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Jackie, Miles and Jillina watch and evaluate
Gilded Serpent presents...
BDSS Auditions
January 14-15, 2005, North Hollywood, CA
-Inside the Bellydance Superstars Final Auditions by Michelle Joyce
-"What have I got to lose?" by Zaheea
-Photos by Lynette

Inside the Bellydance Superstars Final Auditions
by Michelle Joyce


Michelle swinging poi
Last weekend, dancers from all over the world came to Los Angeles for one purpose: to meet the controversial Miles Copeland and to audition for the Bellydance Superstars. I was one of them.

No one knew exactly what he was looking for, so everyone was second-guessing her own choice of music, costume, and choreography. The only thing we had to go on was an email from Mile’s office that said:

“You will need to prepare a three to four-minute piece, bring your own music, and come in costume. Remember to choose something that BEST showcases your talent. Anything that sets you apart from the other girls is always good!”


Miles looks up to Stevie on Stilts

Women came from as far as Australia and Japan just for those precious three or four minutes. And they were NERVOUS! Regular competitions are nerve wracking enough, but dancing for Miles and Jillina, as they wrote on their clip-boards, was the worst. Many of us agreed that we would be more relaxed if we were performing at the half time show of the Super Bowl.

The dancers themselves were all extremely nice people. There was no attitude and everyone applauded enthusiastically for their competitors. A wide range of styles were performed, including samba/bellydance fusion, fan dancing, poi dancing, and one woman even bellydanced on stilts (to which Miles commented that he “looks up to bellydancers”).

At the end, about a dozen of us were invited to a 4-day intensive workshop with Jillina in June. There, we will learn choreography and final cuts will be made. Those who are selected will create a second group of Superstars to perform domestically while the others are in Europe.

So, love them or hate them, it is clear that there will be at least twice as many Bellydance Superstars this time next year.

“What have I got to lose?”
by Zaheea

That is what I told myself as I headed down to L.A. for the two-day Bellydance Superstars audition. With the encouragement of friends and family, I got up the nerve to try out. This chance could not have come at a better time too. With college graduation just behind me, my supportive husband beside me, and my future open in front of me, nothing was holding me back from committing myself to whatever being on tour would entail.

Nothing could prepare me for the experience of the auditions, however.

The first day was the preliminaries, located in a freezing cold dance studio in North Hollywood. Close to 80 women and 2 men showed up shivering in their dance finery, ready to do whatever it took to get noticed. We had to learn and perform, in groups of 5 with everyone watching, a short piece of choreography that Jillina quickly taught us. We were packed in the room at least 8 or more deep and seeing what she was teaching was next to impossible. By the time I got to the front, she had moved on to a new section of the choreography. I hadn’t even gotten to learn the first part yet! It was at this moment that I was ready to back out. I didn’t want to continue. I was scared, nervous, cold, and had never tried to learn choreography like that in such a short time. I really felt that I was in over my head but I had already made the journey, so I forced myself to continue.

We didn’t just dance that first day though. Miles and Jillina also asked us what OTHER skills we have besides belly dancing. Did I miss the memo? The audition announcement did say, “Be sure to note any particular abilities you may have that could be incorporated into the show.” .I didn’t understand then, like I do now, that they aren’t looking for just good dancers. They already HAVE good dancers. They want dancers who can do more—gymnasts, fire dancers, stilt walkers…

I won’t go on about the things that I can do as a bellydancer, but I will say that I can’t do a backflip and I’ve never attempted to eat fire.

Despite this apparent glitch in my talent profile, I made the first cut. Miles and Jillina pulled out approximately 30 women to continue on to the finals the next day. My new friends who didn’t get picked would say I was lucky, but with this new piece of understanding, I just didn’t feel “ready” for Saturday’s free-style audition. My confidence was rattled. I had 4 minutes to impress Miles and Jillina with no tricks up my sleeve, no fabulous sword dance prepared, no dizzying double veil, just me doing what I love to do …dance and entertain.

Some of the women who got chosen in the end were no surprise, amazing dancers that blew me away. Some of the women who didn’t get chosen were a surprise as well. It made me feel like shaking Miles and asking him “What DO you WANT?!” Not because I didn’t get chosen, but because it would have saved others and me a lot of time and money if the auditions would have read something like this:

Bellydance Superstars Audition: We are looking to add some exciting new elements to our already fabulous show. If you are a bellydancer that has a unique talent, we welcome you to audition with us. If your only talent is just being a great dancer, we already have enough of those. Thank you.

