Reflections from a Christian Dancer
think like every other aspect of our walk with Jesus I just have
to ask the question does belly dance come in line with the Word
of God. Erotic belly dancing. Well it
is a sexual act, isn't it? Is it? And the bible is very clear
where, with whom, and when any sexual act is to be done!"
So wrote correspondent
Miryam Nahar, in
a Letter to
the Editor of GS published in June, 2004. To date,
it has not received a reply on the GS "Letters" page.
I did a double-take
when I read Ms. Nahar's letter. It caused
me to think. Surely, many Jewish believers in Yeshua
and Christians are dancers but are we really engaged in "erotic
belly dancing," as she avers?
Dance of Enticement?
personally never thought of my dance as erotic or enticing. I've
considered it an attempt to distill the results of study about
particular ethnic and cabaret styles, amalgamate them into American
form, and present the outcome to an audience as entertainment.
the association of "belly dance" with "the belly" gives rise
to much conflict, when the dance is compared against traditional
Western forms. Here, I believe, is where the real controversy
are the focus of much of the dancing in Europe," writes Piper Hunt ("My Vision of the Desert
Archidance," GS, December,
2004.) And how! If you've ever seen Irish/Celtic dancing, you'll
notice stiff arms and stiff upper body along with extensive foot
and leg movements executed precisely in time to rhythms. Observing
the women, you'll often notice fannies
(covered by leotard) when dancers turn round. At a modern dance
or ballet performance, you may see the outlines of men's
genitals in tights. Few Western Christians would believe that
watching these types of performances might cause them to stumble
in their walk with Jesus.
belly dancer, on the other hand, receives no such pass, perhaps
because she is moving her hips and torso. In Western eyes, such
movements--no matter how heavily garbed the dancer--are often
I think of them
as athletic. It took me more than two years to learn how to execute
a belly roll (okay, I'm a slow learner!) and I place the accomplishment
in the same category as a gymnast's mastery of backbends and walkovers.
shimmies and belly rolls are foreign to traditional Western
dance. That which is foreign is also strange; and that which
is strange can be misunderstood.
While Ms. Nahar does not object to belly movements per se, she
suggests that "erotic belly dancing" is counterfeit because it
does not arise from "deep within our souls." A curious statement...
for how can a dancer's motive be ascertained?
suggest that for many dancers, if not most, the dance does
arise from deep within our souls. It's the result not only of
study, but also of a particular freedom we feel when given the
opportunity to move every part of the body, not just the few parts
specifically employed in Western dance.
Motive for performance,
however, can be quite a different matter. I've not personally
heard of a dancer who's gone out to perform in order to entice
or seduce. Venue plays a role, as well. A belly dancer hired for
a bachelor party may see the goal of her job as causing men to
salivate (at least) and if that is her motive, she will be performing
an "erotic" dance.
is not so much a specific characteristic of Middle Eastern dance
as one in which the dance is utilized to obtain a particular,
erotic effect. That being the case, Christian dancers might wish
to think carefully before accepting such performance assignments.
can also be an indicator of the type of crowd attracted to an
event and the type of performance a dancer is expected to offer.
A belly dancer
hired to perform in a raucous, cowboy bar may be encouraged to
use her performance to increase liquor sales and foster increasingly
wild behavior. While a dancer herself may neither drink nor behave
"wildly," her performance can be seen as encouraging
such effects. As a result, a Christian dancer's performance in
this type of venue is probably not a good idea.
The costumes chosen by a dancer have much
to say about how she perceives her dance. A quick look at some
of the Bellydancer
of the Year winners on the GS website shows relatively
conservative costuming, not "come-and-get-me" garb. Yet other
photos clearly show substantial amounts of flesh, notably fully
bare legs and minimal cover over a dancer's private parts. The
range of costumes for our dance spans the spectrum from covered
to the Las Vegas-style showgirl look.
I admit that
I have a hard time with some outfits, particularly those that
leave little of the dancer's body to the imagination. I'd have
a difficult time explaining to an observer that the dance is not
sexual, and not inclined to promote a provocative response among
not aware of the artistic aspects of Middle Eastern dance will
see bare flesh, and it is not at all clear that they will look
beyond the body to gain an appreciation of the art.
Of course, that
is a circumstance for the individual audience member to ponder.
A Christian dancer, determined to walk the line between biblical
morality and Middle Eastern dance performance, must make some
choices. It's more than a tad hypocritical to both defend biblical
morality and dress/ perform in an enticing manner. Though Middle
Eastern dance and costuming need not be erotic, we must shoulder
responsibility for our choices.
while I disagree with Ms. Nahar's conclusion
that our dance form is inherently "counterfeit" and out of accord
with biblical principles, I believe that the Christian dancer,
particularly, is challenged to find the right combination of style
and presentation that will allow her to experience the joy of
the dance without sacrificing her beliefs. The dance is broad
enough to allow many varieties of expression and it holds
a place for Christians too.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
7-18-03 My Greek
Transformation A Conservative Engineer meets the “Instigator
of Revolutions” by Barbara Grant
Rhea displayed boundless energy, far beyond my own at the best
of times. How would I be able to keep up with her?
God Belly Danced, Part
III: Biblical Accounts of Belly Dance in the Ancient Near East
character in the Bible has been so misunderstood as Salome. Critics
condemn her as a wanton slut. Supporters embrace her as a symbol
of oppressed female sensuality. Neither is true.
Photos from Sumaya’s
Chicago South Side Hafla by Shira
new to the Midwest, I thought it would be fun to attend one of
Sumaya’s haflas and meet other members of the greater Midwestern
comic by Lynette
dare they pollute our pond!"
BDSS Auditions January 14-15,
2005, North Hollywood, CA
-Inside the Bellydance Superstars Final Auditions by Michelle
-"What have I got to lose?" by Zaheea
-Photos by Lynette