I’m sure this blog post will land me on the National Registry of Belly Dance Haters. I’m sure I’ll anger the Correctness Police. Perhaps, I should send my boyfriend out to the Army/Navy Store to buy me a flak jacket to wear to my gigs.
But I think it’s time for the Cheesy Belly Dance Show to die.
We’ve all seen the James Bond movies and the Monkees music videos, with the dancers (in bad-ass vintage bedlah!) playing the femmes fatales. We’ve all been to bad Middle Eastern restaurants and touristy dinner-and-a-show attractions, seen some sort of circus-inspired spectacle with fire and snakes and acrobatics and wondered what on earth we just saw. Some of us have even been to birthday parties where the belly dancer had the brilliant idea to jump out of a birthday cake.
Don’t get me wrong. A little “ham and cheese” can be fun from a historian’s perspective. As for cheesy shenanigans that go on in today’s belly dance world? The 1970’s called. They want their Harem Scarum’ schtick back.
I know what you’re thinking: a little harmless kitsch won’t hurt anyone. Oh, wait – it does hurt people. Other dancers’ corny antics hurt the more traditional Middle Eastern artists like myself, who fight an uphill battle to explain that we DON’T wear face veils, or feed grapes to the Birthday Boy, or force audience members to get up and shake a tail feather to The Electric Slide. Sleaze and schtick also hurt Middle Eastern people, who face bellydance burnout after seeing a few too many bad, inauthentic performances – or a few too many random go-go dancers in pseudo-bellydance attire performing at “Arabian Nights” parties in nightclubs. And when your local Arab community gets burned out, you know this is the last straw: young Arabs will often decide against hiring a belly dancer for their wedding because they think it’s corny, old-fashioned and passe.
Dancers, do yourselves and your future audiences a favor. Say NO to cheesy, sleazy gigs.
While it’s true that some of us make a living as full-time entertainers, and while it’s also true that some of us may have to take reliable but unglamorous regular gigs to supplement our income, it pays to remember this: every gig is a PR opportunity, for yourself, for the dance, and for Middle Eastern culture. Sometimes, when one door opens, 100 others close. Seize the wrong opportunities and you may find yourself at a loss for the right opportunities further down the line.
I’m not trying to be the Fun Police. I’m just being real.
As for my “civilian” readers? I apologize on behalf of ALL belly dancers for everything sketchy and scandalous that’s come out of our arts community since Little Egypt brought belly dance to American soil at the Chicago World Fair in 1893. I apologize for every time a belly dancer has forced you to get up and dance on a table at a Greek restaurant in front of your boss (this happened to my dad – sorry, Dad). I apologize for every time you’ve seen a belly dancer at a wedding and felt like you were at a bachelor party. Most of us aren’t here to titillate and you won’t have to worry about us stealing your husband or draining your bar. Most of us just want to put on a good show.
As for those over-the-top Turn Uncle Bob Into a Sultan requests? I don’t do ’em. Many bad things from the 70’s have died, like the leisure suit, the Pet Rock, and disco. Let’s let the cheesy belly dance show die, too.
About Carrara: Carrara is a professional belly dancer based in Orlando, FL. Carrara proudly specializes in “cheese-free” wedding and party entertainment, and her “lactose” intolerance knows no limits. To hire an Orlando belly dancer for your show, please check out her Booking page. For party-planning tips and to stay on top of her adventures, “like” her Fan Page!