Pole Dancing Parties, the New Tupperware Parties

The NY Times has one of those Sunday Styles “trend” pieces that not only probably doesn’t describe an actual trend, but is rather too late for any sort of “trend” anyhow: Pole Dancing Parties Catch On in Book Club Country.

When your mom has moved on from the Pampered Chef to pole dancing parties, pole dancing is over. Sort of like the key party in The Ice Storm.

Pole dancing, once exclusively the province of exotic dancers, has flared up as a much-hyped Hollywood exercise craze, and has seeped into the collective unconscious through shows like “The Sopranos” and “Desperate Housewives.” A variant called motorized pole dancing, which occurs in stretch limos, has raised eyebrows as far away as Britain, where some female university students pole-danced as a fund-raiser for testicular cancer. And mini-poles have even been spotted as dance props at over-the-top bat mitzvah parties in suburban precincts.

Now the pole — think ballet barre turned vertical — is the new star at racier versions of Tupperware parties in well-heeled (if high-heeled) areas like this one in the northwest hills of Morris County, about 33 miles from Manhattan. Billed as “femme empowerment,” such at-home pole dancing lessons are taking place in the realm of book clubs, with mothers — and grandmothers — learning slinky moves for girls’ nights in, bachelorette send-offs, even the occasional 60th birthday celebration.

Yay. Stripper poles for 13-year-olds. Train ’em young for their proper role in society.

Look, stripperobics have been a big thing for many years, in fact for the entire 21st century. It’s part of that whole Girls Gone Wild, girls-kissing-girls-in-front-of-boys performative sexuality that’s been so prevalent in recent years. Though the ultimate beneficiary is the audience (a man or men), and the actual pleasure for the performer isn’t taken into account, the experience is sold as empowerment for the woman. In this case, literally:

“I want the women to feel strong within themselves,” explained Ms. Cottam, 29, who teaches pole dancing at a local gym as well as at home parties. Noting that some middle-aged suburban women lose themselves and their sense of sexuality as they are consumed by the responsibilities of motherhood, she added: “When you come to my class you are beautiful, you are. I want to show them that strength inside, and unleash that sexual kitten.” . . .

This intimate Friday-night soiree, where spinach dip and crudités were served and Ms. Cottam sent guests home with homemade banana muffins for their families, was for no particular occasion. She did not charge for the lesson, but had poles — spring-loaded and adjustable from 8 to 10 feet — for sale ($450), as well as a variety of feathered or rhinestone platform shoes ($19.99 and up).

Though Ms. Cottam operates independently, more than 350 pole-dance instructors in 34 states and Canada have signed up since August 2006 with an international company, EPM EmpowerNet, to run their own businesses in the model of Tupperware or Avon sales. The company provides DVDs that teach the instructors dance moves, pole safety and party etiquette, and sells them the equipment; they keep the fees they charge each participant — $25 to $30 in this area — plus any margin on the poles.

Not quite as expensive as Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation, which will run you $20K. But it’s an example of yet another business using women’s insecurities to separate them from their money.

I was a bit disappointed to see this, though:

Rachel Shteir, author of the 2004 book “Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show,” says pole dancing can provide “a welcome release” for suburban stay-at-home mothers.

“Their entire world is reduced to caretaking, and this is sort of the opposite of that,” she said. “It taps into this kind of exhibitionism, or show-womanship, among younger women who did not grow up with the gender politics of the sexual revolution.”

Disappointing because I read her book, and loved it. And one of the things she pointed out in the book was that, whenever there were morals police trying to shut down burlesque theaters and strip shows for the sake of the morals of the performers, they never bothered to survey the performers — who enjoyed what they did, but also knew that they could make far more money with less wear and tear on their bodies than working in a sweatshop. Which is not really a choice that suburban stay-at-home moms in “well-appointed” homes really have to make.

Still, she has a point about the subsuming of one’s identity and sexuality into the “Mom” role. And also about latent exhibitionism, which can be personally thrilling, especially if nobody thinks you’re that way. But I’d rather see these women having sex toy parties, where the end product is designed for their own pleasure and sold as such without having to dress it up in empowerment and aerobic benefits.


