What Do People and Families Really Think About Belly Dance?Add to favorites
What do people and families really think about belly dance? This is an open discussion that extends and co-exists with the life of the dancer. When I started out belly dancing, the hardest part was acknowledging to myself that it was a life time plunge of commitment and sacrifice.
Belly dance is a different kind of world that is like an endless ocean of undiscovered possibilities and hidden treasure troves of opportunities. To the individual dancer, every time we get on stage, we take a chance of either acceptance or rejection. If you think about it, it’s kind of crazy, this innate need to entertain audiences far and wide without knowing ahead of time, our outcome. We go on faith, and it’s this faith that leads us insistently on our belly dance path. In the end, what we have within us is the one truth that lights the way even in the darkest of times. I’m not being so melodramatic out of silliness, in one way or the other, we all walk the path of an explorer. It’s because of our commitment to develop our dance personas, wherein lies our human nature to languish at times or flourish. It just depends on the quality of our daily lives and commitment to their families.
In a way, every dancer has their families up on stage with them which is why the essence of a dancer is always so much bigger then just herself. Drama, passion, anger and joy all come through within the movements of each gesture and hip thrust. I have danced after an argument with Daniel and after it was all said and done, I drove home with the issue less problematic. Dance allows our emotions a healthy outburst without losing our cool. Our audiences don’t know any better unless they see us carry our issues with us when we walk in the front doors.
My parents have come to a meeting of the minds with my dancing and yet I can still tell it makes them uncomfortable. The rest of my family is beyond the intrigued stage, and find it normal and perhaps a bit boring. Savanah and Daniel support me when they can but I have come to a comfort level within my dancing where I don’t need them to see every performance. Because I made my intention clear regarding belly dance, everyone around me realized it was a fact life. But what about women who really want to dance and they get backlash from family members or friends? Years ago, a dance friend of mine met a guy who she really liked. He was handsome, wealthy and he swept her off her feet. He knew she was a belly dancer and at first he celebrated her dancing, but as their relationship ensued months down the line, his true feelings came out. He didn’t like the costumes, he didn’t like the music and he thought she was flirting with men on purpose. He said it was degrading and he felt she should stop dancing all together. At first, because she really cared for him, she decided to take a break from dancing but every week she would hear from her dance friends and they would talk about the shows and dance gigs they peformed at. She was miserable and deep down inside, she knew she allowed his insecure feelings to dictate her individual happiness. Interestingly enough, she found it funny how he didn’t want her to dance but yet, he felt it was okay to go to gentlemen’s clubs around town. When she questioned him on it, he said that it was different because they were strippers and he wasn’t associated to them in any way. Finally the light bulb went off when she realized he was the epitome of double standards, so she ended their relationship. The problem here isn’t strippers, it’s the mind set of people who live their lives according to double standards, insecurities and phobias. Plus, hello…we keep our clothes on!!
One experience that I had with a student has to this day made me aware of how interlaced our private lives are with the feminine self. A new student came to her first class because she had just lost a lot of weight and she was feeling confident about herself. She had always wanted to learn how to belly dance and decided it was a good time to start. As the classes progressed, I could tell she was happy and enjoying herself. But every time her husband came to pick her up, he would sulk and ask in a loud voice when class would be over. I finally lost it and told him that he would have to wait outside. He was angry and called to his wife to leave with him. Unfortunately, even under the protest of students asking her to stay, she left with him and the following day called me, telling me she would have to quit taking classes. She said her husband felt they were a waste of time and he didn’t like his time being taken up, having to drop her off and pick her up. I offered to help out by picking her up and dropping her off but she told me that the classes were causing problems in her marriage. She allowed her joy and bliss to be swept aside for a selfish man. How many women in our society do this and at what cost?
The mind can become scrambled and confused, especially when it comes to sexuality and sensuality. Society throws us into a melting pot that has nothing to do with us. We are apart of a different kind of buffet that has endless tastes, smells and delights, so the desire to separate our dance from others types, is based on it’s own unique aroma, called the spice of life.
I went through problems with my first marriage and I had friends who supported my ex’s feelings. I remember a friend who knew nothing about belly dance, came up to me and said, “Why would you want to move like that in front of a lot of people? I think it would be very embarrassing to do that.” What do you say to someone as ignorant as that? It was apparent, that this woman had self image issues, besides wanting to drag myself confidence down to her level. Now when I see some of these friends, they can’t wait to ask me about what I’m doing and they genuinely give me support that they didn’t in the beginning. I think the difference with belly dance from other dance forms is this “prove me wrong” type of attitude. It’s like we have to go through a rite of passage with family and friends that can be exhausting. The saving grace for most of us, is the empowerment of who we become as we progress through life as belly dancers. I know we really don’t have anything to prove, but in the end, just the fact we are doing what we love, speaks volumes that is not only heard but felt by many.
