costumes designed to fit the female form and please the audience eyes, the placement of males in this venue again seeems odd esp to Western cultural values.

IMO, the goddess concept is part of that Western fantasy we still hold on to when we see a bellydancer, I, personally don't suscribe to that theory, I see bellydance as the artistic expression of the folkloric traditions of the Middle East and North Africa, where there is a strong tradition of male dancers, using the exact movements we use today, Dancers such as Tarik,DaVid, Zorba, Rico,Jim Boz, John Compton etc, continue to carry on that tradition very well. Maybe for me my cultural background(African-American) can easily accept male dancers because dance is for everyone, males and females doing the same moves. I enjoy seeing my Brothers in Dance in exciting costumes, dancing with passion and precision.
Yasmine
 

Recnadocir

New member
I love those..:D

I do like bellyshowing shirts on men too though. In general I just love seeing men dance.
Before I also used to be like what Shanazel describes (Shanazel, interesting topic btw), but then I went to Bruxelles and saw Amir Thaleb.
He was the first male dancer I ever saw and IMO very masculine..he danced so beautifully, I can't even begin to mention all that I liked about him (I won't lol, I'm tired and it's late), but I just totally fell in love with males dancing.
I have been taking every chance I get to see male bellydancers perform and take workshops with them.

Male bellydancers rule;)



Amen!



"Dancing like a man"? That's total B*llshit. You should ask them to show you how next time:D They'll know immediately what a stupid remark they just made and it gives you a good laugh..

I have more to say, but I'm just tired now lol. Will get back on this after some sleep.
I agree about belly showing shirts, or just bare belly or chest. I'm in a show right now where at least two of the female solos are bare chested. It's really no big deal. When you think about it, who made the rule that men can walk around bare chested, but women can't? Men! And why? Because men have a harder time controlling their lust then women. All these rules that repress women, sexually or otherwise, were made by men, and for this same reason, I think.

But back to the other point, "dancing like a male." I think all male belly dancers must hear this some time or another, or get asked, "where does one learn male belly dancing?" Usually I take the question as honest confusion, and respond gently that there is really no such thing, other than the crockery -balancing tricks that some guys do in the ME, and the stick dances. But as far as the body movements, which are the core of the dance, it's all the same, right? I don't even think about there being any difference, unless someone else brings it up.
 

Suhad

New member
DaVid, my mouth fell open when I read your comment about people asking you why you don't dance more "masculine". I've seen you dance, in Phoenix last year, and I was AMAZED. I've been around the arts in various forms my whole life, and what you did was NOT -- repeat NOT-- feminine or 'sissy' in any way.

I honestly never dreamed that a man could take the SAME movements and show the power and grace of the masculine form in the same way that we as women show the power and grace of the female form.

Your dancing was honestly the highlight of the show, and I only wish that my husband could have been there to see you dance -- I bought him a ticket but he was working and couldn't get there until after you were done.
 

Zumarrad

Member
I've just about finished reading Stavros Stavrou Karayanni's "Dancing Fear and Desire", which explores, among other things, responses to male dancers. His avowed perspective is as a queer Greek Cypriot man, and for him, the homoerotic desire/homophobic anxiety produced in Western men by the sight of men belly dancing is a key factor in why the dance developed into something that "only girls do". It freaked them out so much to a) realise the pretty girls they were perving at were actually pretty boys or b) feel desirous towards dancing bodies that they were fully conscious were male, that they turned on them and described them as disgusting or laughable, in a way that is not quite the same as the way they described the women. They raved about the women. They glossed over the men.

Consider that the male dancers people like Flaubert saw (and, yes, slept with) were, like the female dancers, "for sale", and therefore their movements and presentation were viewed with sex on the brain for a start. Also, though, from what I have discerned, those male professional dancers were in a kind of "drag" - not impersonating women, but wearing clothes and makeup, etc, that suggested a kind of third gender.

For better or worse, the movements of belly dance have become associated strongly with "female" concepts, for at least 150 years in the west. Fertility, sensuality, exoticness, weakness, seductiveness, naturalness, wildness, secretiveness, Otherness. All "feminine" in our binary system. And so to see a man doing it can unsettle the viewer. The last taboo is gender. I truly believe that. We need to know what gender a person is (or is performing) and if we can't work it out, it unsettles us because we don't know how we're supposed to react. I remember meeting a person whose gender was completely impossible to determine and it totally freaked me out, I'm ashamed to admit.