Similar Posts (automatically generated):

This entry was posted in Feminism, Sex and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to Pole Dancing Parties, the New Tupperware Parties

  1. fatmammycat says:

    The next time I read the expression ‘unleash that sexual kitten’ I’m going to take an axe to something. Are these people deluded? How does imitating and learning the moves of women who have nothing left to offer other that exposing their bodies to leering men make surban housewifes sexy? What a croc of poo. Yeah ladies, tell you what, cut out the middle man, go work in a strip club and let yourselves get pawed and gawked at, all for a few quid and your dignity. Whooo hoo, are we feeling the kitten yet? Maybe I’ll start holding classes on how to stand around on street corners hustling for money with johns. Oh yeah, rock it!
    Pah!

  2. A Pang says:

    “I want to show them that strength inside, and unleash that sexual kitten…”

    Yeah, ’cause nothing says “strong” and “powerful” like kitten.

    Though I hope we can mock these parties without disrespecting actual strippers.

  3. Leigh says:

    I’ve heard about these things and I think this hit the nail on the head:

    “But I’d rather see these women having sex toy parties, where the end product is designed for their own pleasure and sold as such without having to dress it up in empowerment and aerobic benefits”.

    I have had trouble articulating my problem with these parties while not condemning actual dancers – good point A Pang.

  4. zuzu says:

    Though I hope we can mock these parties without disrespecting actual strippers.

    Well, in the same way you can mock Trustafarians for begging on streetcorners without mocking actual homeless people.

    It’s slumming, in its way. Real strippers do it to make a living. These parties sell it as a fun little thing to do in your well-appointed home for the titillation of your husband, who by implication pays for the well-appointed home and your upkeep.

    Ugh. Put that way, it’s all part of making a living, too. I would imagine that these parties are not terribly popular with women who have their own economic power in the relationship.

  5. fatmammycat says:

    I’m not disrespecting strippers either, I’m mocking dumb women who forget from whence pole dancing comes from. At least strippers are honest about what they do and why they are doing it. Grrrr, this ‘trend’ makes me very mad indeed.

  6. Frumious B says:

    Totally OT comment:

    Did you close the Christian birth control thread? I wanted to post this there, but there was no comment box. So instead I’m taking up bandwidth here.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17282285/
    NFP, called symptothermal methods in this article, can be as effective as oral contraceptives. It’s not the right method for every woman, I sure wouldn’t use it, but it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand for lack of effectiveness, either.

  7. zuzu says:

    Interesting; thanks.

    Comment threads close automatically after 2 weeks to prevent comment spam.

  8. Frumious B says:

    Now for an on-topic comment:

    Though the ultimate beneficiary is the audience (a man or men), and the actual pleasure for the performer isn’t taken into account, the experience is sold as empowerment for the woman.

    What about when the women doing the dancing are queer and their audience is their female partners, or other women straight or queer? What about if the performer enjoys the dance? Does the enjoyment of the performer change the nature of the performance? How about if the viewer doesn’t give a rat’s ass that performer is enjoying herself?

    My answer to all this, and YMMV, is that pole dancing, stripping, and yes, even burlesque, are demeaning no matter who the audience is or how much the performer likes it. My problem is that the so-called empowerment follows the same artificial script of femininity that, well, basically everything does. The female burlesque performer dancing for the ladies still starts out in a corset and ends up in pasties. All the trappings which signal female sexuality are designed for the male viewer. I applaud the desire of women to own our sexual agency and express it as we see fit, I just don’t see how we are going to accomplish this using the sexbot script.

  9. alphabitch says:


    …entire world is reduced to caretaking, and this is sort of the opposite of that

    Um, no, actually. This strikes me as just more of the same old same old.

  10. Kiru Banzai says:

    My answer to all this, and YMMV, is that pole dancing, stripping, and yes, even burlesque, are demeaning no matter who the audience is or how much the performer likes it.

    So it doesn’t matter what she thinks, eh? Where have I heard that before?

  11. mythago says:

    Speaking as a retired “exotic dancer”, the whole pole-dancing/exercising craze thing also pissed me off, because:

    1) The pole is not where strippers get those marvelous abs. You really don’t spend all that much time hanging off a pole; the exercise comes from having a physically demanding job. Women are being sold a bill of goods: use this pole and you’ll have a sexy bod just like a stripper!

