There's a blog post making the rounds about the "etiquette" of what to do when there's a surprise belly dancer at the restaurant you're eating at. I'm not going to link to it because I don't want to send more traffic to the author (because I know I have HORDES of loyal followers) and I don't want to give in to the urge to give a point-by-point refutation of what the post says. Besides, there is a chance that much of what she said was firmly tongue in cheek and she's not really that ignorant or mean (though there's an awful lot of judgmental language from her commenters, too). Most importantly, I do get tired of how every single time there's something that says something even slightly negative about bellydancers, people flip the heck out and inundate the person who wrote it with strongly worded letters, which just makes us all look way over-sensitive.
But there was one point I wanted to touch on, something that stood out to me more than the usual comparisons to strippers and the body-snarking. It was the fact that there were a couple of times where the writer seemed to suggest that the poor, poor dancer was only shaking her thing in public because clearly she had no other choice, no better career to fall back on, and maybe she should go to technical school.
The author is clearly wrong about two things: That most of us make money at this (hahahahahahaahHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA), and that we're doing it because we're incapable of doing anything else.
She clearly has never met a real bellydancer. Because I am a dancer, and I take classes with a lot of dancers, I've learned that we come from all walks of lives. There are mothers and single women, grad students and high school dropouts, massage therapists and school teachers. We get people who have never danced in their life, people whose only dance exposure is Zumba, and people who have been dancing forever. And yes, sometimes we also get people who teach pole, stripping, and burlesque, and there's nothing wrong with that either. We have neither graduated from nor failed at exotic dancing, any more than a tango dancer is a failed or graduated ballerina -- they are doing two different dance forms.
Oh, and did I mention the smart people with incredibly demanding careers? I know not one but many bellydancing astrophysicists. ASTROPHYSICISTS. They didn't go to a trade school for that. I know people with jobs so technical, I couldn't even explain them to you, but they also belly dance. I know bellydancing accountants, college professors, and physical therapists. I know dance teachers who can tell you every muscle that you're using and point it out to you on an anatomy chart. I know dancers with high-paying, high-stress jobs who bellydance as a way to relax and make friends after work. I know a dancer who pulls 24+ hour long shifts as an air medic.
But you see us doing a little shimmy at the Shawarma House and you assume that there's nothing inside our pretty little heads and it must be either this or starve. Well let me tell you something, if we didn't have dayjobs, we would starve. Most of us attend class several times a week to keep our skills fresh, take a few workshops a year to hone our skills even more and network with our fellow dancers, and then there's the constant investment in new costumes and props and makeup. The few dancers I know who make a living off of our artwork are those who also teach and/or do costuming. We don't dance because it's either dance or starve. We don't dance because McDonald's laid us off. We dance because we love to dance. And if you don't want to watch us, well, there's plenty of other restaurants where you can eat dinner. We'll be waiting for you if you ever change your mind.