Stereotype Buster

Stereotype Buster

Belly dancing? It's for everyone!

Belly dancer Ethan Sisser

If a boy wants to dance, that’s his choice. He can dance and still be a boy,” says Ethan Sisser. Those are encouraging words to say when you consider that Ethan is one among the rare community of male belly dancers in the world. A form of dance that’s biased towards females doesn’t really bother Ethan, except if an aspiring male belly-dancer doesn’t find an encouraging teacher. “What bothers me is when some teachers do not allow someone to practice belly dance because he is a man,” he says.

Hawaii-based Ethan was part of Hip-nosis recently, a belly dance festival held in Mumbai by the city-based belly dance expert Payal Gupta to encourage young and aspiring exponents of the dance form. Even as he had just recovered from dengue, Ethan not only participated in various events, but also handled workshops in belly dancing. “It has been a beautiful and challenging process of letting go of the old life, letting go of everything in Hawaii, and coming to India and retraining my mind and energy field to think and feel in the language of belly dance and music full-time,” says Ethan, who is also learning the guitar.

Begins with healing

How he began training in belly dancing makes for an interesting story. Ethan is an intuitive life coach and a healer based in Hawaii. And that’s where his journey began, in a rather unusual setting. “While living in Hawaii, I was studying with a shaman (a person believed to have a connect with the spirits, and therefore with divinity and healing). In one of the ceremonies, the spirit moved through me and I started to dance. I saw myself not just teaching dance but also dancing with my future wife.” For Ethan, this was a life-changing experience. “Up until that point I had no belly dance training, nor did I have any desire to belly dance. But the vision and the experience was so real that I knew it would come true. The vision showed me a part of myself that I had forgotten,” he reveals. 

But that experience would have remained just that had it not been for an opportunity that came knocking on Ethan’s door. He was invited to India! Again, it was his intuition that led him to his mentor, Payal, and her dance academy. “As soon as I met Payal, I felt the same energy that I had felt in the ceremony in Hawaii. I asked Payal if she would teach me and she said yes. At that point I decided to stay in India to develop my belly dancing skills,” says Ethan.

Form of change

Someone who has spent his whole life with zero belly dance training has a vision of who he is and then spends several months alone in a foreign country learning a new skill? “I’m grateful for this opportunity, but it has been hard at times. I’m learning to be patient as my body and mind catch up to the vision in my heart,” he says. He also ratifies that belly dancing has helped him in his work. “It keeps the chakras balanced and clear. I’m a healer and belly dance helps me in cultivating positive energy that I can share with my clients. It also helps me increase my intuition.”

Ethan hasn’t yet met Indian male belly dancers, the most popular being Eshan Hilal. Expectedly, more eyebrows get raised than can be handled when one is male and a belly dancer.

Ethan agrees that collectively this gender stereotype must be busted. “As more and more people are becoming aware of energy and the spirit realm, it will become common for men to belly dance. The stereotype comes from social programming, not from people’s connection with their intuition,” says the man. He’d love to see more boys take up belly dancing. “Children operate less on dogma and social programming, and more from their heart and intuition, and I believe that our job as adults is to support a child’s intuition and empower them to follow their hearts.” Not from the hip; that one’s straight from the heart!