But isn’t belly dancing like stripping?

Absolutely not! This is one of the most common misconceptions about belly dance. While belly dance is “exotic” in that it’s different and special, it has nothing to do with “exotic dance”.

There is no erotic content or intention in belly dance:

  • We do not attempt to seduce or titillate audience members
  • Most of us won’t perform for all-male audiences
  • We do not remove our clothes

We couldn’t strip, even if we wanted to – our costumes are so carefully engineered that they are often quite difficult to get out of!

However, some people mistakenly thing that belly dance is erotic for a few reasons:

The harem fantasy

Many people mistakenly believe the myth that belly dance originated as a means of seducing the sultan in the Ottoman harems. This is false. While belly dance has been adapted for the stage, its true source is women dancing for other women. To this day, it’s done by women of all ages, from tiny little girls to their great-grandmothers, most often at parties among family and close friends.

We move our hips and torso

Western women are not encouraged to move our hips and torso, and most western dance emphasizes the arms and legs. Since most people have only seen hip and torso movements in the context of “exotic dance” or sexy dancing on MTV, they read an erotic intent into belly dance that isn’t there.

Also, keep in mind that when westerners first saw belly dance, they were accustomed to seeing women tightly laced into a corset, so any movement of the torso was highly scandalous to them. Unfortunately, this victorian attitude continues to give belly dance a bad reputation, even though it is completely undeserved.

Impostors and Bad Apples

Not everyone wearing a belly dance costume is belly dancing. Some strippers and exotic dancers try to capitalize on this naughty reputation by incorporating “harem girl” themes and costumes in their acts. This is exotic dancing, not belly dance.

And, unfortunately, every industry has a few bad apples whose bad behavior reflects badly on everyone else. There are a few dancers who cross the line of appropriateness because of greed or ignorance. Just like the inappropriately-dressed coworker or boss who makes unwelcome advances, these dancers are not representative of belly dance as a whole.

You see our bellies

While most belly dance costumes expose our bellies, you see less of a belly dancer’s body than a ballet or broadway dancer’s, and far less than most dancers on MTV. Many women at my gym show more skin in yoga class than I do in performance.

We move with confidence

A woman who moves her body with confidence and joy, and without apology is naturally appealing. This is true regardless of the dance form, and it even applies when walking down the street. Since belly dance is so much fun and such a great confidence-builder, we naturally glow on stage. But there’s nothing sexual about our intentions or our dance.

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