This is somewhat of a touchy subject for me...
How do I weigh my support for friends & associates that participate in Burlesque against my feelings about how "The Burly Equation" negatively impacts the hard work & efforts of many (both past and present) to elevate the Art of Raqs Sharqi / Belly Dance to the same level of acceptance as Ballet, Jazz, Modern & Contemporary, the Latin Dances, and others.
Difficult to do when local audiences see them performed side by side (one minute she's a belly dancer – performing a traditional folkloric piece... the next she's changed costumes and is peeling off her clothes and rubbing her pastied breasts in a gentleman's face).
That beautiful veil dance forgotten behind the cat calls, whistles, and titillation of the Burly.
I've read the arguments made by those who teach / perform it. And I'm sorry, but I have to emphatically disagree with claims that it empowers women. (You may feel emboldened or brave removing your kit in public – but objectification is hardly empowering!)
I remember a small rant (some time ago now) that one of our local performers posted on Facebook about a restaurant owner telling her “she was just another pretty girl in a costume”. She went on to post about her years of hard work building a dance business, being a performer, (blah... blah... blah...)
I also remember the comment that a male friend made about her rant
(Something to the effect of, “Well, if she wasn't taking off her clothes – she'd probably garner a lot more respect”).
And THAT my friends is precisely the issue...
How can we ever hope to venerate the art of of Raqs Sharqi / Belly Dance when we align it with activities and things that only serve to perpetuate the myths, misconceptions, and negative connotations held by the general public?
Please Note : My opinions on this matter are not based on some prudish mindset or religious upbringing - but from first hand knowledge & experience on the subject (having worked a number of years in the clubs and venues that support Burlesque and stripping to pay my way thru college).