Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Catholic...belly dancer? It's a modesty post, settle in folks!


You know, the older I get, the more comfortable I get with myself, I've written about this before. I'm certainly far from perfect, but I am who I am, and I enjoy what I enjoy. I don't take it *as* (gentle snort) personally when somebody doesn't like something about me or something that I care about.

And so, the fact that I am a (fairly conservative) Catholic, who takes her faith very seriously, who attends Mass as often as she can and wears a head covering while doing so, who also belly dances is, you know, *eclectic*. I'm certainly not unaware that people are often surprised to find that I'm a belly dancer, but I like to think of myself as a Belly Dance Ambassador.

I'm sorry, good reader, but if you're still reading you're now in for The Spiel. Belly dance is NOT stripping. It is a cultural, and perfectly acceptable, dance form. It is *family friendly* and G rated. It is feminine and beautiful, and is NOT in existence to provoke lust.

Dance involves moving your body, there's sort of no way around that. And costumes, by necessity, for all dance forms, are designed to showcase your body and the dance. I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this.

Are there dance costumes out there (including belly dance ones) that I deem to be immodest? Yes, there are. Very high slits, super short skirts, and cut-outs come to mind. However, I do not think that bare bellies are, by default, immodest. I'm certain that there are people that disagree with me on this, but this is my opinion.

And I think that we come round on this belly dance angle in the exact same way that we do on all modesty discussions: where does simply "being beautifully modest" end, and "you must wear a potato sack lest you tempt men with your body!" begin?

There are LOTS of opinions out there on this issue, to be sure. And I've received some of them, which is why I'm writing this post. Dialogue is good, no?

I am a devout Catholic, and I am a belly dancer. I post photos of myself belly dancing because I don't think that there is anything wrong with that. Is being a Catholic not compatible with being a belly dancer who bares her belly? I, of course, think that these two things are not mutually exclusive.

Maybe I'm not your average Catholic girl. But I am ME. Belly dance has given me so much and I don't want to hide that. I don't think that being Catholic means that I have to hide my dancing under a bushel.

I figure that if you read this blog you accept me for who I am. And I can't tell you how much I appreciate that.


  1. On the modesty thing: one point that I wish that a lot of people who discuss it would bear in mind is that modesty is *situational.* What is appropriate in the bedroom is not appropriate on the street; what is appropriate on the beach is not appropriate at the symphony; what is appropriate at a dance recital is not appropriate at church. Etc ad nauseam.

    I would never have the guts to bare my belly in public (*and the world gives a collective sigh of relief*) but I really enjoy it when you post about your belly dancing adventures. They're fun to read!

    As for the apostle thing, I feel called to do it in a slightly different way. I attend a parish which is an odd blend of very modern (contemporary music) and very traditional (priests who give sermons on vocations, confession and hell), and I know that a lot of the people there view some of the more traditional elements of Catholicism askance because of an SSPX parish in town. Among other things, I wear mantillas to Mass, and receive only on the tongue, but I try very hard to be as friendly, outgoing and approachable as possible so that people don't think that I'm judgmental for doing these things and aren't scared to ask me about them.

    Keep those belly dance posts coming! I'll look forward to the next one. :)

  2. Stands up and applauds...i feel the same way when people discuss yoga. Sure in certain contexts there is a religious aspect to it but in main stream, its just exercise. Its not different than martial arts which originated as a form of fighting. Most people dont send their children to kick boxing to beat people up. They send them for the work out. But you hear the same thing about yoga and belly dancing in catholic circles. It bothers me that people get so worked up about something that the church has never said anything about.

  3. Katherine - lol, for one thing, though I'm sure you exaggerate! And, oh my goodness, a resounding YES on the situational aspect of modesty! I wouldn't wear my costume to church, but on my blog and out in social media, I think it's totally fair game. :) It's part of who I am, and in that context, there is no scandal.

    Laura, thank you so much for the support. :) I totally agree on yoga. Are there elements that (sometimes) we should avoid? Well, sure. But are there also perfectly acceptable secular aspects to it that any Catholic could enjoy? Absolutely.

  4. I think it's pretty awesome that you do that. Amen to the comments about modesty being "situational"... it totally is!

  5. Oh. my. WORD. This is awesome. I found your blog through the 7QT link up and I just LOVE the idea of a Catholic Belly Dancer. Keep dancing lady!

  6. Thank you SO much Nella, I hope you'll join us again. :)

  7. Found this post through DeltaFlute's link on another blog.

    My wife, K, belly dances and absolutely LOVES it. Pretty much every argument about why bellydancing is NOT immodest has found it's way to her facebook wall. :-)

    Just because something is physical and sensual does not make it sexual or immodest. Having been to quite a few shows myself with my wife, I would say there is nothing specifically immodest about belly dancing.

    1. Thank you for commenting James! It's great to get a male perspective on this. :) My husband feels the exact same way, btw. :)

  8. Sorry about the old comment - just found this blog through 7QT - but I love this! I think that (in certain situations - not church:) that an uncovered belly can be very modest, because it's showing what a real woman's body is like. It seems like the real immodesty problem comes in when women are expected to have flat abs (hairless, tanned of course). Kudos for being that comfortable in your own skin!

  9. I love Bellydance, if I had been born a girl I would be obsessed with this, (it’s already in my blood)
    But as a guy I can only see it from this side of the fence, i have changed many peoples minds on this subject, to many believe the cheesy cliches from the fifties that bellydancers are like strippers, and to be honest, I’d rather take a punch to the face than her that about something I love, so of course I explain it to them, shift their perspectives, and yes both men and women share this issue of basing there opinion more on ignorance and very old cliches (in the fifties there was a very high demand for bellydancers, but poor supply, so strippers would pretend to be bellydancers (it paid very well, higher than today) that’s were in the negative stereotypes came from, (Hollywood at the time didn’t help)

    And believe it or not, I not only changed peoples perspective on this, but four women took up bellydancing because of me (something I still think is mind blowing, but I’m proud in helping more bellydancers to the world, I wish they taught Bellydance to girls in school, you would have happier people with a lot less eating disorders, you know that the mental benefits outstrip even the physical benifits of Bellydance,

    Yeah, Belly Dance Ambassador is a better term than Bellydance trouble shooter LOL

    Never give up what you love, NEVER

    And don’t like mindless prejudice stop you,

    I’m Roman Catholic,

    1. Men can absolutely study dance as well, including belly dance! And now there are both in person and online options, so you could pick whatever environment you'd be most comfortable in. :)


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