Gilded Serpent presents...
Taking Good Care of our Stars
by Miles Copeland

We have reached the stage with the Bellydance Superstars that we can now confidently take a long-term view of the business and recognize the need to take good care of our stars. Most of all, as we now need them consistently; we have to free them from financial worries by giving them job security including such things as health insurance. We also have to give them a nice upside so they will want to remain part of our enterprise.

From the very beginning, I believed it important to create high quality performance and instructional product AND to pay the participants on a par to music stars.

Of course, I found this was highly unusual and dancers had been used to getting very little or nothing in the past. I have seen some of these other deals and was appalled. My deals give a cash advance better than anyone else has ever paid AND a nice, respectable royalty even when compared to the big music and film business.

For our touring troupe, we are in the process of offering contracts with guaranteed weekly wages, even when we are not working. All these contracts also provide health care. By the middle of this year, we will be in a position to offer all our dancers contracts, including the Roses. I do not want them working in restaurants or in demeaning situations, and I want them not worrying where the next dollar is coming from.

We also believe it important to enable them to improve and expand their abilities, skills, and styles. In October, we sent Sonia to Egypt for a week for private, intensive lessons with the great Raqia Hassan and Diana. She also took one with Dina. This was all at my expense. Next, we will send Petite Jamilla.

We also recognize the need to find and develop more dancers. The latest auditions on January 14 and 15 had 78 excellent attendees, including 2 ladies who flew all the way from Melbourne, Australia, 1 from China, 1 from Japan, 1 from Spain, 2 from Holland, and 3 from Canada. Of these, one was at the level to become a Rose immediately and 8 were close enough that we will undertake to train them- at our expense- when we begin rehearsals in June. One also was a good singer- in Arabic, no less- giving me the ability to put some live vocals into the show. Training will be by our own teachers, as well as other great teachers.

I am very proud of the progress we have made and the fact that there is now a professional, world touring, high profile bellydance enterprise a bellydancer entering the scene can aspire to. I think that is healthy for any art form.

Raising the bar can only make the art more respected. At the same time, it may scare some people who cannot reach that bar. I can’t help that.

I just hope they love bellydance enough that they won’t try to keep the bar low forever. Meanwhile, I foresee a continuing upsurge of interest in bellydance, and teachers should do better and better with more and more classes. That’s good.

P.S. I noticed a few e-mails that infer I am making money at the expense of the dancers. I wish it were true that I was making money. So far the ONLY ones who are making a living out of this are the dancers and crew. I am negative to the tune of almost $250,000 and don’t expect to be profitable until next year.

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Ready for more?
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1-19-05 BDSS Auditions January 14-15, 2005, North Hollywood, CA
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-"What have I got to lose?" by Zaheea
-Photos by Lynette

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2-3-05 From Rags to Rhinestones by Dolores
I am most proud of having taken up dance later in life and having become an acclaimed professional-level performer.

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