    2) Exhibitionism is fine, but the reason these women’s husbands or boyfriends go to strip bars is not because what they’ve got at home is awful; it’s because the strippers are strangers.

    In other words, the whole thing is a scam sold to prey on women’s insecurities. Double bah.

  12. elektrodot says:

    i actually watched on of those strip aerobics on the fitness section on on demand and it was so ridiculous i had to turn it off. i was looking to um, actually work out, and the instructor was tediously explaining how to walk sexily and flip your hair. kind of like that snl skit with drew barrymore about 80’s work out tapes. not only is it a money drain, but you wont even get a work out out of it!

  13. Sara says:

    “Their entire world is reduced to caretaking, and this is sort of the opposite of that,” she said. “It taps into this kind of exhibitionism, or show-womanship, among younger women who did not grow up with the gender politics of the sexual revolution.”

    Hm.. So the answer to having had your identity subsumed into the role of mother is to …. put on a strip show for your husband, to take care of *his* needs, now? Because you know those Pole Classes aren’t going to suggest you have all the neighbor men over to see your new skills. That Wouldn’t Be Right, right?

    This is just one more of those “Ladies, don’t get too wrapped up in the kids and ignore your man!” things, isn’t it? One of those “He goes to strip clubs because you’re not available enough to him.” Sounds like another way to prey on women’s fears that unless they do Teh Sex up just right, they’re a-gonna LOSE that man.

    When I start feeling like my identity is being subsumed by my kids, I’ve found that getting out to take classes on my own, join book discussions, etc, is a much better way of remembering who I am than playacting at exhibitionism would be. And like the comment above said, if its my adult sexuality I need to get in touch with, how about something that addresses *my* needs rather than is all about how much I can make other people “need” me?

  14. Jennifer says:

    But I’d rather see these women having sex toy parties, where the end product is designed for their own pleasure and sold as such without having to dress it up in empowerment and aerobic benefits.

    I don’t know, I am having a difficult time getting to bothered by this, and here is why. I agree that buying a vibrator is ultimately going to get me off, while a pole will not. But sexuality is about more than just what actually makes you orgasm. Certain things, say silk underwear, don’t actually cause an orgasm but make a person feel sexy, which can be what women with motherhood or retirement on their mind can want for a while. And for some women, perhaps its the pole that makes them feel sexy. And that can make a person feel just as good as a vibe, because, ahem, somethings gotta get you in the mood to start with.

  15. Kim says:

    You know, I recently went to an Sfactor poledancing workout in Chelsea, and didn’t get the sense that it was about men at all. The instructor initally got into it because she wanted to “spice things up” with her boyfriend, but said that she’s never actually danced for him. She might one day in the future, but it’s something that’s primarily for her.

    And among strippers, poledancing SKILLS aren’t known as moneymakers. Strip club patrons don’t care if you can climb up and hang upside down in time to “Hollaback Girl” generally. They just want to see the girl with the biggest breasts or the least body fat, or roundest behind, or whatever that particular establishment boasts.

    Dancing is something that the other women respect and that makes the performer feel sexy. And usually, the sexiest time is when the men have gone home or haven’t arrived yet, and they’re showing off for each other. So… I don’t know, I’m not mad at poledancing classes. I think it’s awesome.

  16. Hestia says:

    Could someone please explain how gyrating around a pole makes you feel sexy? Because I’m just not getting it.

  17. Elle says:

    It is interesting that this article is #5 on the NYT’s most emailed list, and the Sorority Evictions article is still #1. What does this say about the readership of the NYT? When the whole world is falling apart, pole dancing moms are the most interesting thing around? Perhaps, it’s comic relief? Is it titillating to the male readers? Inspirational to women? I think it makes women look ridiculous. Is that the appeal? I’m not against pole dancing if you find it amusing, but “tupperware”- type parties for it? I don’t get it. There was a book back in the 70’s I think, called Total Woman, which gave good Christian women permission to greet their husbands coming home from work wrapped in saran wrap. Are we sheep? Can’t we come up with our own sexual entertainments? Anyway, my problem with the article is that it makes women look really stupid.

