The revival of interest in belly dance in the 1970s Western second wave feminists ended up in its redefinition as a symbol of personal and sexual liberation (Shay & Sellers-Young, 2003: 17). This dance genre has been correlated with body acceptance, self-esteem, reducing stress as well as encouraging physical fitness, personal growth, and “goddess” ecofeminism’s essentialist notions of “the eternal feminine” and spirituality. Most women experienced dance classes as informal female spaces shielding them from the harsh judgment associated with the male gaze (Moe, 2015: 5, 7).
In a very different context, period and place, I have been experiencing a similar learning process in an oriental dance association (namely İstanbul Oryantaller Eğitim ve Kültür Derneği, abbrev. İstorder) in Istanbul/Turkey. In this paper, I will examine my teachers’ ways of passing on knowledge and my personal way of learning the new dance form. Based upon my fieldwork and my previous dance teaching experiences, I will try to explore further possibilities of creating an egalitarian and liberatory environment and a “safe and supportive community” from a feminist dance pedagogical perspective (Barr & Oliver: 106).
Keywords: Belly dance, oriental dance, education, transmission, feminist pedagogy