Male Belly Dance in Vogue?

Forget about the attempted belly dance of Hillary Duff in her new video, I think that we have missed out on a more important topic of discussion: male belly dancing!

Scrolling through the Reuter’s news site the other day I happened across an article titled “Male Belly-Dance Back in Vogue in Turkey”. Of course I had to read it. It was the “in vogue” that drew me to the article more than the subject. Belly dance is iconic in Turkey and always has been. And anyone who listens to (and watches) Turkish pop stars knows that male belly dance is nothing new.

The article is about a dancer named “Alex” who works the Istanbul club scene. The article and the accompanying video portray very different things however. In the article, it references his dancing as having “masculine movements” with a history that stems back to the Ottoman Empire. While the history is true, when viewing the video it is clear that he is not performing the “masculine form” of belly dance but the feminine form.

There are two forms of male belly dance. The feminine form which has its roots in Ottoman empire where men dressed and danced like females (I hate to use the word “drag” here but it does float around in my head) and the more masculine form which is more modern and common. Of course, the fact male belly dance is getting international press could be a good thing, if any sort of press really is needed, right? Maybe it is the case that if attention is going to be given to this topic, that at least the dancers should be good. American audiences have been “treated” to a male impersonator of Shakira and her belly dance routines on the television show America’s Got Talent, and it seems that his popularity is based on his bravery at taking the stage to begin with, rather than the quality of the performance. If you want to see a good male dancer, check out Turkish pop-star Tarkan.

This leads me to the question: which form is better, the feminine form of male belly dance or the more masculine form? (I vote for masculine!) And if Western pop stars are starting to incorporate belly dance into their routines, does that mean that male belly dance will surface stateside? Justin Timberlake could be next....

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About Deborah Ann Dilley

Deborah Ann Dilley is actively trying to reinvent the term “renaissance man” to fit her lifestyle. A student, scholar, teacher, reader, writer, blogger, linguist and archaeologist -- Deborah is active is a wide variety of activities. She graduated in 2004 with bachelors in Turkish Language and Ancient Middle East History from the University of Utah, and currently is finishing her masters in Applied Linguistics. Working as the Outreach Assistant at the University of Utah’s Middle East Center, Deborah spends her time teaching the community and educators about the Middle East, its culture, history, and politics. She writes for Global Voices Online as their columnist covering the Turkish and Kurdish blogospheres. When she is not busy with one thing or another she chronicles her life at her blog, Turkish Delight.

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