Friday, May 14, 2010

Yes, Belly Dance is Sexy.

You know, Andrea and I sometimes encounter interesting problems around sexuality in our bellydance rehearsals and performances. Even within our circle of performers, there's an interesting dynamic. The drummers are the first line of appreciators for the dancers. We try to cultivate a mature and open acceptance of this kind of appreciation of sexual beauty and tension. Sometimes, however, a dancer will be uncomfortable with it for precisely the postmodern reasons we've been discussing on facebook.

Naturally, if we become aware of discomfort we tone it down, there's no reason to make anyone uncomfortable. But in a way its a perfect example of this tension. Bellydance in general is a perfect example. It is common in today's bellydance scene to actually deny that there is a sexual component to bellydance and to take offense if it is interpreted sexually. This has always struck me as being completely disingenuous. Bellydance *does* have a strong sexual component. It is not a desexualized celebration of female power and beauty as some maintain.

This strikes me as an extreme analogy for this postmodern dilemma. A dancer wears an elaborate costume that emphasizes their belly, including the lowest parts of their belly, their hips, and their breasts and then performs a dance that emphasize those same parts of the body, including movements that mimic sexual passion, intercourse, and childbirth. Many leaders in the bellydance community actively deny this connection and many dancers become offended or feign offense when someone (usually a man) finds the dance sexually exciting.

Bellydance is not *all* about sex. But it certainly has sexual components and it offers a wonderful opportunity for people to interact in a sexually appreciate way that nevertheless honors both parties.

Its a pre-trans thing. One can leer rudely at the dancer and behave as if she is an object of flesh that exists to satisfy your lusting gaze. Or you can watch her body moving and caress it with your eyes and your smile, encouraging her to share her beauty with the world, enjoying her bravery and skill. On the outside, there can seem to not be much difference. But on the inside, its a very different experience. Its the difference between sex with a friend or lover vs buying a handjob. Am I getting off or am I forming a relationship?