To be in a show like the Superstars, you must be an amazing dancer, have great stage presence, and a wonderful personality that shines through while you are dancing. After seeing the show Saturday night in LA, I realized that even gimmicks can’t save a dancer from looking out of place if s/he doesn’t possess all of these Superstar qualities. Auditioning for the Bellydance Superstars was a great experience, though one I don’t plan to repeat. I’ve learned a lot through this process and am grateful to have met many wonderful people. But I must say that I’ve very curious what directions the show might be heading in.

Photos
by Lynette


#1 Andrea
is from New York City.
Andrea danced and then when asked, sang Batwanis Beek unaccompanied except by intermittent hand clapping. She is a Greek 19 year old character! She took her beginning classes from Serena, but learned to dance mostly from Arabic videos.
SELECTED
 

#2 Shabnam
does a sword routine and is from
Oakland, California

#3 Aksana
is a Russian woman from Alaska.
 

#4 Michelle
is from Oakland, California.

She danced with poi. Poi are lighted balls on string that are swung in huge circles as one dances.
SELECTED
aw! more lights turned on!


#5 Medina is from Tampa, Florida
Her dance was very feminine and musical.
 

#6
Nanci Traynor
traveled all the way from China to perform her Tribal style routine.

#7 Helen
is from Australia.
She later also danced a duet with
Monica.
 

#8 Moria
is from Atlanta, Georgia. When asked about her name she commented that her
parents are hippies.
SELECTED

#9 Margarita
A Russian from Amsterdam, she
didn't want to acknowledge her mentors, though admitted to some coaching from Yomina
 

#10 Hannah Nour
is from New York CIty.
SELECTED

#11 Farida
is from Houston, Texas
 


#12 Zaina
is from New York

#13 Silvia
from Barcelona, Spain. She had a bight smile, and used frequent "gypsy" leaps & kicks.
 

#14 Tribal Trio
Ayse of Thousand Oaks, Ca, SELECTED
Katie of Ventura, CA, and SELECTED
Crystal of Santa Cruz.
This trio let the observers know that "We just met yesterday!"

#15 Oreet
from New York City. She had
good timing, style, and a lovely smile
 

#16 Monica
is from Melbourne, Australia

#17 Halima
of Netherlands
Her mentors include Nuriyya and Hassam Khalil. After not being selected she gave Copeland a piece of her mind about his not appreciating Art.
 

#18 Angela
from North Canton, Ohio

#19 Laura
is from Uzbekistan now living in New York
She switched accent from Uzzy to New York while introducing herself. She used
wings and a fire colored veil. After her intro, Mile Copeland said, "These girls have to learn to promote themselves!
"
SELECTED

#20
Safi of Tokyo, Japan.
She was very shy while introducing herself.
 

#21 Nadira
is from Seattle, WA

#22 Daisy
of Orange County, CA
SELECTED
 

#23 Rachel
New Mexico
One of the only dancers to use finger cymbals! She came out spinning and avoided eye contact.
SELECTED

#24 Zaheea
from Sacramento, CA
 


#25 Lauren
of Boston, MA
SELECTED


#26 Meiver
of Boston, MA
SELECTED
 

#27 Coco
from Los Angeles

#28 Jayna Kauzouyan, from
Los Angeles. Introduced herself confidently.
She is MECDA president Marta Schill's daughter.
SELECTED
 

 


#29 Stevie
says she is from Kansas, though is part of Jillina's troupe (?). Came back later on stilts.
SELECTED


#30 Shara
of North Carolina
 


#31 Makayla
is from Canada.

[last 2 photos sent in by Azziza. Thank you! -ed]

#33 Cammi Vance
NYC
Danced Tribal style in Rachel Brice like gartered pants.

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
1-16-05 Photos from The Luna Gitana Festival, Santa Cruz, California photos by Monica Berini
Event produced by Vashti on November 13, 2004

1-13-05 The Grand International Bellydance Tour or How We Fled India at Midnight, Eluding Our Captors and Evading our Go-Go-Dance Responsibilities. or What Would Fifi Do? by Michelle and Sandra
It may not have been such a problem for us had the prostitutes not been posing as bellydancers!

1-11-05 Romancing the Stonewall Comic by Alexandria
"Hi, dear, can you send me a payment?"

1-7-05 Unchained! by Monique Monet
Who the hell is Miles Copeland? And, what is he doing in our ancient and sacred world of Middle Eastern dance?

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