Gilded Serpent presents...
When I first
heard of the Super Stars of Bellydance - their tours, albums,
feature films and their big-wig manager/promoter - I found it
puzzling that Miles, a giant in the world of jazz, had become
so actively involved in Middle Eastern dance. Years ago I had
heard Miles play at the Monterey Jazz Festival and ever since
then I've held him and his work in high esteem - - although recently
I've felt troubled by the vague aura of bullying and intimidation
that seemed to surround his presence in our dance. So, it was
with a blend of disappointment and relief that I realized that
the jazz legend, Miles Davis, was not the promotional force behind
the Bellydancing Superstars.
Eager to remedy
my obvious lack of knowledge about this contemporary chapter in
bellydance show biz, I promptly went on-line to learn more about
the other Miles. The following excerpt from a
dancer's diary originally appeared (in the Spring of 2004)
on the Belly Dance Superstars' web site:
reigns that Miles Copeland will change the face of the belly
dance world for the worst. Maybe he will force all women to
believe that they need to be 100lbs. and 25 years old to belly
is money hungry and doesn't really care about the girls as long
as they are youthful and beautiful and making a good buck for
him. I have had all of these fears. I have also feared that I
am the only one really talking about this...that other dancers
and teachers across the nation are still biting their tongues
so they won't get on the "bad side" of Miles
more than a year I've heard similar concerns whispered here and
there in the dance community. I'm happy to say my tongue is in
a wonderfully agile and unbitten condition. And while my fears
are reserved for more formidable subjects, I do have a whole bus
load of concerns, comments, and questions regarding Miles Copeland
and his Superstars of Belly Dance.
among my questions is: Who the hell is Miles Copeland? And,
what is he doing in our ancient and sacred world of Middle Eastern
the World Wide Web I quickly learned that long, long ago, in jolly
began his career as the business manager of a band in which
his little brother was a member. He did a good job and went on
to manage other bands. In a nutshell, Miles Copeland is a businessman
who made a lot of money in the 70's and 80's in the pop/rock music
industry. On his web site he lists page after page of musical
groups he used to manage and/or still manages. I'm not really
up on the pop/rock scene so it's not surprising I didn't recognize
most of the names and I'm not quite clear as to how many of his
clients are of the past, and how many of them he currently manages.
His site indicates that he somehow continues to manage
the career of Waylon Jennings (who died in 2002) - - although
the web site does state that no tours are scheduled at the present
the interest of political correctness and some vague notion of
the sisterhood-of -the-dance I've held my thoughts on Miles and
the Superstars in check for too many months. But the time has
come to break the chains of debilitating polite silence. Finally,
like the little child in the fairytale watching from the crowd
as the emperor parades past in his new clothes, I can't
restrain myself from shouting out what appears so obvious to me!
Superstars is simply a marketing catch phrase - - pure unadulterated
hyperbole. Miles Copeland is not a guru, svengali, or ominous
Godfather, he is just a businessman. And the product he is selling
is two hours worth of pretty dancing girls for $25.
makes no secret of this fact. On the Bellydance Superstars website
he freely admits, "I am NOT in the bellydance business. I
am in the entertainment business. The Bellydance Superstars and
Desert Roses is. . . . above all a SHOW that must hold attention
for a full two hours. It must appeal far beyond the narrow confines
of the bellydance community. . . ."
Copeland introduces BDSS at the San Rafael Borders bookstore
last year (Feb 2004?)
So, it's clear
that even he agrees that he is, first and foremost, a businessman
selling a product. And in our modern world the businessman/promoters'
most useful marketing tool is hyperbole - - intentional extreme
exaggeration. Thus, under Miles' verbal manipulation, a group
of dedicated, hard working young dancers are instantly metamorphanized
into, not just World Class and the Best of the Best, but SUPERSTARS!
people have been quietly troubled by this. How can a
group of relatively unknown performers suddenly begin to advertise
themselves as Superstars.
From his hyperbolic
website, Miles responds, "My retort is simple - - my statement
is obviously my opinion and I believe what I say. I go by instinct
. . . ." The instinct of a sharp promoter to maximize his
product and thereby also maximize his box office. From the Middle
Eastern dancers' perspective, it's a sad reality that legitimate,
professional performance venues of descent quality are very hard
to find. So it's not surprising that Miles' original and very
restrictive auditioning notice (If you are under the age of 23.
