Wednesday, September 03, 2008

the male belly dancing scene

A few days ago I finally met Ms. Maria Aya, the belly dance teacher for the dance school "Oriental Expression" in Athina, Greece. In the first session, she watched me danced (I was so nervous and a little bit jet-lagged and so I was so stiff and forgot many of the moves). And after that, she introduced me to the world of belly dance, gave me so much information (I took note and I am writing something of an introduction about it. I'll publish it later in this blog) and later taught me some of the moves.

We watched some videos, including those of her dance partner, Prince Kayammer, an Egyptian dance choreographer and performer from Greece. He, who turns out to be quite a hottie, dances Egyptian dances, including the belly dance. What he showed were not only fabulous moves with difficult techniques, but also his sense of confidence, stage act, audience interaction, and fun improvisations.

Prince Kayammer of the Sultan of Raqs

Apparently, Prince Kayammer, like the Egyptian male belly dancer Tito, is famous and well accepted in the belly dance world. Prince Kayammer is also a member of Sultan of Raqs, an international male oriental dance troupe. Prince Kayammer and Tito both dance the male version of the belly dance (I'll tell you the history of male belly dance later), which have different movements (stronger and more masculine, of course) from the female dancers. In some of their videos, they either wear pants with cropped vests (to show their bellies), or a bedlah, a traditional dance wear that originated from the shepherd's dress, offering full coverage with a belt to accentuate the hip movements.

You know what I think? The honest to God's truth?


They dance very well. I even gasped at their mastery of the techniques. But then again, they do it the men's way, with the stiffer wrist movements, the not-so-drastic hip circles, and the costume.

If it is the reason why their dance is more accepted, then maybe, like it or not, admit it or not, there is still some sort of gender discrimination, even in dancing. Women should act like women and men should act like men.

The problem is, I'm a man (so to speak, I'm 25 years old anyway) who is gay and feminine. And through belly dancing, I express my love and my passion in dancing and in swaying my hips. And not only that, I also express myself as a feminine gay man.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, sissies are common, although not really in demand for the relationship market. Female belly dancers are everywhere, but I know only two other male belly dancers (I've met them) and one of them exploits his femininity to dance the belly just for laughs. I know he can do the belly dance (he is one of the students in the previous dance school I went to), but he combines it with slapstick acts and really thick make-up. Et voila, there you have it, a drag queen who can belly dance.

The other one is only 17 years old, attended a one-week belly dance workshop in Dubai, does one hell of a backbend, but lacks what one calls a proper fashion sense. Okay, so I just said that out of respect of the dancer. But still, I don't think he's as feminine as I am.

And then, there was one time when our troupe was hired for the launch of a magazine. The magazine didn't want me to perform. After that, gigs poured in. One of them was for a health workshop for a sister brand of the first magazine. At the last minute, I was finally included to perform. I worked my ass off for it and thoroughly enjoyed every minute there (the workshop was for 35+ ladies and after the performance, each one of us - there were seven of us - went down from the stage to assist the participans - about 75 women - doing the routines).

You know what happened? When the magazine was out, there was this two full page, full colour article with our pictures, and apparently, since I was the one dancing in front, it was easier to crop me out of the photographs of us dancing up on the stage. The photo was taken from the side when we lined up to backbend. They cropped me out.

Words could never express how much I was devastated.

There was also this one dance centre in Jakarta that says that it is the first and only authentic dance centre of Egyptian belly dance. It rejected male belly dancers, although clearly mentioning in their website that there are great male belly dance teachers and the owner / head instructor of the dance teacher also had a male belly dance teacher once.


Well, I assume this fight will never stop. And that's why I created this blog, to chronicle the journey of a feminine, gay male belly dancer living thousands of miles away from Egypt, Turkey, and Greece.


Anonymous said...

Yay, new blog? Love the header! So does this mean Little Scars is closed? (you haven't updated it in AGES anyway) Heran, lagi liburan kok sempet2nya set up blog baru, hahahaha...

And yeah, well, essentialist gender roles and identity (and thus, discrimination) is still the dominant view in this world :( Keep fighthing, darl! ;)

Anonymous said...

emang susah sih jadi feminine, gay male belly dancer (dengar ceritanya aja terlihat susah, apalagi ngelakuinnya)...tapi jangan patah semangat ya congki.

Anonymous said...

keep up the spirit :) you can make a difference even it's only a small one.

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