AN institution of sorts in Sydney’s LGBTI nightlife, Club Arak is back again this weekend, and this time with a special guest live performance direct from Lebanon.

Belly dancer Modi is back in Australia after an 11 year absence, and on Saturday night he will perform at Club Arak, Sydney’s bi-annual LGBTI-friendly Arabic music party.

Modi (pictured above), who has been dancing professionally since we was 18, was once part of the famous and highly-regarded Caracella Dance Company. Upon leaving the group, he toured extensively around the world performing Middle Eastern dance as well as teaching workshops and adjudicating dance competitions.

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When the Star Observer asked what it was about belly dancing that he loved, his answer was simple.

“I can’t tell you, belly dancing is in my blood,” Modi said through a translator.

“I have been dancing for 20 years. I started as a young boy then when I turned 18 I became a professional dancer.”

Modi added that in his experience, the western stereotype of it being an act of sexual seduction or performed only by women was an inaccurate interpretation.

“I totally disagree. Belly dancing is an art. Of course there are people who dance cabaret-style and there are others who dance eastern classic dance,” he said.

“I dance the eastern classic style. How the audience interpret that is up to them. I don’t believe that belly dance is a sexual act it is an art form that goes back many years.

“In the Arab world it is performed by both men and women.”

With a small but growing number of male belly dancers in Australia and even more across the Arab world, Modi said not all of them would necessarily identify as gay.

“However, for a man to belly dance he needs to have that feminine touch otherwise he can never succeed. There is no way a masculine he man will ever learn to belly dance,” he said.

“As for their sexuality I can’t say. Most of the men I know who belly dance are either feminine or gay.”

Speaking to the state of LGBTI rights across the Arab world, Modi acknowledged that while it was progressing incrementally in place like Lebanon, in other countries such as Egypt, things were regressing.

It’s one of the reasons why he was happy to be back in Australia since his last visit in 2003, when he also danced for Club Arak.

“The highlight is the personal freedom that I have here. I feel like a true queen here. In the Arab world you all always have to be careful,” he said.

“Here people value your art regardless of your sexuality. Over there they see you dance and they say, oh he is gay not just an artist.”

ABOUT CLUB ARAK

Established in 2002, Club Arak is an Arabic music dance party for LGBTI people of Arabic-speaking background, their friends, family and admirers.

Organisers pride themselves on consistently being able to bring LGBTI Arab-Australians together in a safe and fun environment. More importantly, they also boast being able to attract a diverse range of people, regardless of race, age or gender.

Revellers can expect the tunes and remixes of classic favourites from Fairuz to Oum Kalthoum, to modern hits from Nanjy Ajram or Amr Diab, and everything in between.

DJ Chadi and Modi will headline this weekend’s party.

Where: The Imperial Hotel, Erskineville

When: 10pm; Saturday, October 18.

Tickets: $30 (at the door or in advance)

Details: click here

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