A Barely Seen Cultural Side of Antigua
There are no discernible cultural, historical or philosophical underpinnings for this phenomenon. The Mayor approves and sometimes is seen observing the events. The Church hasn’t issued any proclamation forbidding public or private attendance to these lightly garbed performances and judging from the continual appeal and the size of the audiences, the locals and the tourists give it five stars, two thumbs up and a round of applause.
The Municipal School of Art has posted weekly events in September, one of which takes place in the Cesar Branas Cultural Center at 4pm on the 13th — .Festival de Belly Dance.
The Cultural Center known as El Sitio showcases the return on the 19th of the renamed ‘˜Arabic Dance Workshop’ by Munira, and for $24 you also get a Certificate of Participation. She was here two months ago, same venue but then it was titled ‘˜Arabic Dancing’, with Munira and a Colombian dancer named Angel. I admit to being baffled, curious and perplexed, perhaps even befuddled. The nightclub known as ‘˜Gaia’ has regular Friday night spectacles, I’ve heard.
This is a Latin culture, dating back to 1543, at least in Antigua. The Church, the one that starts with a “C”, has always been and still is less than liberal. The ‘˜S’ word is never heard. That said, there are two establishments in this 467 year old UNESCO World Heritage City that regularly promote the image and the acts of live, scantily clad belly dancers! Nowhere else in Central America, from Panama to Mexico, from Belize to Costa Rica are there weekly exhibitions of uninhibited and lightly clothed ‘˜dancing’ with swirling scarves and bustiers festooned with gold trimmings. Footnote: there are ‘˜gentlemen’s clubs’ in Central America that feature dancers and are not to be confused with our cultural resources.
It’s well known that Spain was a Moorish possession for hundreds of years: could it be that the Arabic taste for these kinds of theatrical arts has been somehow transposed, transported and transmogrified into veiled threats of bared skin at El Sitio? Is there a ‘˜John the Baptist and Salome’ Biblical theme that’s acceptable to local mores and unwritten codes of behavior? That might be Angel or Munira’s next act: ‘˜Bodiless Head seen at almost Topless Stage’. The Certificate of Participation would be included.