Thursday, January 14, 2010

Belly dancers excluded from church benefit*

I came across a letter to the Augusta Chronicle, a newspaper in Georgia, from Jezibell Anat, director of the Eastern Star Dance Theatre belly dance troupe, and I find it more than a little troubling.

Her troupe was invited to participate in a Jan. 9 fundraising show to help a local theater and symphony orchestra. Very nice. But one day before the event (one day!), they were informed that belly dancing was not allowed by the Baptist church where the event was to take place.

Now that's very unfortunate.

The reason for the ban isn't included in the letter, and it sounds like Anat wasn't even told what the church found objectionable. Was it the usual, tired misconception (too similar to stripping?) , or something new? We don't know.

I'm trying to contact Anat to find out more, and I'll update this post when (or if) I can reach her.

Either way, this kind of thing only perpetuates the kind of discrimination and dim view that uninformed people have about belly dancing and I applaud Anat for raising the issue.

You can read the letter for yourself here:

* Update: Another belly dancer who was scheduled to perform at the event says the revealing costumes were the reason the church gave for disinviting the belly dancers. Also, she said a high school dance troupe wore costumes that were more revealing. So... seems to me like it might be a case of people who don't know much about belly dancing making the wrong assumptions about what belly dancing is. People, it isn't stripping. In fact, it can be downright modest.


raised here said...
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raised here said...

It may have something to do with the fact that this is a baptist church and Jezibell Anat is a high priestess in the Wiccan belief. I noticed that she neglected to mention this as a possible reason.

Gayle Carline said...

I was raised in the Baptist church, DeAnna. We weren't allowed to dance at all.

DeAnna Cameron said...

That's interesting. I didn't know that there was a flat-out ban on dancing in the Baptist church. But it sounds like at this event only belly dancing was banned.

Anat says in her letter that she and others "reconfigured" their dance to participate, and on her Facebook page, she mentioned that she created a substitute dance. That doesn't sounds like an all-out ban on all dancing to me, just belly dancing. And again, it sounds like she did ultimately perform something at this event, so it doesn't seem like the church was banning her specifically because of her association with Wicca.

But of course, I wasn't there, so I could be wrong...

It does strikes me as similar to the ban on belly dancers that Florida town tried to impose a couple of years ago (

Things like this are usually nipped in the bud when people start noticing that they're happening, and I just hope if that is what's happening here, it'll be nipped in the bud, too.