February 12, 2011


I like reading news from back home, not only because I get to catch up on everybody else, but because very few publications – if any – cover Filipino affairs. When I first started belly dancing, I could not help searching for news on bellydance groups and troupes, if only to see what everyone was up to.

The search went well. I made a few new friends, found old ones who were as interested in the dance as I was, and exchanged bellydance adventure stories. Oh, you dropped your veil during your solo? Me, too! You couldn’t shimmy because of a foot injury? Me, too! You messed up choreography at your live show? ME, TOO!!!

What irks me, however, beyond all measure, is how bellydance is constantly being hyped as “the ancient art of seduction.” First of all, no one knows the true origins of bellydance; it’s probably safe to say that it’s a very old dance, but its purposes are many. It has been used to aid in childbirth. It is a common dance that is danced in the streets of Northern Africa and the Middle East, by men and women alike.

It is called raqs sharqi, oriental dance, and the fellow who coined the term “belly dance” was an American who brought such dancers to the Chicago World’s fair in the 1890’s. The still prudish Americans found the bared bellies vulgar, and thus, a myth was born. Bellydancers were thought to be exotic seductresses who danced to take the men away from the decent, fully clothed Westerners.

What pisses me off is how many articles I read play up the myth, and how many of the articles back home talk about the “ancient art of seduction” at the get-go – as though bellydancers were glorified whores and people needed to be primed with the notion lest the layman would think otherwise. I hate how this not only propagates the myth, but gives rise to a standard against which bellydancers should purportedly be measured: a bellydancer would be considered good if and only if she can seduce a man with her movements.

Bellydancing is an art – and how I wish this were the first phrase in any article that covers the bellydance scene in the Philippines. If bellydancing were to be considered an art, and a dance form, then perhaps the sleazy bellydancers who likewise operate under the myth would disappear. Sleazy bellydancers, skanky dancers, people who PRETEND to bellydance when they can simply move their hips, give legitimate artists a bad name.

Moreover, journalists who launch into the Bellydance is an Ancient Art of Seduction spiel give other legitimate journalists a bad name.




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