Decisive learning curves don´t happen all at once – I suspect our brains (as well as hearts, filters and essential part of human growth) wouldn´t be able to take the full blow at one single punch. Life puts the cherries in our mouths little by little, one by one, slowly and according to our own neurological plasticity (a funny term I learnt from my friend Marcelo Barros – hello, kid!).
No surprise that I got to understand the ORIENTAL DANCE BODY POLEMIC by stages: a bit here, a bit there, a bit everywhere 😉 :
Initial degree: innocence (I see my body as a natural physical manifestation of my Being);
Early dance training: seeing the body as a creative tool with no specific conotation;
First turmoil: growing up as a teenager and discovering other people perpections of my body (desire, conquest, passion, love, ownership and freedom) as well as my own sexuality (in and outside of my body);
Acting education: a deeper and more realistic/holistic vision of my body – the creative tool made human;
Oriental Dance: a rescue of my past, re-entering a world I once knew so well; re-starting like a blank piece of paper, happily unaware of the prejudices that surround it;
Oriental Dance as a profession: the violent awareness of other people´s projections on my body and my dance: the realization that my body is “damned” for some reason I cannot understand;
Oriental Dance as a Mission: understanding WHY my dancing body is under scrutiny in such aggressive, negative and distorted manner. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh: got it.
No other dance – or body – is more prone to criticism and hard sexualization than Oriental Dance (and the body that practices it). Coming from a Classical Ballet training, wearing transparent pantyhose and having my private parts candid and respectfully revealed on stage from the age of 5, it wouldn´t make sense to nod in agreement when people tell me:
-Of course! What do you expect us to think about Oriental Dance? You girls show off your body like that!
Like that! What do you mean “like that”? Write that question on your little notepad, please.
First: all dances show off the body – they´re BODY LANGUAGE. Exception made to “khaleegi” dance from Saudi Arabia, especially when performed by prostitutes in cabarets of the decadent Pyramid street (Cairo, Egypt). I´ve seen this dance provocately performed by women while they were completely covered in black with the exception of their eyes (never underestimate the power of the eyes*).
Second: there are dances – like the already mentioned Classical Ballet – which show off the body way more than Oriental Dance but, despite that fact, audiences don´t seem to throw their sexual phantasies (sexual problems, to be more specific) on them. Nobody seems to think – at least not anymore – that ballet dancers are prostitutes who are showing off their goodies on stage for potential buyers. That has, indeed, happened in the past (dancers and actresses would use the stage as showcases for prostitution) but doesn´t apply nowadays.
Third: what is SEXUAL or SENSUAL? What constitutes a sexual dance? Why does Oriental Dance has the exclusive reputation for being SEXUAL? Do we call SEXUAL to any dance that allows us to move our pelvis? Isn´t it an extremely narrow view on sexuality & sensuality? Is our sexual life resumed to a specific part of the body (the pelvis)? That´s sad.
As far as I´m concerned, sexuality & sensuality (two sides of the same coin) are everywhere – we wouldn´t be here if it wasn´t for sex: life perpetuates itself thanks to sex. That fact alone gives you a hint on how omnipresent this subject really is. The flowers and the bees, honey – those are sexuality. Waking up and feeling the air coming into your body – that´s sexuality. Touching the skin of your lover man/woman – that´s sexuality. Feeling the pleasure of entering the ocean (water invading our space, two becoming one) – that´s sexuality. The list would go on forever.
Yet, even if we insist on narrowing sexuality into a corner (pelvis, pelvis, pelvis), we would still find dances that are way more “suggestive” than Oriental Dance: all kinds of tribal and urban African Dances come immediately to mind (afro-latin and afro-american branches included).
Then go a little further and check out a good TANGO (not ballroom, stick up their asses tango, but ARGENTINIAN TANGO): WOWza. I can´t imagine any other dance which transpires sexuality & sensuality like this one.
Can we go even further? All right: FLAMENCO. Sure enough: the focus doesn´t seem to be on the sexual/sensual side of the dance but, by God!, isn´t it present?! The passion, the hip sudden moves, the silences, the Duende, the caressing or stomping of the floor – they all talk about life´s genesis: sex: sex: sex (and you, dear reader, will not understand my point if your idea of sex is resumed to the pelvis shake).
My point is: the old, rotten excuse – “the exposure of the body” – doesn´t make sense anymore. It did in the past, when showing off any part of the female body was tabu (and that would include all kinds of dances, not only Oriental).
The question remains: why do people insist on stamping Oriental Dance as a sexual invitation? What kind of mystery does this dance brings to the table – a mystery that keeps disturbing human beings in our modern (?) age? What is it? Not the “naked” factor – we´ve seen other dances way more naked than this one; not the “Elvis, The Pelvis” factor – we´ve seen other dances using pelvises and other parts of the body in way more aggressive manners.
What is it? What´s the Mystery?
(You wouldn´t expect me to reveal it just like that, would you?!)