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  • Bella Dancer

C'MON, YOU'RE A BELLY DANCER! - Of Course You Want Me To Grope You.

Updated: Jan 8



..This anti-sex conservatism was so staunchly indoctrinated into me that I eventually started wearing my SCA costumes at the Greek restaurant. I’d heard that in big venues, famous dancers did one cabaret set and then closed the night with a folkloric set. So that’s what I started doing, too. (Even though my dance style and the costumes themselves were a big SCAdian fusion mashup, not one of the folkloric styles from which this tradition hailed.)

But I didn’t know that yet, because my knowledge about such things was delivered via firehose with a side-dish of voracious sponging...


Please note: if you're new around here, I suggest you re-read the title of this post 👆 and the titles from this entire series.👇 I hope it's obvious what we'll be getting into.

Continued from my series about belly dance, sex & self-defense, amidst my transition from restaurant dancing to the stage, with a detour through the Society for Creative Anachronism:

--BELLY DANCERS: 🐍luts, Priestesses, H😱🤩chies & G😈ddesses.

--NEVER BELLY DANCE TO THIS SONG! - It's About A Prostitute.

--BELLY DANCE IS *NOT* SEXUAL! - It's Sensual.



The first night I danced at the Greek restaurant in my SCA face-veil and my goldenrod Ghawazee coat made of 1970s striped curtains, everything changed.


It was the fall of 1995. I had recently returned home from my first Pennsic War and had done a stage show where I debuted the fledgling version of what would become my signature fusion style, wearing that coat instead of one of my many homemade cabaret costumes.


The first time I tried out dressing SCAdianly at the restaurant, the owner’s wife came up to me after my performance and she was breathless. Almost wordless at first. “You know,” she gushed, uncertain where to put her hands, “that was one of the…” She paused, leaned toward me, and whispered, “Sexiest costumes I have ever seen. So much mystery and intrigue. It left so much to the imagination. Even though you were completely covered up, the movements were still easy to see. I never would have imagined!”


Huh. Oooookay.


Experiment: confirmed.


This reaction only gave credence to everything the more experienced SCA dancers had told me. Because for once, my audience didn’t look at me like I was some cute little piece of sex-candy in jingles and jangles, shimmering around the joint like fantastical moving furniture.


Overnight, far more people began to pay attention to my dancing as a true artistic expression, which was what I wanted more than anything. Dance was one of the disciplines I was studying in college, after all, and my new mentors had taught me that this was an ancient sacred rite, as well as a legitimate fine art. They were hard at work reclaiming our dance from the gutters of dirty minds and disrespectful--even abusive--treatment, therefore: little monkey saw, little monkey did. As little monkey grew up, this simply became the base operating procedures for all my performing monkey tricks.


Not everybody liked my costuming shift. But the positive reactions outweighed the negative by a landslide. Rather than glancing at a bit of titillating novelty as a backdrop for their supper or being annoyed at having a distraction from their conversations, more people suddenly realized that they were being offered quality entertainment in addition to their meal. They engaged more, and we connected more.


It’s not even that my music, movements, or intentions out there were any different. It was people's perception that changed. There had always been those precious patrons who had understood what I was trying to say with my art. But when I changed my costumes, that number immediately grew. Great swathes of my audience suddenly could see beyond the flesh and the sequins. They could see beyond the stereotypes of “something yummy to ogle” or "something sinful to avoid."


Suddenly, they saw ME.


My heart.

The stories I wove.

The joy and sensuality I painted on the air. My obsessive devotion to the skills of my chosen craft.


I liked that. I loved that!

I also needed that.


Because the more lecherous of my patrons simultaneously stopped trying to cop a covert feel under the premise of stuffing money into my belt--or other places I had to deftly outmaneuver--and I really loved that. In fact, greater numbers of my audience members even waited until the end of the show to hand me tips and tell me how much they’d enjoyed my performance--always a welcome thing.


I’d never had a problem with the arts of striptease and the body tipping that was part of their culture. I didn’t even have a problem if other belly dancers enjoyed that part of our culture.


But I did have a problem with those dancers who encroached upon their audience and non-consensually touched them in sexual ways, like the gal I watched jump up onto the floor cushions, squeeze behind the seated patrons, and grind her crotch against the back of one gentleman's head. She then removed his glasses, smeared them all over the tops of her sweaty breasts, and put them back on his face.


