Belly Dance Technique for Males by Stefan Duncan

A different point of view about Male Belly Dancing

INTRODUCTION

Information about masculine style Belly Dance can be hard to come by, and good role models are scarce. Most Belly Dance teachers and students are female, so it is not surprising that the feminine style is usually the one exclusively taught, leaving the male student the option of either dancing feminine style or figuring it out for himself. This can be due to the teacher (male or female) being totally focused on the female student majority, but sometimes it is just due to a lack of any information about the male variations. For concerned teachers & self-starter students who aren't "trying to get in touch with their feminine side," here are some tips.

Bone Structure

To avoid hurting themselves, men should keep in mind some physical gender differences: Women's hips are better built than men's for side to side movement, while men's hips are better for forward & back movement. If a man tries to do a side to side hip move while holding a pelvic tuck, it can cause him serious back injury (so keep the pelvic bone in the neutral position when doing side to side moves, but feel free to use it to emphasize forward and back moves). Always keep your knees flexed while doing any pelvic or hip moves.

Attitude

The historical role of male dancers in the troupe was to protect the females. A man should project power & directness. Most of the time he is sharing his high spirits with his audience, but occasionally he lets them know he will not be challenged, perhaps with a slow fierce gaze over the crowd, doing some big, slow move in sync (eg, a barrel roll, or the front arc of a hip circle).

Posture

Men can create a large physical presence by putting chest out, shoulders back (makes chest look huge) and using their arms to create an impression of greater width (arms at sides, elbows moderately bent and pointing to the left and right, arms near enough to body to seem part of torso, yet away enough to create sense of large area).

The natural posture that a man returns to when not doing something else is: Chin up, straight spine, shoulders back, chest out, arms slightly away from sides, elbows moderate bent and pointing away from sides, hands in fist, pelvic bone centered, knees slightly bent, feet apart and flat on floor.

Choreography

Women usually move in diagonals toward or away from audience, while men tend to move directly toward, away, or perpendicular to the audience. Women often do moves at a slight angle to the audience, while men usually are either directly facing audience or in profile. Men don't turn their back to audience for as long as women do, if at all. Men don't raise their arms up in the air as long or as high, as this makes the body look vulnerable.

Hands

Where women may have fingers splayed, men have fingers together. Hands are generally straight, in a fist, or in a half fist (fingers closed, open palm). No limp wrists.

Facial Expression

Smile with a facial expression that communicates high spirits, confidence, and joy in manhood, occasionally changing to a fierce look when showing power directly. Keep chin up enough to look proud but not aloof or detached (keep rapport with audience).

General Style Differences

Where women do soft motions, men can do sharp ones. While women primarily dance on the balls of their feet or up on toes, men only occasionally dance on the balls of their feet, and are more often flat footed & well grounded. Where women are light footed in their movement, men can put some stomp into their step. Often pelvic movements are reversed for men: where women include a pelvic tuck in a move, men do a pelvic thrust. Where a woman does a small move, a man might make it bigger. When doing head moves, men generally keep their chin in a level position (if looking up, he uses his eyes, not his whole head). Men do side to side head turns, and horizontal head circles, but should keep eyes on audience.

These pointers flow from the general principles: Don't look weak, don't look vulnerable, don't drop your guard. Keep in mind that the above tips & principles are just guidelines & tendencies, and that a dancer that sticks to them a 100% will look pretty constrained. They are just meant to be a good foundation to work out from. Try things, see if they work, develop your own style.

Sources

Most of the above tips were either taught to me by Shyzhd (who taught several "men's" classes, and herself primarily dances Turkish style), or came from observing male dancers whose style I liked. Some are from the comments of local dancers who said things like, "Wow, it really looked great when [somemale] did [goodmove]." There were also a few counter-examples along the way, who showed me what I absolutely didn't want to look like on stage. Even after a good grounding in masculine style from an excellent teacher, I'm still learning how to 'filter' and/or 'convert' the moves from general Belly Dance classes and performances into neutral or masculine forms that I want to use. I hope that these tips will help others have an enjoyable journey into dance, and encourage them to contribute their insight and example to our growing community.

Stefan Duncan