. . .) was met with desperately eager response.
But what about
those automatically excluded from the onset by Miles' arbitrary
and narrow criteria? Many very talented dancers found themselves
instantly classified as unacceptable, hopelessly beyond the pale
of the big promoter's restrictive perimeters. And some, being naive
enough to actually care about his retro opinions, were crushed to
find themselves without any hope of ever becoming Superstars.
Kajira and friends at the BDSS show last year outside
of the DNA
Lounge in San Francisco
Djoumahna, director of BlackSheep BellyDance, reminds
us, "It is up to us to buy into this or not. It is up to
us to support our sisters and brothers in dance due to their achievements
and not only their looks. Don't let it get you down, don't let
it stop you from dancing, don't buy it... in the end, it's up
from his decades of experience, the father of American Middle
Eastern Dance, Bert Balladine,
tells us that "A woman has nothing to dance about until she's
at least over 30!" I say, "When only business interests
rule your dance, you cease being a true artist and become merely
Middle Eastern Dance it is magical artistry and true soul that
begets the real superstar. And she is of an entirely different
world from the glitzy, hyperbolic, superficial fantasyland of
the MTV-oriented pop/rock industry.
no secret of his allegiance: "I am NOT in the bellydance
business. I am in the entertainment business." His primary
concern is to turn a profit - - business is business; hype sells.
But this whole Superstar promo is such a blatant and pretentious
fabrication that I am unable to muster any shred of patience or
benevolent understanding for the expediencies of Miles' business
and Issam duo at Borders
statement is obviously my opinion," he says. "And I
believe what I say." Of course Miles Copeland is entitled
to his opinion - - but no more so than I am to mine. And, I must
admit, I don't believe what he says. Honestly and truly, a real
Superstar does not have to sit on the cramped seat of a crowded
little bus hour after hour, bumping along the dusty Midwest highways
from one honky tonk to the next.
When the bus
rattles through your neighborhood, I believe I can safely guarantee
you will not see Dina
or Fifi Abdou peering out the bug-splattered
window. And even if, through some masochistic urge, they applied
to be Miles Copland's version of Superstars, both Fifi and Dina
would be rejected as too old and too fat.
Superstars are hardworking, dedicated young women, some of them
are very talented. But they are not the ultimate representatives
of our art form. Decent venues, recognition and appreciation,
not to mention even paltry income, are often hard to find in Middle
Eastern Dance. I understand their eagerness, anxiety, and even
desperation. In an excerpt from a Superstar's diary she worries
- - "Maybe he is money hungry and doesn't really care about
the girls as long as they are youthful and beautiful and making
a good buck for him." Her concern is well-founded.
Miles' commitment to his dancers is as sincere as Foster Farm's
commitment to their chickens.
As long as
she is firm, fresh and marketable she will be a welcome member
of his Superstars. But should she become too curvaceous or, as
she inevitably must, too old for Miles, she will be cold-bloodedly
plucked (Menuedo-like) from the tour and promptly replaced with
a fresh new Superstar.
is too old, too wise, too sacred and magical for Miles to even
begin to understand. Dancers beware of the real danger of Miles
Copeland's little scam. I've said it before and I'll say it again:
When business interests rule your dance, you cease being a true
dancer and become merely a performer.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Making Wise Choices in the Belly-Dance
Wear Market-place by Susan Good
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the glamour of dressing high-high up. A great costume can send
a good show into greatness and almost make you forgive a poor
Undercover Belly Dancer in Iraq- “THAAWUMPFF”
women who work in the Ministry are brave women. At first they
looked at me with suspicion, not sure of my ethnicity. I sometimes
get thanked when they realize that I share the Arab blood.
We Shop, We Bathe, And We Eat! Justine’s
Culinary Adventures in Turkey, by Justine Merrill
Egyptian spice market in Istanbul is a wonderful place to be a
new chef, not only does it hold a treasure chest in spices, it
has the most charming men, who know how to cook.
New Dance Contest/Theme Party ”A
Night at Casablanca!” Photos by Lynette
October 2, 2004 at the Benicia Clocktower Benicia, California
Sponsored by Siren In Sanity