Poor guy looked like a deer-in-the-headlights with that too-big, "I know I'm supposed to be laughing and not being a party-pooper," grin propped up onto his mouth. His horrified wife, on the other hand, sat beside him blowing steam out her ears while trying to dodge the fringe that kept flying into her eyes and the hip that kept bumping her shoulder.


At a family restaurant.


NOT a club designated for sexual, physical contact between performers and patrons.


I only saw that dancer perform once at that restaurant, and I was glad. I had been told by many people that she was someone I should go watch perform, because she'd been dancing for many years, whereas I was young and new. She taught me all right. Taught me what kind of dancer--what kind of person I did NOT want to be. Because that sort of intrusive conduct...


Well, today it would get called what it is: sexual harassment and assault. In the 90s? (And in places now that are still subject to outdated hangovers?) Not so much. (2)


Conduct like that was precisely WHY we had such an uphill battle for respect, and why my mentors had been so adamant that "belly dance is sensual, NOT sexual!" It gave people the idea that belly dancers and their patrons, even in a family restaurant, commonly exchanged physical, public, sexual touch.


It also gave people the idea that my costume, my movements, my impassioned expression of the music, my sweat, my skin, my playfulness, my gaze, my smile--and yes, my sexiness were all invitations to get sex from me simply because they were in the room and I smiled at them. It gave unspoken permission to do the same thing to me as that dancer had done to those patrons.


So where, precisely, is the line?


And how, precisely, do we all navigate it when my line was so obviously different from hers? And hers, and hers over there? And that other guy's? And theirs over yonder?


It's a really tricky thing, and society in general is still trying to work it out.


So am I.


There are a lot of sexual ASSumptions, entitlement, and expectations in my culture. (2) This is only exacerbated by the distinct lack of healthy, honest, respectful communication about the subject. Unfortunately, we're taught the opposite of communicating directly yet courteously about sex.


Also unfortunate is how rarely in my life that I've ever been given the opportunity to shout an enthusiastic, "Fuck YES!" to someone's sexual advance. Too often I'm backpedalling, saying, "I think your parents' genes combined in an aesthetically pleasing way. You're pretty and we're really starting to click, so...maybe? But slow down!"


One of the many joys of being demisexual. (3)


I'm still trying to figure that one out, because it's all games of assumption, innuendo, and unspoken cues that I just don't get and never really have. Not without dropping all the pretenses of being "cool" and addressing this topic directly--which often gets taken as rude or, at best, socially hamfisted and a big ole boner-kill.


Which I guess I am.


Oh, well.


Personally, I find straightforward communication about sexy-fun games both cool and hawt. But apparently I'm a weirdo.



When I arrived in the SCA, I discovered that the cuddle-culture was even more intense than what I'd experienced in the Theater world. There was a lot of pressure to engage in meaningless flirtation that was often very hands-on. A lot of lips-on, too. This just confuses and irritates me, as well as creating uncomfortable situations that I rarely know what to do about. Sometimes it creates dangerous situations, because I have a hard time telling the difference between when somebody means it and when they don't. I hear the reverse is also true.


Hey, I have a dirty mind and I speak it--not as a come-on or even flirtation. That's very rare with me. It's usually a simple statement of fact or it's something I find funny that most of the room doesn't. I also have this tendency to blurt out literal statements that, if interpreted another way, plunge all the minds around me into the gutter.


Reason #653 why one of my nicknames is She Who Laughs Last.


As such, I make alllll sorts of lovely faux pas when I try to mimic cocktail party humor or neurotypical, allosexual flirtation at the inappropriate time or to inappropriate degrees or with inappropriate people. When I'm in the zone and have a lot of Spoons, I can nail the illusion like a champ--hey, one of my earliest and lifelong hyperfixations is character creation and acting. I'm especially good when I can curate my responses over writing. But eventually, somewhere, somewhen, it's always going to devolve into monkey-see-monkey-doodoo, because I don't truly understand those rules of engagement.


I also don't like a lot of them.


Why do you think I prefer to spend the big party out on the drum circle rugs or on the dance floor, silent and in my own little world?


Excuse me. Silent and un-groped in my own little world.


