I’m about a month late on this, but I read something about Wife Swap having a belly dancer. It appears that this woman taught the children how to belly dance, and some of the general audience was upset, at least online. Not being a fan of this show or much reality TV, save for cooking shows, fashion shows, and Project Runway, I can’t comment on what happened and I’m not a parent, but I can say generally this.

Middle Eastern dance can be and often is very child-appropriate. The non-stage version (sort of like how bhangra is a folk dance, though it has taken stage or how people will both competitively waltz and also waltz for fun) is done by everyone in the Middle East, from men to women and the young to the very old.

Even if your child is going to perform, that can be child-appropriate. The instructor simply has to choose the right moves, costuming, and venue. It’s similar to any kind of dance, really. There are many children who do ballet, tap, jazz, and hip hop. Any of those forms can be highly sexualized, depending on the choices of the choreographer. However, they also can take on other moods. Middle Eastern dance is no different. Some dances are on the sensual side, some are cute, some are sad, others are fierce, etc. Below is a video of Suhaila Salimpour and her little girl, Isabella.

I feel that’s a very appropriate dance and costume and venue (it was at festival, I believe). If the costuming isn’t deemed suitable, manufacturers do make belly covers and many dancers, myself included, choose to wear pantaloons underneath the skirt.

Again, I don’t know what happened exactly on this show. I just know that parents shouldn’t be afraid to let their children try Middle Eastern dance. I think it’s wonderfully healthy for them to exercise, learn muscle control, and be in an environment that accepts many different body types.

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