Q & A with Xavier Shadowdancer
This month’s interview features a dancer from my dance community, Xavier Shadowdancer. I’ve known Xavier for a few years now, mostly from attending the same events, and I really admire his work in the community and his commitment to belly dance. His stage presence and joy when dancing is truly infectious; if you’ve never seen Xavier dance in person, then you’re really missing out.
It’s rare to find a male belly dancer in our community, and when you do, they’re not always welcomed with open arms. When I got an e-mail from a male dancer who asked if I included male dancers who are large, then I knew I had to contact Xavier. He’s the perfect role-model for curious large male belly dancers looking to fit in. Belly Dance at Any Size welcomes dancers of all shapes, sizes, ages, gender and ethnicity and the doors are open for honest talk and writing about the issues we face…large, gay male belly dancers included!
Read more about his thoughts on belly dance, the community and why he is involved with Belly Dance at Any Size.
Name: Xavier Shadowdancer
Primary style of dance: Egyptian and American Cabaret Belly Dance
Favorite dancers: Bozenka Arencibia and Tamalyn Dallal
Number of years you’ve been a belly dancer: 10
Tell me about why you are involved in Belly Dance at Any Size?
I love the aspect of belly dance being open to all body types. It is the one thing that hooked me into the art form in the first place. Another aspect of Belly Dance at Any Size is the positive message it sends to others like myself, who just want to dance and share their passion for it. Openness, diversity, and equality make it a beautiful thing. I just had to be a part of it because I feel that many male dancers can relate to my story, the story of the titan-sized belly dancer.
What do you like most about your dancing?
The inspiration and joy that it brings to others. One of my students, Meagan, said that my dancing is infectious with the energy I bring as I dance. To have others see me perform and see that no matter who you are, you can dance without limitations. But when they decide to take a class as a result of seeing me perform, then that is truly priceless. I love to entertain, so my job is not done until I see a sea of smiles mixed with some zaghareets. I am simply spreading joy one shimmy at a time.
What has been your greatest belly dance achievement?
Wow, where should I start. I must say the greatest belly dance achievement joining Bearapalooza’s roster of performing artists. Bearapalooza travels the country to perform for the gay community events for the “bears”, a subculture of the gay community consisting of men of size and hair. At Bearapalooza, I have become a traveling performer dancing at host resorts and camps for a whole weekend event. Not only do I perform at the event’s nightly shows, but I also teach a belly dance workshop to men who attend. It all reverts back to passing down belly dance to another person. I want to be able to show other men like myself that belly dance can empower them as well, both spiritually and physically, while passing down the lesson of body acceptance. I am living my dream as a professional belly dance instructor/choreographer/performer. I may not be a belly dance superstar, but I am pretty close. Being where I am now is a big achievement for a titan-sized male belly dancer. I am living proof that anything is possible.
What are some healthy habits that you engage in?
Being active!!! I cannot stress enough on the importance of taking classes from other teachers and trying different styles of dance. A smart instructor takes classes. Personally, I hate the gym and often I feel like a lab rat there. I want to be instructed, and most of all, share the experience with other students. The community that comes out of taking classes is what gives me the drive to work out and be active. I am also a medical transcriptionist and I spend hours on end at a desk typing. Being active helps me with my back issues and it keeps my heart healthy.
If you were told you could never belly dance (or dance at all) again, what outlet would pick to unleash your creativity?
I have always had a passion for learning about other cultures, particularly the Japanese culture. If I could not dance, then I would learn how to play Taiko drums. I would also pick up guitar playing again, which I did before I became a dancer and now I’ve forgotten how to play.
What do you like most about your appearance?
I like the way that I exude androgyny and masculinity at the same time. I think that is what surprises people the most when they see me perform. My body is large, masculine, and hairy; but it moves like water. My body is not what most people expect to see displaying grace and beauty. But I am only letting the light shine from within and that light is within all of us.
How do you approach costume choices for yourself?
My costuming is surprisingly simple. I go with harem pants or pantaloons, a vest, and a turban or hat. The only thing that determines what I wear is based on the audience that I am performing for. I only dance shirtless for the LGBT community, otherwise I wear a leotard. One thing about performing for the “bears” is that they promote body acceptance. When I have the basic clothing on, I add adornments. For example, when I do a more traditional piece, I wear gold, beads, and sequins. When I dance tribal fusion, I wear tassels, fringe and leather.
Xavier Shadowdancer is based in Greensboro, NC. Find out more about him at www.twisteddance.com.