So when it comes to strangers?


I rarely like to be touched beyond a handshake or a reserved hug, and sometimes not even that. There are many circumstances in which I have a really big and bristly personal space even with my acquaintances, in spite of my cuddle-bug personality, my professional entertainer's smile, and my socially groomed, comfort-overriding (masking) habits. (3)


I don't like to say flirtatious things when I don't mean them any more than I like small talk, and I don't welcome physical touch--especially sexually charged physical touch--with very many people. I'm super finicky about all of that, so adhering to my actual preferences for personal space and sexual innuendo gets me called "standoffish, prudish, elitist, prissy, stuck-up, a bitch."


When I was young, we didn't have a clue what hypersensitivity or neurodivergence was, much less what type I am. We'd never heard of demisexuality either, so I kept trying and trying and trying to figure out why I could never get comfortable with all these things so many other people did as naturally and happily as circulating their blood.


For the majority of years in which I cut my sexual teeth and formed the basis of myself as an adult, the cuddle-cultures of the Theater and the SCA were my primary social groups. Since I really did want friends, belonging, romance, and sex, I caved a lot, wedging myself into social rhythms that could never work for me and winding up baffled why I could never sustain it--much to my detriment, and to the detriment of anyone who tried to have any kind of close relationship with me. All that masking made me erratic, overloaded, inconsistent, fragile. I pretty much felt like I was always one good wave up the nose from drowning.

When I danced in the restaurants, I caved even more because it was my job.


Let it be known: unless I'm engaged in a sexual experience with my lover, I do NOT like to be groped, grabbed, caressed, tushie-patted, fondled, or otherwise molested. This goes quadruple for when I'm at work.


As belly dancers go, I am not remotely in the minority with this. I'm not sure how many are accepting body tips these days, given the pandemic, but for the sake of those who still do (1), let it also be known in case you don't:

  • A belly dancer's bra cups are sooooo not the place to body tip.

  • Neither is the front of the belt.

  • There's a difference between a belly dancer and an exotic dancer doing a belly dance set. If you're not sure of that difference, simply communicate: ask the dancer how they would prefer to receive the tip. If a belly dancer indicates either of the places above, well...I don't recommend making the ASSumption that all or even most are open to that.

  • Holding money between your teeth in the hopes of a mouth-to-mouth transfer: also a no-no, even before Covid.

  • Deviating from the indicated places that a dancer has expressed willingness to accept a body tip--whether aggressively, coercively or sneakily--NAY.

  • Folding up the bill into a small wad so you have to use significant hand-insertion to get it inside the belt: BZZZT!

  • The recommended folding procedure is length-wise so it's less likely to wind up on the floor. This also makes it quick and easy to tuck into a shoulder strap, arm band, or the side or back of the belt.

  • And no. I am NOT talking about a deep-dip dumpster-dive into the center-back so you can surreptitiously graze an ass-crack.

🤨


Additionally--I know, I know, it's hard to conceive. But please, please, do believe:

  • I really don't enjoy someone taking the long way home to my hip by tracing a sensual fingertip down the indent of my bare abdomen with eyes that smolder, “What I’d like to do to everything underneath that shimmery, quivering belt."

  • I severely dislike people cornering, surrounding and triple-timing me so I can't control where everybody is putting their hands by adjusting the angle of my body or dancing away.

  • Like when someone slips three fingers inside my belt past my hipbone and tries to linger.

  • Or tries to pull my belt away from my body to sneak-peek my pubes.

  • Or tries to yank me closer to them by my belt.

  • Or my wrist.

  • Or my anything.

  • Do NOT do that.

  • It also hacks me off when people tuck a bill into the shoulder strap of my top and then quick descend into that extra graze of the knuckles against my upper-pectoral plain that shouts everything they’re thinking about southward descents into hills and valleys.


Especially when their eyes shout how certain they are that I’m thinking the same thing.


I mean, c'mon. I must be--dressed like I am, sporting the title "belly dancer," and shaking my shit like that? Surely I want to fuck them in return. Surely I must want to fuck the whole restaurant.


🤨


Starting to understand why I was so fascinated and envious of that Turkish dancer Shifrah showed me? Because her audience's wholesomely playful reactions lacked sexual entitlement to her skimpier costume and more overtly erotic movements. I also envied the fact that nobody put their hands on her while she was dancing.