  18. tzs says:

    I don’t see how you can get any decent exercise out of this unless you rip the pole out of the floor and use it as a weight.

    Heck, what’s wrong with belly-dancing? Great for those of us who sit in chairs all day, tones the body, and yeah, you can get pretty high on the cardio as well. Plus it’s fun and if you want, you can dress up in some really nifty costumes.

  19. Laurie says:

    Belly dance/raqs sharqi *is° a fantastic work out. I speak as a dancer who has been studying/dancing for over a decade. While I have a not inconsiderable amount of body fat (about a 14-16 US sizing), a) it has rarely gotten in my way as a dancer, and b) I have killer abs under that layer of body fat. (The gal at my gym who was setting me up with my weight training was *very* impressed. I think she tried to start me at 10 pounds on the ab machine — I told her I could do that all day. I’m currently pushing 55 pounds. :) The veil work is a surprisingly good upper body workout — who’d a thunk a couple of ounces of chiffon could get that heavy after such a little while?!? *grin*

    The caveat is, of course, you have to find someone who is teaching a DANCE class, and not an airy/wafty/goddessy version of bellydance which is essentially “do what you want with jingles and chiffon and call it belly dance”. OR someone who has the “make your husband a sultan” type mindset that was so prevalent in the late 60s/early 70s when mainstream American women first discovered middle eastern dance. (I STILL get people who assume I belly dance for husband. I do not. He’s just not that into dance in general. ;)** You want someone who has an understanding of body mechanics and who not only is good at explaining the movements, but makes you work towards doing them correctly. Fact is, some of the movements are less body friendly than others if you are not aware of your lower back and what it is doing. Done correctly, though, they are a great workout that is TONS more interesting than hopping on the treadmill. And yes, it IS aerobic, especially at the intermediate/advanced levels. ;)

    Unfortunately, much exotic dance seems to encourage the “butt pushed out at the back” posture, which is badbadbad for your lower back. *That* is the one thing I would seriously disagree with in regards to “Pole Dancing for Random Women”. Well, and there are other issues, mostly regarding for whom they are dancing — themselves, or the male gaze. But that’s a whole ‘nother issue, I think. (Notice how I actually got the topic of this post into my comment? *grin*)

    **Yes, I am a teacher. I also came from a dance background, at least in college, and some of what passes for belly dance “classes” makes me want to scream and shred my hip scarf.

  20. Inky says:

    I don’t see why all sexual performances have to automatically be demeaning. I can see issues with pole dancing, since it seems to feed off the idea that strippers are some elite class of women based only on how attractive they are to men. But what’s wrong with a sexy dance or some fancy lingerie now and then, if it’s reciprocated between the genders? I’m not saying the mainstream image of it isn’t messed up, since it’s almost always a woman performing for a man, but I think that when it’s presented as something for either gender to do, then it’s fine.

  21. Isabel says:

    I don’t really have anything to add, but I just wanted to say that this:

    The NY Times has one of those Sunday Styles “trend” pieces that not only probably doesn’t describe an actual trend, but is rather too late for any sort of “trend” anyhow:

    Cracked me up. Well done.

  22. Jill says:

    I don’t see why all sexual performances have to automatically be demeaning.

    They’re not. The problem is that these performances are “sexual” in a completely male-defined way, with women performing for male pleasure.

  23. Jill says:

    The NY Times has one of those Sunday Styles “trend” pieces that not only probably doesn’t describe an actual trend, but is rather too late for any sort of “trend” anyhow

    So true… my favorite one was from a year or so ago, about how New Yorkers are suddenly crazy for street jewelry. Who knew??

  24. zuzu says:

    So true… my favorite one was from a year or so ago, about how New Yorkers are suddenly crazy for street jewelry. Who knew??

    Oh, God. I missed that one. HA!

    It’s like the sensibility that gave us Tom “Mr. Magoo” Friedman on the editorial pages has spilled over to the Style section.

  25. Christina says:

    Yeah. Let’s play on a phallic symbol and pretend to be strippers, only we’ll take away the male audience to make it seem empowering.

    You wanna feel like a goddess? try belly dancing. and then keep it for yourself and only share it with your women friends.

