Belly Dance vs. Burlesque: A Look Back

This was a journal entry that I wrote back in 2006. After reading it, it still rings true for me to this day so I thought I’d share. Let me know in the comments which side of the coin you are on. Do you love belly dance and burlesque? Why or why not?

Here is the delicious story of hypocrisy at it’s finest…

Belly Dance vs. Burlesque: A Look Back [blog]

I’m vending at a smallish belly dance event. A woman purchases a t-shirt from me for her daughter. Rather than saying thank you and continuing what she had been doing, she sits down in a chair behind my booth next to me. Which was a rather strange invasion of space, however I like to talk with other belly dancers so I didn’t mind so much. Within twenty minutes, she has given me her life story… I’m thinking okay, I get that a lot. I’m usually nice and listen well. Then she starts to discuss belly dance politics with me. She tells me that a few of her troupe members have begun to do burlesque and she is appalled! She has had to throw them out of the troupe, so she tells me, and she then explains that she told them “if you want to be a stripper, then you can’t be a belly dancer”. Well, up to this point, the conversation had been rather usual. Mostly about her children, ex-husband, etc. Now she had my attention.

She complains for some time about the fact that so many belly dancers have turned to burlesque. She goes on to lecture me on her opinion. “Belly dance is a sacred art,” she says, “it shouldn’t be confused with stripping”. On this point, I agree. I do not want the community at large to misconstrue the two art forms. However, that being said, both belly dance and burlesque ARE art forms. They should both be treated as such. Not all patrons at a museum like the same art work, yet they just move on until they find something that strikes them. Then they linger with that piece of artwork. They view it from all angles, decide what they like and don’t like about it, and they create an intelligent and justified OPINION.

Now for the hypocrisy; the event that I spoke to this dancer at length was approximately two months ago. Last weekend, I was attending a non-traditional belly dance event (which I loved, by the way). While visiting the restroom, I see the same dancer that I had been speaking with previously a couple of months before. She had a cover up on, thus I assumed she was dancing. Later in the evening, while I was vending, I saw the woman take the stage and you will not believe what she was wearing. She came out on stage in panties, a bra, tall black pleather boots and very sexy accessories. She danced to some sort of rock music, although I can’t remember what it was because I couldn’t take my eyes off of her sexy, pole dance moves. I was shocked! The same woman that lectured me two months ago about not mixing belly dance and burlesque; about how she threw a few girls out of her troupe because they were performing burlesque. Here she was in all her glory, doing burlesque!

If you like belly dance AND you want to do burlesque, more power to you. I happen to like both art forms. I consider them to be both valid and beautiful ways for women to express themselves. If you like belly dancing but do not like burlesque, then don’t watch it! It is as simple as that. Remember that it is just your opinion that you do not like it and not everyone shares that opinion with you. PLEASE don’t bad mouth belly dancers who perform burlesque separately. These women are simply exploring other art forms. You would not put down a belly dancer who was also a painter, photographer, or tap dancer. Don’t be a hypocrite.

Do you love belly dance and burlesque? Why or why not?

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2 thoughts on “Belly Dance vs. Burlesque: A Look Back

  1. Unbelievable.

    I have seen both Burlesque separately and burlesque-inspired fusion belly dance (done by Suhaila’s troupe, no less). I was uncomfortable with the overt sexuality of the burlesque (admittedly not typical burlesque, it was something called Geeklesque), but I thought it was well-produced and expertly crafted onstage. If you like that kind of thing, it was a great show. I was surprised when I saw Suhaila’s group perform the burlesque-inspired number at Rakkasah and REALLY enjoyed it! I thought it was choreographed well, well-executed, and was uniquely crafted.

    Many people had a problem with that number because it ‘wasn’t belly dance’ and someone even said ‘she should know better’ but I thought it was cool and I told her so afterward because I wanted to give my thumbs up in what I thought was possibly a negative crowd.

    I don’t know much about burlesque, other than the performers take off their clothes, so I can’t really compare. They ARE two different forms. Successful fusion takes a deep understanding of each form you’re fusing, and I think people often get triggered by the sexuality factor because of their baggage around sexuality itself, not necessarily the art form.

    Anyway, I think it’s ok to be triggered, but acknowledge that as what it is, your personal discomfort, not someone else’s ‘classlessness’ or what-have-you.

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