But in the restaurants and clubs where I performed, body tipping was “part of the gig.” When I first started, we had very few stage shows where I lived, and certainly no paid stage shows. So if I wanted to be a professional belly dancer--which I really, really did because I loved this dance form more than any other performance art I had studied--body tipping was “just what belly dancers in the US did.”


And I hated every second of it that wasn’t respectful play and appreciation.


Because there’s showtime flirtation and there’s a genuine invitation to my bed. There’s sensual, sexy artistry and there’s a legit come-on that says I want your hands on my body in sensual, sexual ways.


There’s also the execution of acrobatic hip-licious feats of wonder that make it difficult-to-impossible for somebody to get a bill, much less the fingers attached to it, inside my belt.


😈


Also makes it difficult to give my glistening skin an unwanted sexual caress as you pay me less-than-peanuts for your pleasure.


Wut? I'm just dancing...


That “can’t catch me” teasing dance during body tips was a huge part of my defensive arsenal. It was one of the only ways I could control and reduce the frequent, encouraged, publicly applauded micro-assaults to my sexual self. Because not all of it came from people who were obviously rude, drunk, or predatory BEFORE I was in there getting tipped.


Some of the worst ones maintained the most polite, innocuous expressions (except for what snarled in the back of their eyes while they hid what they did with a strategically placed shoulder, table or potted plant).


By the time I became a belly dancer, I had nineteen years of practice and societal indoctrination that had become the deeply ingrained habit of weathering constant harassment and assault--whether micro or overt--with a smile spackled across my face as though I didn’t notice or didn’t care. Because if you make a big deal about it but have nothing that incentivizes them to stop…well, we’ve been over that ad nauseam.


So the “can’t catch me” dance became a highly skilled way of entertaining the harmless and playful members of my audience as my hips bounced and twisted away in time with every doum, tek, and brrrr of the drums. We all had a great time with it and I always eventually let them win. (I won, too, in tips.)


Those with less-than-honorable intentions?


Oh, it pissed them off! Some of them even refused to tip me if I was going to “act like that,” which was awesome to me. This game was the only way that I felt like I was the one in control of that exchange’s rhythm, rather than enduring the kind of touches that literally made me nauseous.

Contrary to popular belief, vomit-green isn’t the best hue for a belly dance costume. Definitely not great on the dinner plate.


And no. Flaunting a bill with a bigger bang is never going to buy you access to what you wouldn't get from me otherwise. That pissed certain individuals off even more than their inability to win at "can't catch me."


(I know. How dare I have different desires and motivations from the ones you want me to have when your wallet is that thick and your smile is that slick? Surely this means you swing a mighty big stick, but nope! Not enticed by that kind of big prick.)


How I wished-upon-wish that my culture would have adopted the money-shower practice of tipping instead of body tipping. Occasionally somebody would do that, which was always a wonderful treat. But this was such a rare and unplanned-for thing that, the first times it happened, nobody thought to help me with the cleanup act. Since the owners were cooking and the waitstaff were running food, I had no one to discretely ask.


Instead, I had to make the grand culminating act of my show a demeaning scramble on my knees, chasing after all the generously and joyously bestowed dollar bills that littered the ground to ensure that nobody swiped them while I was in the dressing room.


One of the greatest acts of love any of the waitstaff or my friends ever gave me: collecting those bills for me so I could end my show gracefully with my spine erect, head and eyes up, on my feet, not my knees.


I particularly appreciated the assistance after enduring people whose smug, chuckling eyes shouted down at me while I plucked up money that had floated underneath their shoes, "Yeah, pretty whore, that's where you belong: beneath me. In every way you could take that sentiment."


With those kinds of people, I was glad that they always preferred the belt-tip over the shower, because at least I was the one standing taller than they were.


Usually.


Sometimes they stood up to tower over me and loom. But I'm a slippery little shit. With them on their feet, it gave the bratty belly dancer license to prance circles around them, getting them all spun up so I could slip out from where they'd tried to corner me, then leave them in my glitterific dust, dicks in hand along with their unwanted dollar bill.