  26. mythago says:

    Strip club patrons don’t care if you can climb up and hang upside down in time to “Hollaback Girl” generally.

    Actually, yeah, they do. They care more about what you look like, but if they didn’t give a shit about dancing, they’d go to a peep show.

  27. Em says:

    Ms Cottam? I’d like you to meet…..my rottweiler.

  28. Isabel says:

    So true… my favorite one was from a year or so ago, about how New Yorkers are suddenly crazy for street jewelry. Who knew??

    …I refuse to believe this was actually a story in the Times. Refuse. You LIE.

  29. jo says:

    this is just appalling, its soo appalling, “unleash your sexual kitten”, why so it can roll over and purr like a fluffy little harmless play-thing.

    The Untold History of the Girlie Show,” says pole dancing can provide “a welcome release” for suburban stay-at-home mothers.

    “Their entire world is reduced to caretaking, and this is sort of the opposite of that,” she said.

    .
    How patronising! As a at- home-mama, i have plenty more fulfilling things to do with my time than pole dance and caretaking is part of my job but I am “reduced to only caretaking…”.I also like to blog Radical feminist sites and paint and garden, and read, and study real stuff you know that does use brain cells, make zines and plot revolution…and I am NOBODIES domestic slave.

  30. RenegadeEvolution says:

    I belly dance, I also happen to be a stripper, and I know women who take pole dancing classes and never perform for men at all, they do it for the exercise, or because they do think it makes them feel sexy (even without the presence of “the male gaze”) but solely for themselves. No, I don’t teach pole dancing, yes, clubs do care if you can actually dance, and I would also like to add that women who do it professionally do not always do it because they have no other option or for the money alone…

    If a woman wants to learn to pole dance to do it for the man in her life, what is really wrong with that anyway? If he is not forcing her to do it, and she thinks it is fun and might be something new and exciting and they both enjoy it…really should anyone tell them not to or throw out the over-used “quit trying to be a sexbot” condemnation again? Powerful women can be a lot of things: smart, educated, tough, wise, insightful…and yeah, sexy.

  31. Amber says:

    I just graduated from level 2 pole dancing last night. Not saying anything else on this thread because I’m sick of repeating myself when I know there are people who just don’t want to listen. Grrrrr. :(

  32. Frumious B says:

    Bellydancing is not entirely unproblematic. If it’s a woman’s dance done by women for women yadda yadda yadda why do all the costumes have padded, push-up bras? Why are garter pants the hottest thing in tribal fusion? Do you really think this aesthetic is unconnected to male-defined femininity?

    Whether there is an actual man present at bellydance/burlesque/stripping/poledancing/walking down the hall to the coke machine or not, the look is scripted by the Male Gaze(TM), and the sexuality falls into a narrowly defined range. One’s intent may not be to dance for the Male Gaze, one’s intent may even be to distinctly NOT dance for the Male Gaze, but one is fooling oneself if one thinks that one can adopt a practice or costuming style defined for Male Pleasure(TM)* without becoming complicit in the perpetuation of compliance to the Male Gaze.

    OTOH, there is no get out of the Patriarchy free card.

    *This deserves capitalization because the limited range of “sexy” available to women is also limited for men. Men who want an alternative to the fuckbot as just as OOL in the Patriarchy as women.

  33. mythago says:

    If a woman wants to learn to pole dance to do it for the man in her life, what is really wrong with that anyway?

    Nothing’s wrong with her. It’s the people selling “pole dancing” (puh-leaze) as a special kind of exercise that will make you sexy like a stripper and just as attractive to Your Man who get up my nose.

  34. jrav says:

    frumious – You took the words out of my mouth. That is exactly my issue with it. Whether or not an individual woman pole dances for herself instead of MAN, she is still pole dancing within a male-dominated discourse that benefits in the end.

    And there are a lot of other ways to feel really great about yourself that don’t entail dancing on a pole.

  35. RenegadeEvolution says:

    Yes, there are absolutely a million other ways to feel great about yourself that do not involve dancing on a pole. But, if a woman does feel great about herself due to dancing on a pole, for whatever reason, where is the “benefit” in making her feel bad about feeling good about it?