There’s the other side to this coin that is really on the perverted side. I had a private student, whose husband insisted that he watch us practice. He loved belly dance, or so I was told and his wife would be required to dance for him after I left, which I thought was kind of weird. Anyways, I noticed that he was asking me to stay for lunch more and more after class and then he would sit close to me at the kitchen table and before I knew it…his hand was on my thigh. If looks could kill…he would have been massacred. Needless to say after that incident, the private classes ended at their house and I made her come to my studio…alone.
And…believe it or not, nightclubs sometimes attract the darndest people, some who have bizarre fetishes. I had an experience with a couple that leaned towards the kinky side. A husband and wife would come and watch me perform at a restaurant/nightclub called Sinbad’s in Dallas. They would come on the weekends specifically to see me perform…ahhh…well, this is what they said. The woman asked for my business card and told me she was very interested in having me come to their house for private classes. They were a very attractive couple and I thought she would down the line be a beautiful dancer. I got a call the following week from the woman stating she wanted to take classes but she had a bizarre request. She wanted me to specifically wear, an evening gown, garter belt and high heels. Time stood still and for a few seconds, I couldn’t get a word out no matter how hard I tried. When my voice came back, I asked her why she would insist I wear evening clothes and heels for dance class. Her answer through me for a loop, to say the least. She said, “I want us both to be dressed up so we can dance together, in front of my husband and then maybe take our clothes off.” Panic, fear and every major emotion went through me and I tried to politely decline her offer. She was insistent then her husband came on the line and I finally just hung up and had to sit there for a minute in order to gain my senses. I’m normally not a nervous Nellie by nature, but I was panicking the following weekend because I was dreading the mere chance they might be at the club sitting at their favorite table. Lady luck was on my side, because I didn’t hear or see a peep out them that weekend. But my luck didn’t last, because a few weeks later they came to see my show and asked the owner if they could talk to me. I was in my dressing room when the owner came over and said a couple out front wanted to talk to me. My heart dropped and I told him I would be out in a minute. I knew it was them, and low and behold it was, so I went over to the table with one thing on my mind, to set things straight. They wanted to talk to me about the phone call and I put my hand up and said, “I’m a professional dancer and what you were asking me to do was insulting. We have nothing more to discuss.” So I walked away from the table and never saw them after that…thank God!
Some of the strange things people say, makes me wonder if we have thoughtless people out there, or if our dance puts people in a hypnotic trance that makes them say things they normally wouldn’t under normal circumstances. When I danced at a restaurant in town called Pars Cuisine, there were a few occasions’ people asked me questions that seemed out of place. One guy was sitting with his wife and parents and he blurted out, “I here that belly dancing is great for sex.” His wife stared at him, his parents went white and then red and I tried not to laugh. I told him belly dance was good for everything and I emphasized the everything part. Another patron accused me of flirting with her husband who I must say was about as attractive as a doorknob. Anyways, I told her that I was really dancing for her since it was a woman’s dance and her husband said, “See, I told you she liked women.” That was one of those moments where I just stood there and stared at the customer. Poor couple, they got my gospel according to Leyla on all aspects of belly dance, the history, customs and expected manners from customers etc. I think that was their first and last time at the restaurant. Another customer asked me where the nearest strip club was, and I told him I told him I wouldn’t know. He said, “I find that hard to believe since you’re a belly dancer. I thought all belly dancer were strippers too.” I went from peaceful to ballistic in sixty seconds and made it clear the two had nothing in common. His friend understood my cold stare and suggested they go and ask someone else. I told his friend, “Good idea.”
With belly dance, it’s easy to see why people with no desire to study or research our dance form can get the wrong impression. But in many ways, it’s a sad sign of the times because we represent one of the oldest dance forms on the planet. I stress to my students, that once they begin their journeys in belly dance, they will be required to educate masses until the day they retire or breath their last breathe. Though I must admit, that with belly dance I have had the most amazing experiences of my life and the most bizarre. But hey, that’s what blogs or books are for. Who else could tell such stories without making them up…only a belly dancer.
Trail Blazing Journey
Thus far I feel really good, lots more energy and I have a new vitality. I am taking Thyroid Caps by Solaray, and Tangy Tangerine for vitamin and minerals. Menopause is a thing of the past and I do believe I feel better and back to normal because of the Thyroid Caps. Daniel can fit into his pants again..so he is very excited and I think I’ve lost a few pounds. I am doing my first video this weekend so we’ll see how I look in front of the camera. I am losing slowly but I am steady and I think with no cheeze and bread that I can really feel the difference.
The article I wrote about Barbara Sayre Harmon is going ot be in the next issue of Chronicles Belly Dance Magazine so those of you who haven’t seen the interview of Barbara for BDV, go to www.bellydancevillage.com