BELLY DANCE: WISDOM OF THE GODDESS
by Adam Burke
I can imagine that the title of this article might -- at first glance -- set on edge any number of feminists or the gender-sensitive, especially as written by a man! However, I hope that, upon closer examination, most such concerns will be dismissed.
Belly Dance has acquired a poor reputation in many circles over the years. It has been equated with immorality, exploitation of the female body, and with prostitution. Until recently, however, I suspect that most of this criticism has come from men -- especially in the Middle East where the form likely originated -- men who would prefer that women dance only within the privacy of their own exploitative view, rather than for any other men. Today -- in a strange reversal -- in our culture it seems that some women would be the more vocal in objecting to the art form. Such concerns occur readily within the context of a culture and a time where long-standing gender-related issues come under scrutiny, as currently in America.
Notable religious scholars, from Joseph Campbell to Matthew Fox, have described the relatively recent re-emergence of the influence of "The Goddess" over the historically widespread and long-standing patriarchies under which the world has toiled for centuries. According to many, such a feminine influence has not prevailed since around the thirteenth century. (While many Native American cultures continue to thrive as matriarchies, compared to our culture's grossly patriarchal history, this seems to go almost unnoticed.) With as much trouble as humans have gotten themselves into up to this point, I see this as an over-due and welcomed change. Yet, as we struggle to re-balance roles in our social and personal lives, we give much lip service and debate to these ideas, while actual expressions of them remain less in view. Enter, Belly Dance.
Not long ago, I met a woman who had participated in a retreat that focused on empowerment of women. In listening to her, I learned that an important theme of this gathering involved the understanding that a woman's wisdom is located in her belly.
Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was the ancient Belly
Dance. Somehow, I don't think that's quite what she had in mind; she
offered only a vaguely negative response when I happily explained that I had recorded a "Belly Dance album." And that's unfortunate, because the sorts of ideas she described were nearly exactly what I had had in mind when deciding to get involved with Belly Dance.
I have recognized the power, beauty and wisdom of "The Feminine" for some time. I have known the pleasure of fine women, all of whom have taught me something about the nature of Woman. I've admired these qualities, and can easily see the need for a greater place for them in today's world. So, while everyone talks about the importance of "The
Goddess," I wanted to do something for Her.
Much of what I find so humbling and glorious about the feminine half of our species is its prolific expression of joy, tenderness and beauty. I hope that, in some small way, creating music for dancers may help to expose these noble qualities, even as the dancers themselves have since the times of the earliest fertility rituals where similar dances played a central role. While we continue to welcome in "the return of The Goddess," let us not overlook the treasure of Belly Dance which has – in spite of all criticism -- continued to express, unyieldingly, the subtleties, beauties and virtues of our fairer sex.
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08-02-2011 10:59 PM #1
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Belly Dance: Wisdom of the Goddess
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