  36. Nathanael Nerode says:

    Whether there is an actual man present at bellydance/burlesque/stripping/poledancing/walking down the hall to the coke machine or not, the look is scripted by the Male Gaze(TM), and the sexuality falls into a narrowly defined range. One’s intent may not be to dance for the Male Gaze, one’s intent may even be to distinctly NOT dance for the Male Gaze, but one is fooling oneself if one thinks that one can adopt a practice or costuming style defined for Male Pleasure(TM)* without becoming complicit in the perpetuation of compliance to the Male Gaze.
    OTOH, there is no get out of the Patriarchy free card.
    *This deserves capitalization because the limited range of “sexy” available to women is also limited for men. Men who want an alternative to the fuckbot as just as OOL in the Patriarchy as women.

    Good point. I tend to prefer to call it the Patriarchal Gaze because of this particular phenomenon.

    Constructing a non-patriarchal model of sexuality is going to be really tough, not least because most people’s sexual desires get fixed pretty early in childhood. People brought up in radical households do bring a different persepective, usually. Part of the generation raised in the 60s and 70s were raised by people brought up very patriarchally, but who were trying to do something different, but were having a lot of trouble because they were creating a new social model from the whole cloth. I think the group of people raised in the “hippie” households will have significantly less trouble raising their children to have non-patriarchal sexual attitudes than the first generation, because they are not trying to contradict their own upbringing nearly so much.

    It will be interesting to see the way the third generation, children growing up nowadays to progressive parents and grandparents, views sexuality. I’m optimistic.

  37. Jess says:

    You say:

    But I’d rather see these women having sex toy parties, where the end product is designed for their own pleasure and sold as such without having to dress it up in empowerment and aerobic benefits.

    But who cares what YOU’d rather see them do? Are they doing it for you? And you make the point that you don’t like the marketers marketing it from the “please your man” angle… but if the women are eager to take the class, for whatever reason, and want a little feedback about their dancing before they show it (or not), who the heck cares? I mean isn’t that what being free is all about?

  38. shannon says:

    You can’t break down societal structures by thinking that if someone is having fun it’s OK. It’s like racially themed parties- I’m sure there is somewhere a black person who likes dressing up like a cartoon version of a thug to amuse their stupid white frat boy friends. That doesn’t make that any less problematic. I think the woman has to make a choice- if she’s more comfortable not thinking about how dancing around on a pole may be less than a victory for all women, she is free not to read feminist discussions about pole dancing, because someone is always going to bring up the aspects that are less than feminist. If she wants to engage with it, she can.

    I do zumba classes which involve dancing around and shaking one’s ass and titays. I’m able to understand the problems of cultural appropiation and the male gaze involved there, and make a choice on whether I value my ideals or whether I value a $7 exercise class more. But the issue doesn’t go away if I pretend it doesn’t exist.

  39. exangelena says:

    The only good thing about the NYT style section is that feministe usually has something intelligent to say about it.

    Frumious B, I agree with you mostly, but I think that bellydancing was not always the commodified orientalist fantasy that it is today. I think it was Jill who blogged about it here before (I could be wrong) that in some countries it’s not just sexy nubile women who bellydance. Although I’ve never done it, I think it could be a fun way to exercise, wearing comfortable clothes, without the sexual titillation angle.

  40. Laurie says:

    Totally off topic and I apologize, but as a semi-professional belly dancer/oriental dancer and teacher, I have to jump in here:

    “Commodified orientalist fantasy that it is today.” Bull shit. It was actually much, much MORE so back in the 70s when it was first discovered by the “mainstream” American public. American women were advised to learn how to “treat (your) husband like a sultan” and learn to belly dance to “awaken (your) sensuality”. Costumes were FAR skimpier at the time, and half of the dancers out there weren’t actually dancers at all, just chicks who had a session or two of community ed classes, looked good in a skimpy costume, and would dance for practically nothing “because they loved to dance”. We are STILL recovering from that mess, primarily because there are people who STILL don’t get that this dance form takes years to perfect, the way any Western dance form does. That is, if you want to really be any good at it.

