As with anyone in the entertainment industry, age can be a touchy subject for bellydancers. Not that we don’t like our age or are afraid of it but sharing it isn’t always the easiest thing to do. There is so much of a stigma with age in general that it (unfortunately) affects bellydance as well. I decided to put this post out there because it came up on the bad advice post from a few weeks ago. Apparently there is a stigma out there and a falsehood that you have to be a certain age in order to bellydance or to perform. Hence, this post, ageism and bellydance.
It is such a sad thing that bellydance, an artform that is so inviting and is so great for any sizer one would hope that it would not have a stigma of age associated with it. If it is in indeed all accepting then it should include age as well. I know of dancers who did not start their dance journey until they were 40 or older and yes there are those that started it much younger. But when you start should not make a difference.
There are some clients that will discount you the moment they hear your age. No matter how good a dancer you are, how in shape you are, how “young” you look, the moment your age is out there, they lose interest. This can also be applied to teaching. Some students want to see a young “hip” instructor while others want to see someone who may be closer to their age. I have seen younger instructors disregarded by their students and disrespected in class. I have seen older instructors have the same. “Of course you can do that you’re young” “You don’t know how young people do it”
I have heard from dancers that they have been told that they should stop performing in restaurant after the age of 35. That they are too old for hookah bar gigs etc. This may be without seeing their age or not. I know of dancers who do not bring their children to any of their shows for fear that people will attempt to “do the math” and find out their age. I have had clients ask me my age and I flat out say that I do not provide my age. If you like what you see, hire me. If my age matters then I’m not the dancer for you. I do not believe that my age has anything to do with my skill level. If the audience likes you then go for it. If not, then oh well!
I know that the situation could exist where the comment “Oh she’s been dancing for X years and she still does this, she must not be good.” is made or “She’s been dancing for X years she should have moved on.” We place such an emphasis on age and accomplishment when the two aren’t mutually exclusive. This can also hold true in situations where we may expect a newer dancer to know something they do not. It can be hard to remember when you first started out and what you may or may not know. and this has nothing to do with age. perhaps we should start a trend of referring to a bellydance age. Your age in bellydance could be the number of years you have studied. i think that would be a more accurate description of age if you want to equate it to knowledge of the dance and skill level.
So I want to start the trend right here. My bellydance age is 14. What’s yours? Comment below!