From Bal Anat to Hahbi'Ru: An oral history of John Compton, American male belly dancer


May 2023

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John Compton is one of the earliest formative male figures in the history of fusion belly dance in the United States. Using oral history methodology, multiple masculinities theory, and relevant historical context, this thesis uses John’s story to analyze the cultural shifts in fusion belly dance in the US from the early 1970s to 2012. By analyzing interview data, performance videos, extant published interviews, and archival research on belly dance, this thesis evinces a myriad of John’s influences as a male belly dancer on the discourses around gender, masculinity, and Orientalism. These influences include movement stylization of early fusion belly dance, attitudes towards male belly dancers, and the embracing of culturally appropriative practices. This thesis concludes that John’s story presents an interesting inconvenience to narratives around belly dance history and masculinity at large, and serves as a foundation for interrogating the broader issues of gender and masculinity in belly dance.



Dance, History, United States, Gender Studies