When I heard today that a local performance group portrayed a belly dancer in a strip-tease scene, I felt a little sick. I’ve seen a few high-level burlesque performances; they’ve told stories of love, mishap…timeless tales that we can all relate to. They’re entertaining.
But belly dance, to me, is a spiritual, respectful, and sacred form of movement art that unifies women around the globe, celebrates history, and is making history. I, along with many of the belly dancers I know, work hard to maintain a high reputation for it. Yes, it’s sensual; there’s no denying that, but it’s a celebration of the female form in a positive way that honors women.
Onca O’Leary is reviving vaudeville in the eastern United States and beyond. In my humble opinion, she’s a goddess. Check out her shows and workshops whenever possible. (Photo ©Robert Stoutamire, 2010)
Madame Onca of the Mezmer Society, the Accidental Circus, Baraka Mundi, and producer of TribOriginal, knows about belly dance and burlesque (and so much more). She kindly had this light to shed: “I think that burlesque in the sense of the striptease needs to remain a separate animal from stage belly dance. However, burlesque was historically a powerful, multidisciplinary tool for reevaluating and reinventing outdated social mores. Between its inherently radical, feminist roots and as a creative, vibrant, anything-goes-for-entertainment-value art form, belly dance has a lot to learn from the other B word about performance, underlying narrative, and stagecraft.”
Wow – do I agree! As a belly dancer, I find it bothersome that someone would misrepresent this genre. I think it blurs the line between the two separate and honorable dance forms, and could have a negative impact on how the general public perceives us. Even today, in 2011, I see eyebrows raise a bit when someone finds out I belly dance…as in, folks don’t realize that this isn’t just about shaking for the menfolk the gifts our mamas gave us.
If you see that Princess Farhana of Hollywood is teaching in your area – take her class! Yes, she, too is a teaching and performing goddess. (Photo by Maharet Bryant)
Princess Farhana of Hollywood is another well-respected and uber-talented woman. Here’s what she had to share: “I believe that belly dance and burlesque are both incredible art forms. Historically in America, they have been presented side by side for at least 100 years in theaters, nightclubs, at fairs, circuses and carnivals, and most visibly, in television and film. This has definitely caused some confusion in the eyes of the general public.
“I perform both types of dance, but contrary to popular belief, do not EVER do a striptease while belly dancing, I keep my burlesque acts as “non-Oriental” as possible.
“There are many dancers who are interested in both styles of dance; hence I have been asked to teach and perform burlesque at belly dance events, and to teach and perform (straight up) belly dancing at burlesque events.
“Like Onca, I believe that practitioners of both styles can learn a lot from each other…and the more this subject is discussed openly, the less taboo it will be, the more we will be able to educate others, and the more the general public will be able to understand the difference between the two genres.” ~ Princess Farhana
What you’re reading here is a conversation-starter about the relationship of burlesque with belly dance. Dante’s has been known to perform in burlesque shows, but the sets weren’t related to belly dance; they had other, unrelated themes.
This topic is worthy of discussion, and I invite your input. All opinions are welcome, but I ask in advance that comments are respectful to all.
Dante’s Gypsy Circus is proud to announce that we’re hosting Onca and the Accidental Circus for a show and workshops in May 2012! Click here for the details; she’ll be teaching a workshop that addresses this very topic of which we speak!