And no. I didn't give a splotch of figgy pudding that they'd peeled it off the top of a big, bulging wad with that look of, "There's more where this came from, sweet-cheeks. If you please me enough."


The only other recourses I had for this sort of unsavory conduct were to stop belly dancing or refuse body tipping. The first was not going to happen--not for anything.


As for the second... Although I did gravely need the money, the bigger factor was my fear that I would annoy, or possibly upset my employers, and maybe even lose my dream job of being a professional dancer. At nineteen or even twenty-three, I was not yet brave enough to buck The System, which I would have done if I'd deviated from what their patrons were long accustomed to. These restaurants had been in business for decades and they had a lot of regulars.


I loved our regulars. They were not the problem. Neither were the majority of patrons who came in for a special night of cuisine and entertainment out of the ordinary. They made my years of restaurant dancing one of the longest-enduring highlights of my life.


The problem was that obnoxious, demanding table of visiting businessmen who’d had a few too many drinks. It was that group of drunk college kids who had come in on a whim to see what this “ethnic food thing” was all about. It was the trio of Valentine’s day couples with the cruel girlfriends making snarky comments about “this must be when she takes her clothes off” during the most soulful dance of the night--my candle dance. It was that drunk wife encouraging her not-quite-as-drunk husband to treat me like a worthless sex-object as she handed him dollar bill after bill with her eyes gone alcohol-glazed and catty.


I’ve always found it interesting how often an overabundance of alcohol played in these acts. Not always. But often. On those nights, I momentarily--inexplicably--found myself struck blind every time I faced that table who kept demanding my presence back with their waving bills and snapping fingers.


I really don't know what happened. Must've been the glare off my own blingy boobs...


Oopsie.


Thankfully, these occurrences were not the norm. I wouldn't have stuck it out if they had been. But we're talking about a decade of restaurant dancing, both weekend nights all month long, sometimes up to four nights a week. This was punctuated by year-round belly-grams in environments that were usually oodles of fun and occasionally were...


Not.


Whenever the bad stuff happened at the restaurants, my employers were really great with me. That's one of the best things about dancing in a classy establishment with amazing owners. They were protective of me, providing distraction tactics or terse looming over licentious clientele. They hugged me when I burst into tears the moment I got off stage and my Face came down like a building rigged with demolition charges.


But many of them also put a lot of pressure on their dancers to encourage body tipping. “You need to come out during your second set with a fiver tucked in your belt. You’ll earn way more tips that way.”


I was never comfortable with that practice. It felt manipulative and dishonest. (3) I was also keenly aware of the connection between the amount of money that got tucked into my costume and the amount of money spent on drinks. These two things often increased in tandem, along with the likelihood that a perfectly fun audience might start behaving badly under the lowered inhibitions of more alcohol.


That kind of ride has never been worth the money for me. Even if it had been, financial gain is not a primary motivation in my makeup. (Obviously--considering the intellect, drive, ambition, and the number of gifts I was born with across a variety of sciences, disciplines, and arts, compared to the careers I pursued.)


Even while I was a broke college student or under-employed after moving across the country, money was still less alluring to me than my un-transgressed boundaries, my reputation as “not a slut” (which decreased the aforementioned boundary-crossing), and my devotion to my passions.


I also don’t have that kind of party-girl personality to consider getting pawed and propositioned an extra bonus when it comes with "tips for something I naturally enjoy." I don't. It’s not fun for me like it is for some people. With as huge of a smartass as I am, for all my ease with hamming it up as the life of the partay, in many ways I am just way too friggin' serious. Always have been. And I like it this way. Since my seriousness extends to sexy-fun touch and flirtation, that makes me a total buzz-kill in many social circles.


Oh, well.


Given my history of sexual trauma on top of my natural reserve, the triggering amidst body tipping and too-frequent attempts to entice me into private strip shows and prostitution--or the assumption that my belly dancing was nothing but a cover for these other professions--was one of the many things I shoved and shoved and shoved to the back of my mind for those ten years of belly-grams and restaurant dancing.


It's also why I stopped putting my phone number on my business cards or leaving them at random locations alongside advertisements for all the other legit businesses in the area.


