During the 16th and 17th century, male belly dancing was a widely accepted practice. Known as the “rakkas” or “zennes,” men dressed as women would perform in the courts of the Ottoman Empire, as women were largely prohibited from performing onstage.

The dance form known to have flourished in West Asia was widely practised by women and men alike, although the performances were strictly segregated. Despite being banned in 1856, the tradition survived.

Love for dance knows no bounds for Eshan Hilal and and Vasu Chauhan, who are keeping the form alive here in India. This video captures their graceful performance.


The tradition of men cross-dressing to emulate women belly-dances has existed in many countries. They were called Cengi (Syria), Kojak (Turkey), Batcha (Persia), Qawaal (Arabia), and Hawaal (Egypt).

In fact, not all male belly dancers are female impersonators – many have developed their stage routines with livelier music and physical feats of abdominal strength and flexibility that astound audiences.