ad 4 Dhy & Karen

The Gilded Serpent presents..
Adventures of a Goddess
(Part One)
by Dhyanis

I've always found it amusing when "feminists" rail against Bellydancing as exploitative of women or explicitly seductive ("for men"). I certainly know sex sells in the common marketplace. I am a survivor of nightclub dancing - 5 years in Europe (mostly Portugal, Spain and Greece) - 2 or 3 shows a night, 6 nights a week - and the nightlife ain't no good life! Sleazy night rats, by day married professional men like doctors and politicians (when did they ever work - or sleep?) propositioned me with "Come on, everyone has their price". I held to the somewhat naïve, wholesome American Girl posture - "No, I'm here for the art and love of this dance". Subtext: "I found a way to get paid to travel, wear gorgeous costumes, and conquer my shy streak" or "For my own edification, pleasure, and empowerment".

Of course every occupation has its downside, and often "consummation" was part of the job. The first time I heard the term I told the club owner I wouldn't do it, thinking it meant "to consummate" as in "the relationship". It turned out to mean sitting at the tables with the "clients" between shows (to help sell, or consume, alcohol for a small commission), as in "B-Girl".

However in Europe there is yet another class of "B-Girl" hired alongside the "artists" specifically to turn tricks later, so that was not in my job description. I did indeed encounter some very nasty club owners, some leering artist's visa police, and waste some time fending off jerks, but I also met wonderful folks, learned new languages and a lot about our species, and saw a good portion of the globe. I literally danced my way to Morocco and Egypt and made lifelong friends on the way. I even collected kudos on my dancing from the cogniscenti -- like when the Turkish Ambassador to Portugal and his wife debated my origin - he said I was surely from Turkey, she thought I was too graceful (and thus won the bet!).

In Greece, that gray area where Middle-East meets West, there are many Arabic businessmen out looking for a Western good time. Middle-Eastern dancers are imported from many different countries. (No, bellydance is not indigenous to Greece, but much of the culture of the Ottoman Empire's 600-year rule was absorbed into Greek culture, especially the music). I was able to befriend and learn from some of these girls during our free afternoons, as well as take few sessions with Rhea, originally from Oakland, CA, but then Queen of the Plaka. In February I remember basking on the beach at Piraeus or on Crete, beading fringe and talking story with other dancers. I sometimes danced in the all-night Bazoukias, where everyone from kids to Great-Grandmas would enjoy the music and song and dance! For a while I was the sheltered star of a Syrian restaurant with its own wonderful house band.

Then there was International Shopping, and finding ways to make myself at home in any environment. I could go on about how personally enriching that period of dancing abroad was for me (31-36 earth years of age), and then upon return stateside (1985) new journeys with dance began. I now find myself in the company of Bellydance Visionaries who consciously learn and teach how to connect with our inner Goddess/Priestess aspects through the dance. More on that next Web-zine - Leaving you for now with the quite personal question Why do you dance? (} Watch for the 7th Annual Living Goddess Festival June 18 & 19, 1999!

Part 2 here

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