ad 4 BDSS

The Gilded Serpent presents
Miles Copeland Responds to
Horacio Cifuentes

Horacio's Letter to the Editor

Miles' Response


9-29-04 re:BDSS concert in Berlin
Dear Gilded Serpent,
I wanted to send you a short report about the performance of the Bellydance Superstars in Berlin last Monday evening September 27th, 2004. There has been a lot in the press about them and of course here in Germany we have been waiting with anticipation to see the performance. As Beata and I organize performances and tours ourselves, we know what is behind such a production and such a level of perfomance.

Of course, it is very easy to crititzise other dancers if you are sitting down in a chair watching a video or having coffee with friends. It is another thing altogether to get up and work hard in order to achieve what these dancers have.

I must honestly say that I was very impressed at the level of professionalism that I saw on that stage on Monday. All dancers were in good shape, showed strong dance training and a professional approach to oriental dance which is something sometimes lacking in bellydance circles.

I was very happy to see bellydancing presented in such a venue and I think that the tremendous effort from these women is beneficial to all of us because we are now acknowledged from the general public in a new way.

Regardless of the fact that my personal taste in music differs to that of Mr. Miles Copeland, I felt that Jillina did an excellent job in creating choreographies to that type of music.

Since Mr. Copeland is not a dancer himself, he cannot possibly understand the essence of oriental dance, something that takes at least a few trips to Cairo to achieve.

Therefore, I felt, there were some fundamental elements missing in the show. At the end of the performance I was sorry that I didnt see a "solo oriental", a good solid "baladi" and a dramatic song by Um Kalthoum danced by a woman alone. I felt that Jillina was very diplomatic in the way that she choreographed her position in the group dances, positioning herself not always in the center although I think her place is in the center.

All and all, it is not the fault of the dancers if there are some essential oriental dance elements missing, after all they are hired to fulfill a position which they do well. It would be the Job of Mr. Copeland to either get information on the subject or trust someone who does.

I want to extend my congratulations to Jillina for her talent as a dancer/choreographer and dancers as well as all the wonderful performers of the Bellydance Superstars.

Horacio Cifuentes


Dear Horacio,

I appreciate very much your supportive words on the Bellydance Superstars show. Lord knows it is not easy doing this and I need all the help I can get. Bellydance is so often misunderstood, if not disregarded by both the public and the other dance arts.

Regarding my taste in music, you should know this. I grew up in the Middle East from age 5 and am currently the biggest (by far) promoter of Arabic music in the USA. I am personal friends with many of the biggest stars and I know and appreciate the early roots of the music.

I went to Fayrouz and Sabah concerts in the mid-60s.

Meanwhile, my job is to bring in a new audience to Arab music and bellydance. There is no point preaching to the converted. This means choosing music with a wide appeal- or what I think has a wide appeal. Also, I don't like folk music or more correctly, I don't want to tell any social group they must remain stuck in their traditions.

If I told a Black American that he should be playing blues and only blues and not modern rap because he was black, it would be just as insulting and stupid as telling an Arab that the music of Om Kalthoum was where it's at and they should stick to tradition. What is exciting to me about Arab music today is that it is breaking with tradition- finding new hybrids and vitality.

I like creatively breaking the rules which means never letting tradtion be a straight jacket.

Also, I know one cannot please all the people all the time. If one tries, one will fail because too much of a mixture loses focus. My taste may not be yours, but I have absolutely thought about my choices.

The same goes for the dance. Again, I can not cover everything. I will not please all the people all the time. The best I can ever do is please all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time- or most of the people most of the time.

When people suggest I am missing a dance style, my reply is usually "if I add such a dance, which dance do I take out of the show?" The show is probably already a bit too long for the average audience and I certainly cannot make it longer. It's all a matter of choices to fit into a tight schedule.

Regarding what choices I make and understanding the essence of oriental dance: First, I should say I was seeing bellydancers before you were born (though I hate to admit it).

I would not argue ever with someone such as you that I fully understand the essence. I would argue that that is exactly why I am a better judge of what is going to work to the mass audience. I am that audience. You and Jillina are not. I was always a better judge of what Sting song was a hit than he was. Why? Because he was too close to each song to dispassionately make a judgment.

You are judging my show- whether you want to admit it or not, as a dancer. As such, your comments are totally valid. And as such, I respect and consider your opinions just as I do Jillina's. But if I ONLY appeal to the dance community, I will go bankrupt as that community alone cannot sustain the show. I wish it could.

I must apply my instinct, such as it is, to reach the bigger audience. AT THE SAME time, I want and need to satisfy as much as possible the dance community. It is a delicate balance. I am thankful that for the most part I did that, as evidenced by your support. I am truly thankful for that and thank you for taking time to comment.

I am particularly glad to see you fully appreciated Jillina's work. This is a truly smart lady who understands that the good of the whole means she places herself only where appropriate in the show and NEVER tries to "hog" the limelight. She sees each dancer as an asset she can use. She knows she can never do what Rachel Brice or Sonia do on stage just as they do not do what she does. Her ability to use the whole troupe to create the overall best show is what sets her apart from everyone else. For me, she also puts up with my vision, even when I reject a particular choreography. I believe she knows that I do not make judgments on prejudice or preconceived ideas, but purely on what I think is going to work in the big picture.

Basically, this means she has to trust me as much as I trust her.

I should also say that many of the dancers have input into the show and we like that. They more often than not have great latitude in choosing what songs they want to dance to. I would be a fool not to consider their knowledge, experience, and wishes.

Finally, you can appreciate that any endeavor that is at all visionary, new and never been done before, must be driven by someone who is fully committed, passionate and confident enough to bulldoze through any resistance that anything new encounters.

Such confidence comes primarily from trusting one's own instincts NOT someone else's. There is NO history of a successful bellydance show, so there is no information/history to draw from. We are in uncharted waters. In such waters, I have been before with The Police and other "no hope" artists who eventually became superstars. If I had listened to experts then, and not trusted my own instincts, there would have been no Police, Sting, Bangles, GoGos, REM, etc.

So NO, I will not "get information on the subject or trust someone else." The day I do that is the day I should get out of the business.

I say all this only because it's important to me that someone as respected as you who has taken the time to support and critique what I am doing in a positive way, should be honestly answered. I want you to know where I'm coming from and I want to encourage you to continue to offer any suggestions you have. I value your thoughts and I truly thank you for your support.



Have a comment? Send us a letter!

Back to "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for More?
12-9-03 Miles Copeland Responds to Questions from GS Readers
If we are to dominate the world let’s try to understand and appreciate the good in other cultures as we are trying to mitigate the bad.

12-5-03 Jillina’s DVD or All Jillina, All the Time Video reviewed by Yasmela/ Shelley Muzzy
In fact, the production quality is exemplary.

7-10-01 TARZAN & JANE IN THE JUNGLE, Horacio & Beata's Oriental Fantasy in Germany Review By Roswitha Mohl "The pace of the show is almost unbelievable!"

4-15-04 An American Belly Dancer: The Significance of Jillina, Review by Arabia, Photos by Carl Sermon
workshop sponsored by Amina Goodyear, at Dance Mission, San Francisco, California, January 25, 2004
It seems quite evident that it wasn't Jillina's motivation to become the Superstar title which now precedes her -- that she is, in fact, just doing what she loves, being who she truly is, working hard at it -- and the rest sort of fell into her hands.

 Gilded Serpent
 Cover page, Contents, Calendar Comics Bazaar About Us Letters to the Editor Ad Guidelines Submission Guidelines