Men in the DanceOriginally Published in Hawaii Belly Dancer Magazine.
by Amy Hoff
Reproduced here by kind permission of the author.
When I began teaching in Atlantic Canada, I knew from the beginning that I would teach men. There are several reasons for this. Historically, men have always been involved with the dance; even today, both men and women use belly dance moves in discos in Cairo. I was trained in traditional Jordanian dance by an instructor from Jordan who taught me her family's dance style. I have since danced with, worked for, and learned from Middle Eastern people. Most of them do not have a problem with men belly dancing. If someone has a passion for the dance, who is to say they cannot participate?
I have spoken to many men who are interested in the dance for its own sake. They have told me that some teachers outlaw men from their classes. I find this very sexist, and yes, it is quite possible to be sexist towards men. Women have been shut out of so many things it would seem that they would not wish to shut out others. Besides, there is nothing more interesting than a male in your troupe or performance.
Several men showed up and worked very hard in my classes. All of them were serious about the dance. I realize that there are people out there (men and women both) that are up to no good, but it's unfair to let one bad experience direct your actions. The men who took classes from me were extremely dedicated and a lot of fun to dance with.
One of the men stayed on throughout the entire run of the class and performed in our show. He was a talented dancer and interested in the art form. A caveat, however, is this: I dated this person and in that sense he turned out to be less than chivalrous. This can create a rift within your troupe. So my advice is: never date your students. Romantic attachments can spell trouble for your troupe down the road if things do not work out.
Even after this experience, I am still open to men in my classes. I believe that belly dance is for everyone, all ages, sexes, and sizes. Part of what dancers love about this art form is that it works so well with all body types and makes everyone feel sexier. Why deny such a wonderful experience to anyone? I know several male bellydancers have an honest passion for the dance; the first that comes to mind is Zorba, the Veiled Male. He has several informative and thoughtful articles on his website.
A man who loves belly dancing has to face several challenges. There are many people who assume that if a man enjoys belly dance, he must be gay. This is strange because often I have not seen anything more beautiful and masculine than a man belly dancing. They also have to deal with not being accepted into the bellydance community because of their gender and turned away from classes. They may even have to put up with cruel comments from their friends. Many of these men are amazingly talented, and you will be proud to have taught them. There are also male belly dance instructors; I took classes from a few of them. I recommend taking classes from a male professional belly dancer; they see the dance in a unique and interesting way.
In the end, we all know the exotic beauty of this dance. There are men who are dedicated, honest students who will complement your troupe or show. In fact, many of them are headliners: Jim Boz, DaVid from Scandinavia, Jamil from Australia, and several others. Just watching these men dance shows their passion, and the great beauty that can be achieved by men in this art form. Let's all break free from the restraints society has placed us in and open our minds. If he's brave enough to ignore all the stereotypes and come to class, I say: let him dance!