There has been a great deal of lively discussion lately in belly dance circles about how the breasts have become the focus of the dance. Bra tops have become skimpier and thanks to augmentation, breasts have ballooned larger. More dancers are seeking out plastic surgery to further their career and generate more income.
Yes, breasts have always played a role in the dance. Dancers have overly padded their bras and added loads of fringe to highlight them, especially for shimmy emphasis. However, there seems to be a blatant sexualization of breasts. Bigger has been deemed better.
Famous dancers like Dina and Didem have undergone surgery to make their assets more pronounced to further their careers in male-dominated cultures. Younger dancers consider augmentation just another costume accessory. Is it society? In the United States, the most requested present for high school graduation by young women are breast implants. Jessica Simpson has credited her career to such enhancement. The Kardashians promote their augmented bodies. Even newscasters flaunt tight, low-cut tops to accentuate cleavage.
Men have always appreciated big breasts. Ask any man about “tits and ass” (T&A) and “Tall and Top Heavy (T&T).” When asked, they don’t care if they are natural or fake.
Back to dance. A trim and fit figure has always seemed to be the dance ideal, especially the classic hourglass shape. However, the emphasis was always on the dance. The dance was the cake, the costume, hair and make-up the frosting. Boobs were the decoration. These days, youth, beauty and a big rack seem to be more important. If it includes dance ability, so be it.
Funny, in other more acceptable forms of dance, big breasts are not the ideal. Ballet dancers and modern dancers are actually less endowed. The topless dancers in the Moulin Rouge, Folies Bergere and Las Vegas are about a 34B. Firm and tight look better in topless dance routines.
Belly dance, however, has embraced the boob. American dancers cite Egypt as the cause of the trend. After all, the most famous dancers in Egypt are well-endowed. They also started the skimpy bra and costume trend, fake eyebrows and an overabundance of makeup. It is what audiences want and if they want to work, they oblige.
I personally don’t know if this is good or bad. In Middle Eastern and Muslim culture, belly dancers are viewed as the equivalent of high-class whores. You may watch them perform and admire them but just don’t marry one or have one as a sister! Is this the image we want to project?
Young women are embracing and flaunting big boobs, fake or real as a means of career and personal life enhancement, not just in dance. After all, an ample bustline opens doors.
I have an issue with this. As a young women, I was on the edge of the women’s liberation movement when women fought hard to stop being objectified and to be accepted as equals to men on the job and in human rights. I see society as going backward. Young women seem to be all-so-willing to be viewed as sex objects instead of intelligent beings. Their role models exemplify this sexualized culture. Just look to popular music, film and reality television. Is it no wonder that they are bringing blatant sexuality to belly dance? Men are the producers, the club owners. Is it any wonder that sex sells?
To me, when a dancer performs, her whole being, body and persona are brought to the dance. When her cups runneth over, all eyes are drawn to the breasts. I see the dance being secondary to her cleavage. As a dancer, do you really want to be known for huge breasts or as a talented dancer? Have you spent years of study and money spent (at least I hope you are educated in the dance) and years of experience just to be remembered for your breasts? Maybe you do (shrug).
Belly dance is sensual. It is a tease, a flirtation. I liken it to a high-neck, long sleeve clingy knit evening gown with a thigh-high slit. It hints, but leaves a great deal to the imagination. It has an aura of mystery. It leaves you wanting more. Sexual, on the other hand is like a skimpy braless halter-top, cheeky hot pants and high-heel spiked shoes. It’s in your face. It leaves nothing to the imagination. I prefer sensual.
Sensual is also family-friendly. When I see overflowing bra tops at fairs and festivals during the day with young children present, I cringe. Is this how I want to see the dance I perform and stand up for represented? Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed. Just as I look down upon dancers who shimmy their boobs in a man’s face or bump and grind in front of him. What’s next, a belly dance, lap dance?
I have encountered this new ideal. I have turned down dance gigs when asked my breast size. I have been told that it’s Uncle Harry’s birthday and he’d love a busty dancer shake them in his face, among other requests. No!
Yes, I am wondering what the future holds for this ancient art form that played homage to Mother Earth, to fertility, reproduction and childbirth. It was a dance by and for women, passed down from generation to generation. It is a dance celebrating the feminine and the power of women. It is the mother of all other dance forms.
Yet, it is losing its luster. The decline began with Vaudeville. While some younger dancers embrace the past and the historical folk aspect of the art form, others are changing it into something totally unrecognizable with the “anything goes” mentality. Others are turning it into a tawdry peep show.
Call me old-fashioned, but I liked the Classic 1970’s style of belly dance. Was it authentic? Not really. It was an American Cabaret style. However, it was a dance with a dictionary of moves, a skill set and sensuality. Yes, the costumes were a bit naughty, but sex wasn’t the focus. “Tit-illation” wasn’t the focus.
Dignity, self-respect and reputation are important to me. They should be to you. It’s not all about you and the present. You are a dance role model for future generation. Do you want to be known for your 46 D-D-D’s or for your dance ability?
Sorry, I prefer that my IQ be larger than my bra size!
Oh, I’m not a prude. My dance nickname was “Seductress.” ;-)