How do you define the words sexy and sensual? These two words have different meanings for different people. The belly dancer wears her costume according to her intentions. For instance, she may wear her costume to entertain her husband or lover for an intimate evening. She would not wear this costume for public display.
The performing belly dancer wears a costume coordinated to reflect a culture and its music. We do not consider a folkloric costume sexy to a dancer. It is a full body cover as worn by a particular Middle Eastern tribal culture and history of a people. Male onlooker may view it as sexy.
Sensual is enjoying our human senses of seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, and touching. The costume may be pretty and nothing more to the dancer, but an onlooker may consider her choice to be sexy and suggestive. It seems to matter not how a dancer sees herself, but how the individuals in the audience see her.
Costumes have changed from its beginnings of cotton and wool. Today there is an array of assorted fabrics from which seamstresses stitch costumes.
How a dancer selects her costume:
- The style, fabrics, and colors are personal for the dancer to look her best.
- Much research and planning goes into a costume.
- Proper fit and secure fasteners to avoid any mishaps.
- Dance style: folkloric, ethnic, or cabaret (night club).
- Music selections of Egyptian, Moroccan, Lebanese, Turkish, Armenian, or other.
- Availability of accessories from head to toe.
- The costume has to make sense with the music and choreography.
- No restrictive movements to handicap movements of veil, sword, or cane, or other props.
- Correct footwear: bare feet, anklets and foot jewelry, sandals, or heels.
- Hairstyles, headdresses, and jewelry appropriate to the costuming.
- Facial makeup, tattoos, and other skin adornments for different costume styles.
There are occasions when a woman wants to feel and be a woman. This dance helps with natural female sensitivity and emotional desires. Women are sensual creatures and this dance is an outlet for mental, physical, emotional, creative, and spiritual sensations. She needs to feel free and alive with her femininity. She may dance alone in the privacy of her home or with other women to enjoy the pleasures of her senses without judgment or negative critiquing.
People have strange ideas of what belly dancing is about. I will not deny that there will always be a “sexy” stigma. This notion will always exist.
The women who have experienced dancing to the exotic music of the Middle East enjoy the passion, heartfelt desires, and overall sensual sensitivity of our mental and physical senses to the exciting rhythms of an ancient dance. This dance is designed by, for, and with women and it will continue to survive into future centuries.