Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ramblings - Belly Dancing with an Audience

I went to a Realms (LARP) event over the weekend and took some time to catch up with a friend in between my working in the kitchen for the feast portion of the event.  I talked to him about my disengagement with the Realms community where it seems that I only go to help out rather than play anymore.  He asked if there were things I found interesting in the SCA that I could do in the Realms, so I went down the list of art, cooking, etc until I go to dancing.

SCA - I do both European and Middle Eastern dance.  I may have even flown to Germany with a Duchess to go to a dance event.

Realms - I do European dancing at the Black and White Masquerade (the only event with dancing, we've tried to have more with little success).  I have ZERO interest in belly dancing in the Realms.

I stopped myself after that one and thought about it.  Belly Dance and Middle Eastern dancing in the Realms for me was scary and sends red flags racing through my head.

Let me back up here.  I started belly dance classes two years ago taking lessons from Mistress Anne with no intention of ever dancing in front of an audience.  I took lessons for ballet, tap, and jazz when I was young for a number of years and I do like dancing in general so a convincing argument from a friend who also dances with the group made me show up and give it a shot.  I've since done two public performances;  Bad Raqsan'e Sahra's recital for friends and family and a performance at the Quintavia Hafla.  Neither one of those felt weird or scary or anything.

The group of ladies I dance with (Bad Raqsan'e Sahra) is incredibly supportive, has ladies of all ages and body types, and boasts an almost equal number of children to advanced degrees within the group.  Did I mention they were all lovely?  I mean really lovely as well as being fun, flirty, and even downright ridiculous at times.  I have body image issues as so some of the ladies I dance with, but we joke and fan our selves over the sexiness of our fellow member's solo dances.  I was even convinced to don a pirate hat and send my crew to fetch yonder maiden whom I was swooning over as part of a performance.  There is a sincerity in appreciating of your fellow performer's art within the group.  It's always a fun, family-friendly, and safe environment.

That's the kicker:  safe.  Belly dancing in the Realms to me was always seen as purposefully seductive and slinky, dancing in front of a fire in barely any clothing, and always done in front of a crowd (most always a drunk crowd) of staring and sometimes leering people solely for their amusement.  I've heard the sneering comments of how "hot" or "vastly unattractive" some of the performers were from the patrons of various taverns and event goers.  Being ogled by a bunch of potentially drunk people, some of which I don't even want to be associated with out of game, is not my cup of tea.  It also doesn't help that most of the events that boasted dancing were thinly veiled drunk fests either.  I'm not trying to be a prude, but the thought of dancing in that type of environment gives me anxiety.  So...I don't.

I can thank fully say I've never run into this in the SCA or seem much of this (even at Pennsic, though I've never performed there).

How do as people, not just as a community, be a better audience?  How do we get to a point where our culture in the game (LARPing or otherwise) applauds an honest effort and rewards the desire to perform with appreciation in a safe environment?

Mistress Anne said something very profound.  "The first part of belly dancing is belly acceptance."  At the heaviest weight in my adult life, I found it easy to dance at the Quintavia Hafla for the performance.  There was no judging, but there was support and various fan clubs of people supporting their friends of all the groups.  We need more of that.

Picture by Madame Perronnelle De Croy.

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