Unfortunately, I didn't feel comfortable talking to my employers about this stuff. Heck, when I first started belly dancing, I didn't remember the worst of my sex traumas, and after I started getting my memories back, the few people I tried to talk to about it just heaped on more damage with their responses, so I certainly wasn't going to bring it up at work. Especially since all but one of the nightclub owners were male. Although I adored most of them, dancing for that one female was such a novel relief.


That summer in 2000 when I did The Artist’s Way and my first chakra cleanse, I finally talked to my female employer about my ever-growing discomfort with body tipping.

I had long since returned to wearing cabaret costumes. Not only had I left the SCA, but I had also returned to restaurant dancing after a year away. My first Greek restaurant had closed shortly before I moved to Minneapolis, I didn't live in the Twin Cities long enough to have made my way into that scene, and then I moved to Colorado. The restaurants there were all about the glitz and the glamour.

In truth, I’d missed cabaret costumes. The biggest reasons I had abandoned them was all that disparagement about “jingle bunnies” and “(slut) belly dancers who brought dishonor" upon the dance, and who "asked for" awful treatment, harassment, and sexual assault.


But the cabaret scene in Colorado Springs was very different from my first teacher's community that had been so ostracized for being "too sexy." None of the Colorado dancers called down those of us who performed in restaurants either, like my second teacher in Minnesota had.


In fact, the cabaret scene in Colorado was as intimately connected to that feminist, priestess, Goddess-culture as the SCA dancers were. There was a great deal of overlap between those communities, just like there had been in Minneapolis.


So although I was thrilled to deck myself out in spangles and sparkles again, I was not thrilled to go back to body tipping. After acquiring some shield-maiden chops while fighting in medieval heavy armor, compounded by all the boundary and self-care practices of The Artist's Way, I finally tossed out a revolutionary idea to my female employer at the Moroccan restaurant.


I suggested that I could have a basket for tips and make laminated, finger-food-friendly programs for the show, which I hoped would call to mind the fine art dance sphere from which I hailed, rather than the lap-dance and sex work myths so many of us were trying to dispel. The way I phrased it in the program was, “Due to the fragile and expensive nature of costumes, a basket has been provided if you wish to offer a tip.” My employer was enthusiastic about this idea, although we both figured that it would mean fewer dollar bills.

It did.


But I’ll tell you what increased. The number of $5, $10 and $20 tips left in that basket compared to how many people used to stuff them into my costume.


The patrons who still tipped me--and those who were comfortable enough with this new practice to tip me for the first time--tended to be the ones who appreciated my artistry and skill even more than my glistening flesh and the shaking, quaking fringe that highlighted my T & A.


“They watch you like they’re at a ballet performance now,” my best friend observed one night. “They're too mesmerized to keep talking. They forget to eat. You’re not just background furniture and they definitely don’t watch you like some hoochie-coochie girl to drool over and paw. They watch you like you’re the King's favorite daughter.”


I liked that image. A fantastical type of progressive, powerful father-figure who encouraged his daughter to dance her heart out while watching over her with a protective eye. It conjured other fantasies of the King's guards lopping off the heads and encroaching hands of the disrespectful and the lecherous.


My psyche needed some head-loppers. My self-defense needed some hand-chopping. This gave me more fodder for arming my own inner protection mechanisms. I started treating myself like I was that treasured, well-guarded, highly respected court favorite--and yes, the cadre of royal guards as well.


For a blissful few months, I suddenly made higher tips and I received overwhelming compliments from my audiences, my employers, and the restaurant staff on the changes to my dancing (which were really just changes to my confidence, my mental health, my tranquility, my stability).


A drunk driver ended that.


Once I made that triumphal return to dancing that my pessimistic doctors had told me I should give up striving for, a smear campaign by another dancer prevented my return to restaurant gigs for many years. Eventually, her actions and mine revealed the truth of us both, and I started receiving apology letters from former students, medical practitioners, and employers who had believed her lies.


But by then, the restaurant with the female owner had closed. The dance scene north of Colorado Springs had barely known me, so I doubt they really understood or even noticed how badly I had been slandered. My brain injury also made it impossible for me to drive from Pueblo to Denver or Boulder on a show night, so I never considered auditioning at the clubs up there. That left one restaurant in the Springs Area.