    “Belly dance”, in its countries of origin, is simply the way people DANCE there. Everyone. All people, of all ages, who get up and shake their tailfeathers, dance “like that”. Men included (big surprise!!), although they do less of the flowy stuff and more percussive stuff. Grandmothers and toddlers dance the same way. It was the Europeans who put the whole “sensual, sexy dark Oriental woman” schtick on it (although I will admit that being a *professional* dancer has never gotten much respect in the Middle East. One of the dichotomies of the cultures involved).

    Costuming:
    We wear “padded, push up bras” for a reason — so our breasts don’t go whappita-whappita-whappita against each other with a shoulder shimmy. The breasts are attached, and as such, will pick up sympathetic vibrations. Those of us who are larger busted at the very least need a hard cup bra under our costumes to keep the girls from being a distraction, because the *point* really IS to move the shoulders quickly, not slap the breasts around. Also, with any sort of decoration on a costume bra, you need a solid base to stitch it into. Granted, there are some performers who take the look to extremes, but honestly? We are wearing a bare top to bare the *torso* — getting the breasts up out of the way helps the *torso* articulations show up better. There are *plenty* of covered dresses out there that are worn for performing, but I guess you haven’t encountered those. Funny — I see them all the time.

    As for the Tribal thing with garter pants — who the hell knows? They’ve gone so far off of what is “authentically” Middle Eastern, they can hardly be considered in the same category. Seriously. They themselves say that “they are not middle eastern so they feel no reason to restrict themselves to what is ‘authentic'”. They blend in costuming and movement from wherever the hell they please, generally, and the music is generally NOT anything actually Middle Eastern any more. They do some cool theatre, it’s a very big trend, and I honestly can’t say where they are coming from. I don’t get them.

    The truth of the matter is, you can “bellydance” completely covered, as I will be doing in May at the annual Festival of Nations in St. Paul. I’ll be wearing a unitard, an opaque skirt, and a coined beledi dress — a *loose* fitting dress with metallic striping and coins stitched onto it. My head will be covered. This is actually NOT unusual in the bellydance community for costuming, along with any number of other more covered options. And yes, much more of it happens as entertainment for OTHER WOMEN than happens as entertainment for MEN.

    Honestly, I don’t get why that is such a huge deal for you folks — do you really think we should never expose our bodies in performance for the opposite sex? You better BET I take into account just how much flesh I’m showing to which audience and why. And as a not-commercially thin/attractive woman, I *revel* in the fact that my dance community (99% WOMEN – for real) finds me sexy and attractive with my bare belly out there for the world to see and *jiggling* as only fat tissue can.

    I’ll stop ranting now, people, but you touched a nerve. And it pisses me off that you feel you have the right to say this crap about a dance form you apparently don’t practice and haven’t seen but in the most commercial forms.

  41. zuzu says:

    I’m actually about to sign up for bellydancing/Middle Eastern dance lessons. I’m looking forward to it. Seems like fun, and a good way to work my abs and get some flexibility into my spine.

  42. Laurie says:

    Yaaaaay, zuzu! I wish you all the best in that class! :) (Which teacher are you going to be taking with? I know a couple in NYC, although not too many…. Morocco *rocks*, BTW, if you can get to her classes.)

    It is an awesome ab workout (assuming, like I said waaaaay above, that you have a good teacher) and is a very good way to work on flexibility. Don’t expect miracles straight off, especially in the flexibility department, and be sure to keep your lower back in line with the rest of your spine (think about pointing your tail bone down and opening the lower back up instead of tucking — tucking tends to make people clench the muscles they need to use to move their hips). Don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes a while to get the hang of the movements — these are not body parts we move much in the USA. Most of all, enjoy the music and the movement and *have fun*!

    You’ll have to tell us what you think about it. And please feel free to e-mail me personally if I can be of any help in any way.

  43. zuzu says:

    I probably will email you. Morocco’s classes meet too early for me to get to, but I’d love to know about some other teachers.

  44. Laurie says:

    If you haven’t already, check out http://www.shira.net She has an national/international teacher listing with information on a lot of things. The rest of the website is awfully cool, too — lots of FAQs answered, lyrics lists, costuming tips, and way more stuff you probably won’t care about right away. *grin*

    I check my e-mail way more often than I should for working from home, and I’m a night owl. Have at!

