Inspired by a conversation with a bunch of lovely ladies, I got to thinking on this topic. Usually when we think of bellydancers (a form of dance that most polytheist and pagan dancers seen to be particularly attracted to) we typically think of dancers wearing next to nothing..often showing off their legs and almost always showing their abs, much of their chest and the whole length of their arms. This looks of course is inspired by Egyptian bellydance where I believe it originates. I felt it necessary to go on record saying that to bellydance such wardrobe is entirely unnecessary, and in fact in many countries such traditional forms of bellydancing are done under full cover of clothing. There are, for instance, examples in video from dancers in different parts of the Arabian world wearing beautiful flowing dresses and clothing that are essentuated in the right areas for their dancing but don’t leave the body bare. In such videos the only unveiling really done is loosening of the hair in dance.
This idea is not an uncommon one of course when we see pictures from the ancient mediteranean world. Typically dancing figures in celebration, often religious, were fully clothes figures and often with their bound hair loosened to flow over their shouders as they danced. The same comparison can be made of images of the oracle of Delphi. Compare how she is clothed and portrayed when she is seated at the oracle and how she is protrayed when she is dancing in a frenzy of prophetic possession. Her dress doesn’t change…the only difference is her head which is covered in the first example is uncovered in the second and her hair is wiping wildly about her and she dances.
Generally the few examples we have nude or almost nude dancing girls comes via images of slave girls who are not religiously dancing but dancing in service to a man. Her nudity serves only his lust. This is a direct contrast to images of women and maidens of citizen status or religious office engaging in dance. Again an exception can be pointed out from the Egyptian front, though in their religious services it is hard to determine which figures are representing slaves. It seems me that most of the slaves in Egyptian art are wearing next to nothing, but then so do most depictions of dancing in Egyptian art. So when it comes to Egypt I will place a note of exception there. Generally I am speaking in terms of other places in the mediteranean..and notably in Hellas with which I am particularly concerned as a Hellenic Polytheist.
I am not making this point to say that those who bear themselves in what is considered typical bellydance costume are being impious, or that they dance in a fashion contrived for concubines and slaves. It certainly has its own beauty. I am only making the comparisson to show women that it is not necessary to be adorned in this fashion in order to partake of these traditional forms of dance. I would personally love to see some dance troups develop in which the women adorn themselves in more traditional ways as an addition to (not replacement of) the bellydance community. Personally I feel alot can be said for wearing chitons or kaftans etc in my own dancing!
Now when it comes right down to it you might hear that the purpose of leaving the body nearly bare is in order to essentuate the movement…but I call bullshit on this. I grant that it can make it more in your face visible…but with all the adornment that is also worn..often covered in bells and other decor that makes plenty of noise…well we really already have that part covered lol.