In 2006, I gave restaurant dancing one brief fizzle of a shot:


(Holy crap! MySpace!!!!) 🤣🤪🤣🤪🤣


By this time, I was no longer a good fit for the restaurant scene. I had reverted to what I had originally been: a stage dancer.


During the years of my exile, I'd begun directing and producing my own sold-out shows with my friends, students, and dance company, as well as headlining at small festivals to the south and west of me. And these were no slouchy shows. Small towns in small theaters out in the mountains they may have been, but we all made some fabulous dances together. These venues struck the shackles off my creativity, gifting me with the freedom to splatter all my paints against the wall just to see what I could make.


In this return to my roots, I followed in the footsteps of that other side of my dance inheritance: all the hack-bastardizers, black sheep, and rebels of Jazz, Swing, Vaudeville, Expressionism, and the Modern Dance Pioneers.


When I stepped back onto those Moroccan carpets after five years away, I was fully immersed in what had become my signature fusion style: Tejedora.


It meant "Weaver," and that's exactly what I was doing. All the different forms of belly dance I'd studied, everything I'd learned from the Dance Department during college, the multi-body moving sculptures I'd honed in cheerleading and classical Western choreography, the character creation and storytelling from my decades as an actress and writer, the elemental alchemy absorbed while dancing around the SCA campfires, and three new flavors from my move to Pueblo: Mexican Folklorico, Flamenco, and Martial Arts. This was the ever-shifting cocktail I experimented with in those shows.


While I love the eye-to-eye, personal connection with my audience that an auditorium or rows of folding chairs can never foster, after the expansiveness of a stage, the restaurant felt like a restrictive obstacle course full of pitfalls. Having my eyeballs stretched out of my skull in that car wreck had messed up my peripheral vision and depth perception, so I was constantly snagging chandeliers and other decorations with my props and whirling skirts. I was even farther from being comfortable with lecherous people groping my body, and the efforts of trying to corral myself into helping the venue invoke a specific cultural flavor...


The whole thing felt like trying to dance inside a too-small box. I just couldn't do it anymore. I was way more artist than entertainer by then, which is what I had always yearned to be.


For me there was no going back.


The first demo video I made, also in 2006, as an attempt to explain what I was doing--and what I really, really wasn't:



❄️ 'TIS THE SEASON! ❄️

DON'T DRINK & DRIVE.



CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE

--UP NEXT: A commercial break: MY HOLIDAY FLIGHT - No. Not That Kind of Flight

--OR: The all-grinning, all-tap-dancing, humorous look at those obstacle course pitfalls: YOUR RESTAURANT IS STALKING YOU - So Are Your Costumes.

--OR: The whole journey of MY FORMATIVE YEARS IN DANCE

--OR: All my writing about SEX, LOVE & VIOLENCE

--OR: I've written a bunch about the types of NEURODIVERGENCE & HYPERSENSITIVITY I was born with, and how not knowing this about myself impacted my brain injury, relationships, jobs, activities...my whole life trajectory.

--THE NAVIGATION TABLE OF CONTENTS


GEEKY LINKS


1) Audience Etiquette & Tipping

--Belly-Watching 101 - tips on watching, tipping, and hiring a belly dancer--without awkwardness or disrespect.

--Belly Dance Tips & Tricks - a collection of advice that would have been soooo helpful if I'd gotten to learn this under the protective wings of a teacher, rather than the hard way through trial and error on the floor.


2) Female Objectification & ASSumptions

--It’s no wonder we get objectified when our bodies are asking for it

--Fawning is not consent. It's a trauma response like Fight, Flight & Freeze.

--The Freeze Response

--It's Not "Groping" or "Fondling" - It's Sexual Assault.


3) Demisexuality & Neurodivergence

--Signs You Might Be Demisexual

--Demisexuality & Autism - is there a link? - Aversion to touch, difficulties with emotional processing, visual aesthetic admiration vs. sexual attraction, communication & assumptions.

--Neurodivergent-Specific Trauma: Unsafe, Unheard, Misunderstood - A number of lesser known and lesser understood atypical types of trauma experienced by neurodivergent people. These constant stressors encourage masking, people pleasing, the dismissal of instincts and one’s own needs, and not standing or speaking up for one’s self.

--Neurodivergent Compensatory Behaviors (commonly called a general “Masking”)

--Why I Find It Excruciating To Be Dishonest

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