Sunday Night Shimmy

An old friend of mine is in town, and she was asked to guest drum at a bellydance performance tonight. As I’ve rarely gotten to see her drum, I went, & dragged my sister with me. (Betty, sadly, is not very mobile). I’ve seen bellydance performed before, but tonight, on top of my usual introverted discomfort, I kept thinking about how I was supposed to be in that room.

The dancers were all lovely. The first act, Sri Devi, was (I’m guessing) still pretty young to dancing, but she was fabulously talented and funny and fun in her performance. She seems like the type of performer who has a real star in her.

The final performance, by Hannah Nour, was really a hit out of the park. She had what I call “sea legs” for a performer – the way sailors are more comfortable on a boat than on land, some people are more comfortable performing than not. (Betty was that kind of actor.) She showed no self-concsiousness, seemed like she was really engaged and enjoying herself, and was technically stellar. And her clothes! Like a Hindu Love Goddess, all light blues and greens and whites and pinks – like a female version of the traditional representation of Rama.

Because on one level bellydance is a seductive art, sexual, exhibitionist, and yet it’s also social. It’s not burlesque. And I couldn’t figure out how to watch, at all. Most of the guys sit there just kind of ga-ga (in a more or less sexualized gaze) and a lot of the women were other dancers who were there to cheer on their friends or learn or just to appreciate the art.

But I was just there, looking like a dyke in the corner, and now that I’m aware people see me as a lesbian, it’s all I think about. I suppose if I actually desired women, I’d sit there like most of the guys, enjoying the sensuality & beauty of the ladies dancing without feeling weird about it. But because my desire, per se, is not engaged, I just sit there wondering how to watch, because it’s still titillating – dance is innately seductive, no?. I find myself tied up in knots, and kind of uncomfortable despite the performers being very comfortable with themselves and the dance form.

(I know, I know; I’m self-conscious & I think too much. Tell me something I don’t know.)

But despite my own silliness, DO GO see bellydance if you can! It’s a cool art form. The night I saw tonight happens every Sunday (thought with different performers, I think).

3 Replies to “Sunday Night Shimmy”

  1. My spouse and I love to watch good belly dancers. Did in the Before Time, and still do now. Yes, it’s sensual and arousing, but somehow we just take it in without learing. We let the arousal stay inside and just appreciate the skill involved in creating such a beautiful art form.

    One of my post-surgery dreams is to take belly dance lessons, hoping that maybe I will have a few more curves by then than I do now. I have no ambitions to perform in public, but I would love to learn how to move my body that way for my own satisfaction. I’m sure it enhances movement even when one is not dancing.

    Maybe next time we see dancers (probably at a Beats Without Borders show), I’ll be brave enough to ululate. 🙂

  2. A few things-
    1) there is such a thing a male belly dancers…it can be pretty dynamic, and bold…you might want to watch a bit of that Helen, and see what kind of gaze you have
    2) If one is a dancer oneself, it’s not hard to watch belly dance as dance…and then the problem is that from a Western perspective, the movement range is limited, the dances are repetitious. There are better and worse dancers, and better and worse performers, but like nearly all folk idioms its range of emotion and meaning is extremely restricted.


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