My morning ritual of coffee and Google stats yielded a blogging opportunity too good to pass up. Some user in Brunswick, Ohio landed on my site with the following Google keyword search: “Is it not classy to have a belly dancer at your wedding reception?”
Dear Google searcher in Brunswick, if you’re following me, this one is for you!
I’m writing this because my friend in Brunswick addressed perhaps the most lingering stereotype about our often misunderstood art. While belly dancers are a must-have at Arab, Turkish, Greek and even many Indian weddings, and while many American couples are now looking to brighten up their reception with glamorous “outside the box” entertainment, many brides still have some reservations about the nature of our shows.
It’s only natural to be concerned about making your guests happy and comfortable. As we discovered in my post The Connoisseur’s Guide to Hiring a Belly Dancer, the right belly dancer will happily work with you to make sure your entertainment is both classy and fun. Today, we’ll focus on a few common concerns and their practical solutions.
1. “Belly dance, huh? Isn’t that just another form of burlesque or striptease?”
Comparing belly dance to stripping is like comparing apples to oranges. While I won’t say one’s better than the other, the difference is night and day. Belly dance is not a dance of seduction. It’s a cultural art that comes from family-style social dances done by people of all ages. Any competent professional belly dancer will NOT perform anything you won’t see in a G-rated Disney movie. Unfortunately, some “belly dancers” fuse burlesque and bellydance into the same routine. Do your guests a favor: save belly-burley fusion for a more avant garde setting and book a more traditional act for your wedding.
2. “We’re having our reception at the Ritz Carlton. Isn’t belly dance a little bit cheesy for an upscale venue?”
We’ve all been to a birthday party where a scantily clad belly dancer jumped out of a cake, put a turban on Uncle Bob’s head, and proceeded to feed him grapes. Yikes! As a diehard non-cheddar entertainer, this is my favorite myth to dispel. Belly dance is more than a novelty act. There’s lots of elegance to be found in a classic belly dance show with traditional Middle Eastern music, sparkling costumes, and a more tasteful style of audience interaction. If your goal is to avoid the whole “harem-scarum” spectacle at your reception, feel free to address your concerns with a belly dancer – or better yet, hire a professional with experience performing in upscale venues.
While it’s true that we show our stomachs to enhance our movements, we actually cover up more than most Latin ballroom dancers, cheerleaders, ballerinas, and Broadway performers. For what it’s worth, I also wear a LOT more clothing than 99.9% of people I see walking around on or near Cocoa Beach! While some ateliers are producing risque designs, most of our stagewear consists of full-length skirts, an embellished bra top (our costume bras are constructed to be bullet-proof and hold everything in place), and usually some sort of arm decorations. If you still want a more “covered” look, most of us have some sort of galabeya or embellished dress, or can wear an opaque body stocking underneath a costume for modesty. These are also good pre-show concerns to address with a dancer.
4. We’re an American couple and we’re having a traditional reception, but our wedding planner thinks a belly dancer will look out of place. Would a belly dance show really appear too “random,” or can we pull it off?
For starters, it’s your day, so don’t let anyone talk you out of doing something you think would be special. Personally, I try to make my shows blend right in with the overall theme and visual look you’re going for, right down to the finer design elements. (Having a beach wedding? I’ll wear my mermaid-themed costume – and that’s just scratching the surface!) Also, a show will feel less out of place with a proper introduction from the DJ – so if there’s any special reason why you’re hiring a belly dancer, or a personalized message, please communicate these details with your DJ, because I find that they add a bit more meaning to my shows. Finally, audience participation is key. If everyone’s too busy dancing and learning new moves with the belly dancer, they will forget that she’s not “supposed” to be there and simply have fun!
5. Our guests are Middle Eastern. If we hire an American belly dancer, she’ll give us an overly Americanized show.
Naturally, you want to honor your heritage with an authentic belly dance presentation. And there’s a lot of “interesting” fusion belly dance going on out there. However, any good professional belly dancer, regardless of her heritage, will try her best to honor your wishes and represent the country your guests come from. An experienced dancer will also understand how to structure her shows for different types of audiences, all while respecting the “Do Not Play” list for that crowd. (I know that Inta Omri might not be the best choice for a wedding, and Turkish music would make me very unpopular among Armenian guests). When in doubt, ask to pre-screen her musical selections before the show.
Final Summation: Hopefully I resolved some of your lingering doubts. If you’re in Orlando and you’re interested in booking a belly dancer for your wedding reception, please head over to my Booking page for more info. I love to chat with newly engaged couples about their options for highly customized, 100% cheese-free wedding entertainment.
About Carrara: Carrara is a professional belly dancer offering elegant, authentic entertainment for weddings and special events in Central FL (Orlando, Melbourne, Daytona).