I think this is why a lot of fairly conservative-thinking women, unless they are very entrenched in the dance and only want to see technique/performance, get quite spun out by a man being "feminine". They want to watch the man as an object of desire (however covertly) and they don't like the feeling that they might be perving on something feminine. Or else, they don't want to watch the man as an object of desire, so they want him covered and doing reassuring "manly" movements that put him squarely in the box of "man", to be admired for his masculine qualities but not perceived as a lust object. If the man is "different" - from "over there", or black, or Asian, or gay - it seems to be easier to swallow additional markers of difference. And there is probably an entire generation of younger dancers who want to see cute "bishie" guys being as femmy and gay as possible, like the cute guys in their Japanese comics.

Recently Mark Balahadia posted a clip of himself dancing on YouTube. I am sure Mark's performance epitomises the kind of performance that creates anxiety in a lot of audience members. Mark's dance is ravishing IMO. He loves Dina to bits and he dances just like her! He's got soft long hair and elegant "feminine" moves. There is nothing "manly" in Mark's performance, at least not in the conventional sense. But he is a man. He's not performing as Dina in drag, he's performing as Mark, whose tastes run to the theatrical and campy - but whose dance, seductive opening bit with the curtain aside, is not camp at all, at least not in my opinion. It's just lovely Raqs Sharqi.

The gender of the body is theoretically immaterial, though in actual fact it's inescapable. I kept forgetting he was a male, and then consciously reminding myself "that is a guy dancing, not a woman." Because I was responding to the dancer as being first genderless, then a woman, then a man. That has nothing to do with any gendered quality to the moves, but the gendered way in which we view certain bodies and certain body movements.

My opinion only of course! (And I am sure Mark won't mind me using this dance as an example - because it is such a good one.)
 

tim ema

New member
This is a very interesting subject! I am very new to bellydancing, though I have admired it from afar for many years..I did not know there were men who bellydanced!
Upon reading this thread, I went to YouTube and checked some out. Very wonderful! Quite a variety of styles, costumes, etc. All of the examples I saw were very impressive and heartfelt.

The issue of why men would be uncomfortable with the concept of men bellydancing is not something I can comment on (being female!), but I noticed something in myself when I was watching...I was most uncomfortable watching the shirtless dancer. He was VERY skilled and his dance was NOT sexually suggestive, but as I thought about the possible source of this discomfort I realized the only context I, personally, have (as a mid-thirties woman in suburban Canada) with watching a shirtless man dance is Chippendales! My cultural background is that women do not "watch" men. We DO, of course, but not openly. One does not blatantly watch a man's body and admire him or his body or his skill at whatever he's doing! Not done! Except, of course, when all your girlfriends decide they're going to get drunk and go out because the Chippendales have come to town. (If you're ME, you then pretend to get a cold and beg off, because the whole thing is embarrassing). I didn't think the male bellydancer I was watching on YouTube looked in ANY WAY like a stripper, just the venue (a nightclub with people sitting at tables) and his shirtless costume brought the association involuntarily to my mind.

Another thing occurs to me:
In my web-explorations about bellydance I have found a HUGE amount of the "goddess" associations that Yasmine mentioned. There is also a lot of the whole sisterhood/female initiation/Woman-is-Belly-is-Earth type stuff. I could see many women who view BD as a female "refuge" feeling threatened by men getting into it. As though their participation dilutes the inherent femaleness of it.

Personally I'm not into that aspect, so it doesn't influence my opinion. From what I've seen and read on this board, male dancers are doing this dance for the same reason I am!

For the first time, I am "self-referencing"! I am not bellydancing in the hopes that others will find me sensual and beautiful. I bellydance to celebrate the fact that I've discovered I am sensual and beautiful! I hope everyone can discover it for themselves!!

:)
AT
 

Mouse

New member
My cultural background is that women do not "watch" men. We DO, of course, but not openly. One does not blatantly watch a man's body and admire him or his body or his skill at whatever he's doing! Not done!
You have just expressed the exact same concept I have heard from men who have just watched bellydancing women for the first time (only in reverse). So many say that they aren't sure where to look, or even if they should look because thier whole lives they have been told not to focus their attention on a womans body. It can be very confronting and confusing. It only stands to reason that women could experience the same thing when watching male dancers right at first.
 

Moon

New member
recnadosir said:
When you think about it, who made the rule that men can walk around bare chested, but women can't? Men! And why? Because men have a harder time controlling their lust then women. All these rules that repress women, sexually or otherwise, were made by men, and for this same reason, I think.
I think you're right on this. Last week it was 35°C here and it was sooo unfair all the guys could take their shirts of and I couldn't. :mad: Hope they'll get a good sun burn ;) :p :D
 
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