This topic has been weighing on me a bit lately as I have been asked quite a few times thing like: “Is your family excited that you belly dance?” Follow up with: “They must love that you are continuing the culture.”
Well, to be completely forthcoming, it has taken them my entire career to date, to come to grips with it.
In the time that my parents were raised, dancers in general were not regarded very highly. And bellydancers? Even less so. Oh, if you Greek folk dance as part of the troupe at church or Dora Stratou in Greece, that’s one thing but other styles? NOPE. (This may just be my family and my experience but from what I have heard from others, this is not the case.)
For a long time, they would live in fear that someone would “see me” Any Greek party or event they would “die” if someone they knew saw me. Very particular about what I wore, what wasn’t covered. The fact that the dance is art did not enter their minds. The fact that I performed well, to them, was a given. It wasn’t about how well I did or did not dance it was about the stigma.
I remember one of my first parties was in the church hall for a birthday. (Yes, we have parties in the church) and I found out through the client that my Godfather was going to be there. Not only was my family mortified but I was made to call him and let him know so he wouldn’t be shocked and try to run out onto the dance floor to cover me. Now, I know my Godfather, and that is not his style. But I made the phone call. It went like this: (it has been translated loosely and paraphrased)
“Hi Nouno, I wanted to let you know that at _____ birthday party, I’m going to be dancing”
“Oh the troupe is dancing, that is great, what dances are you doing”
“No nouno, other dancing, bellydancing”
“You do that? They pay you well?”
“Will you be showin everything?”
“No, Nouno, my costumes are not like that. You will see.”
And at the performance, I wore a bra, belt set, a full skirt with harem pants and a choli for good measure. It went off without a hitch and it was great. The best part was all the people speaking Greek thinking that I wasn’t Greek. They were quite shocked when I bid them goodbye!
This is just one example of a scenario that I have gone through. Don’t get me wrong I love my family but not everything is easy. It has been hard to continue in this art form with their lack of acceptance but I have been determined to show them that the stereotype is wrong. So for those of you that are dealing with this, I know it’s hard and I feel your struggle. It’s taken a decade but I’ve finally made progress with my family, so there is hope!
Please feel free to comment below to share your struggles or better yet, your success stories!