Belly Dancers of Color:
Defeating the Stereotypes
So what are these stereotypes? How many are there? Truth be told, there is no set number of stereotypes out there so I’ll tell you of the ones I know. Brace yourself…
“I’m too big/fat to bellydance”
This here is a big’un (get it, big’un). Many American women believe that they are simply too big to bellydance. Bullhonkery I say! That’s the result of living in a society that praises the elusive size negative 0. Bellydancing can be many things; one of them being the celebration of the body. There are many women (and men) out there dancing with body types ranging from bone-sick skinny to normal-ish to thick to curvalicious and then some. Many professional dancers, cabaret and tribal, are above the status quo for body size (did you hear that: professional dancers). All in all, these people are comfortable enough to shake what genetics gave them and not care about that others say.
“Women of color don’t look like bellydancers”
“You do know this is not a booty dance…(Mostly directed to Black women)”
Okay I will admit these two here had me a little irate because 1) it shows that ignorance is alive and well and 2) someone has made these statements to me. Little did I know that other women have also had these things said to them in some way or another. I believe that people say this statement because they believe that some women cannot dance without out making it vulgar. We have the media to thank in part for that. That is why (although I would never condone violence) I believe that those who knowingly say either of these statements to a bellydancer should be shaken vigorously. Women (and men) are not built the same. Some of us have more jiggle in our wiggle and more pep in our step. That can make a move look completely different on several women. Overall, stand up for yourself and don’t let anyone take your joy or stop you from dancing.
“So…what else do you do besides bellydance?”
Although it may appear to be an innocent question, this makes my inner demon scream. I blame men (not all, but some) for this stereotype mostly because it’s the men who say this kind of craziness. This stereotype is a relic from people who didn’t know the difference between bellydance and the hootchy-kootchy. Once again, stand up for yourself and don’t let your joy be taken away because of someone’s foolishness.
So what have we learned from this? That depends on you. I hope that by reading this if you’ve been on the fence about bellydancing you’ll give it a try, whether you do it by class or by a video. I hope that if you are already a student no matter your age, size, or skin color you’ll keep at it. The points that I have stated are only some of the disdain that is out there. Not everyone will experience these stereotypes, some may experience them more than others. My response to it, those people aren’t you, they’ll never be you, so don’t let them dictate your happiness. Love yourself. And remember, when all else fails…shake something.
Happy Zill Clanging,
About The Author
As an African American bellydancer Razi strives to find diversity. She has learned, and believes, that bellydance (aka Oriental dance / Middle Eastern dance) is a dance that does not take from one single culture. The dance itself is older than most civilizations. She also believes that both women and men can enjoy being a part of this dance. She hopes to introduce and inspire as many people (regardless of age, shape, and ethnicity) as she can to the dance.
Razi is thankful to all those who have inspired her and kept her in love with this ancient art form.Her current aspirations are to master the zills, floor work, and to attend the 2009 B.O.C.A. (Bellydancers of Color Association) festival and one of the Rakkasah festivals in the near future. Hope to see you there.
The contents of this page are copyrighted 2008 by LaTrisha Allen. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is forbidden.