  45. exangelena says:

    Laurie – I apologize if I insulted you and I guess that I haven’t heard that much about the rehabilitation of bellydancing. A lot of people even think of it as akin to stripping, I read a (fiction) book awhile ago about an incest survivor who was told that even if she had given her stepdad “a sexy belly dance” that it wasn’t ok for him to molest her. I think that bellydancing is still sold as an orientalist fantasy, as exotic, mysterious and foreign, although not everyone perceives it that way and it doesn’t have to be.

  46. Laurie says:

    exangelena:
    You did insult me, and I do accept your apology. I would only ask that in the future, if you have not experienced or seen a performance art for yourself, you refrain from judging it.

    “Rehabilitation” is not the right word here — “reclaimation” would be a better term. Of course this dance form is sexy — DANCE is sexy, a well-moving human body is sexy — but there is much, much more to it. “Belly Dance” has *always* been sold as an orientalist fantasy in this country, going right back to the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893 when actual middle eastern dancers were shown to the general public in America for the first (documented) time. Victorian era Americans/Europeans could not help but see the dance as being incredibly sexual, given that it was/is a torso intensive dance at time when American and European women were encased in steel and canvas from the breastbone to the hips. It was then co-opted and used (badly) by vaudeville and burlesque dancers from there on out. “Hootchy-cootchy”, anyone?

    I am very aware that it is associated with stripping in this country — I *still* have people ask, wide eyed and open mouthed, “Your husband LETS you do that?!!?” *sigh* (As if he “lets” me do anything, to begin with.) *snarl* Bad dancers do not help that image any. And it IS exotic AND foreign, in the sense that it does not come from here, and has an entirely different artistic sensibility than we are used to seeing. And it takes a while for Americans to get past the costuming conventions, the fact that the dancers directly interact with and engage the audience, and the fact that the dance uses very unfamiliar movement to REALLY unfamiliar music to see that it is a legitimate dance form and not just “wiggling around”. It took my mom over ten years to get there.

    If you are at all interested in seeing raqs sharqi for what it is and can be, I have some suggestions. I don’t recall if you have ever posted where you live, so the suggestions will be general.

    –Instead of a restaurant, check out a cultural festival, either Arabic/Middle Eastern or multi-cultural. You are more likely to see the folkloric forms of the dance there than at a restaurant, and the costuming will be less distracting, in general. Or see if there are any stage shows happening near you — you generally get a better sense of the depth of the dance form in a theatrical setting than at a restaurant where the object is, obviously, background entertainment for the patrons. Some restaurant dancers are awesome; some just look good in their costumes. If that is your only option, find a dancer and get a recommendation on who to see.

    — See if your library has any instructional videos or better yet, performance videos. Hossam Ramzy’s “Stars of Egypt” series is particularly nice for a historical perspective, and Morocco (local to NYC!) has several out with her Casbah Dance Experience company that are great, too.

    — Take a class with a reputable teacher. Again, I don’t know where you live, but the website I mentioned a couple of posts above has plenty of suggestions. Caveat: the teachers listed on that site are not actually reviewed by the site owner, so no guarantees about quality. There are NO accredited training programs in the US, although some school give certificates, so pretty much anyone can teach. Some are fabulous, some…aren’t. But trust me — we don’t go to class in our padded push up bras and beads/glitz/chiffon. Well, most of us don’t. *grin* Nothing will encourage respect for the dance form like learning how to do it — it is much harder than we make it look.

    — Please feel free to e-mail me directly if you have any questions or would like to discuss this further. The Fabulous Women of Feministe have my permission to give you my e-mail address.

    To everyone else:
    My sincere apologies for hijacking the end of this thread. Obviously, this is something about which I am most passionate. In the interest of total disclosure, I’d like to point out that I have no issues with the display of the human body, male or female, and I actually find good strip tease/burlesque/performance art really, really cool. It’s the attitudes towards the display of the nude human figure and the performers thereof that irritate me. If strippers were viewed as the lovely and (usually very) talented women that they are, and accorded the respect they deserve, I’d have little issue with the industry. As it is, the rampant disrespect and accompanying set of assumptions piss me off.

    /hijack!

Comments are closed.