If It Shimmies Like A Duck...
The Holiday Break Belly Dancer
Welcome to today’s installation of “What Gets Dilara’s Goat."
The other day, I was sorting out my pictures from previous trips, and generally lamenting the fact that I am not currently in my second home of Istanbul, when I came across a photo of myself and one of my very good friends.
We’re at one of the fun little dance-and-dinner venues for tourists in Turkey, and my BFF was one of 3 belly dancers set to perform that night. I was looking forward to watching all the belly dance performances. This photo was taken after the first belly dancer performed... that’s her in the middle and yes, that’s me on the right. I know, I look miserable.
And by miserable, I mean furious. My glare could burn holes in the back of someone’s head, and that someone was the belly dancer standing next to me. Can you guess why? Perhaps the money falling out of her bra will tip you off.
I’m not someone who generally hates on dancers. I’m not going to dog someone because of their style, their technique or their ability. In fact, I’ll be the first person to say I’m not the world’s best belly dancer, not even close. I’m just a girl who loves to dress up and experience a culture that has existed for ages before I was even an idea in the universe.
So how could one dancer make me want to kill with my eyes?
She was someone I like to call a Holiday Break Belly Dancer. Yes, I’m coining the term. An HBBD is someone who throws on a some belly dance bling and proceeds to shimmy, shake and seduce the audience members.
This chick used a Saidi Cane to hook men from behind their heads and pull them in for a closer look at her chest. She got up on tables and shimmied without care of the crotch-shots the audience had.
Bottom-line: She danced, but it was not belly dance she performed.
Now, what someone chooses to do on their own time: That’s their business. But when someone misrepresents belly dance so completely in front of an impressionable audience IN ONE OF BELLY DANCE’S SACRED CITIES, well yeah. I considered applying for James Bond’s license to kill.
What did I do? I went over to the tables where the Americans and other english-speaking countries were sitting and explained that while she may look like a belly dancer, it was not belly dance. I assured them that there would be, in fact, an amazing belly dancer (my bff) coming out later. I was nice, engaging and so-not preachy to the visitors. I felt better, like perhaps I had saved the day, setting the record straight on the art of oriental dance....
Until one lady responded:
“Wow, your English is amazing. I didn’t know Turks could speak English so well.”
The rest of the tourists nodded in agreement and went on talking amongst themselves about the cute little translation mistakes they have encountered on their trip.
I was speechless. Damn tourists. Sigh. Did my message fall on deaf ears?
Can we control what others do in the name of belly dance? Of course not.
Should we stand up and address misrepresentation when it appears? I do not know.
Do belly dancers take themselves too seriously, or not seriously enough? That’s one question I’d enjoy discussing with some of my belly dance family over a glass of wine.
I do know this - I do feel regret, for not going to the source of my frustration - the dancer pictured beside me. What would I have said, I don’t know... but I think I would have started by saying:
“Would you like to learn to belly dance?”