were over 78 of us. All decked in full dance regalia, shivering
in the cold unheated studio, checking each other out, adjusting
veils and skirts, nervously glancing around and admiring
costumes. We were crammed into a small studio dressing
room with mirrors and animal print walls, many of us spilling
out into the narrow hallway, when he strode into the building,
beady bloodshot eyes staring through everyone, wisps of
white hair setting him apart from all the others. So this
was the infamous Miles
Copeland, the man who is changing the face
of belly dance in the USA. We were herded out of the door
from which we came, across the back parking lot and into
a large studio building behind the main building and left
to shiver in the cold of yet another unheated room. This
one was large with mirrors on one end. We fussed with our
costumes and were wrapped in our caftans for warmth. I
danced around to keep myself warm, watching my reflection,
admiring others and their costumes and waiting for Jillina
she arrived she was warm and friendly. She enthusiastically
lined us up and showed us a sequence of steps that were
part of the Superstars choreography. We followed
eagerly and nervously, and soon she had added three sections
realized with a sinking heart that I was not going to
be able to remember any of it in the next few minutes,
let alone perform it brilliantly with personality.
we were arranged in groups of 5 to 7 and asked to perform
the choreography while Miles appraised us with cool impersonal
time it was over, 33 of us had been chosen and asked to
stand in the front. He asked if anyone could sing in Arabic,
or do gymnastics.
yours truly did not make that first cut. Neither did my
new friend Aziza, with her beautiful face
and long wavy blond hair. I had stumbled through that choreography
with no idea what I was doing. I knew I was not what they
were looking for. I was sad not to have had my chance to
shine; I had been viewed at my worst. Yet, Aziza had done
the choreography well and she was not chosen either.
were all invited to the final auditions the next day to
watch even if we had not been chosen. I was very eager
to do this, very curious. We watched dancers from 11am until
3 pm or later; everyone was good, some were brilliant and
all looked way better than the day before. Jillina and
Miles sat taking notes through it all and at the end about
12 were chosen. They were called up to the front and then
instructed to have a brief chat with Miles before they left.
next step was to do a 4 day intensive, and if they make
it through that - they would be the next crop of superstars.
that I was not able to do my specialty, which is fire.
Contrary to Zaheea's
comment regarding fire, which was mentioned the first
day, no one was allowed to do fire because of fire codes
and Miles said he did not want to deal with that in his
show yet. There went one of my chances. My other thing
is whirling, which he had once expressed an interest in but
I had failed so miserably in the choreography part that
I had not the heart to beg to show him my whirling. I also
play zils very well, I dare say better than the one girl
who did play them. I would have dearly liked Miles and Jillina
to have seen my zil playing before they saw me stumbling
through choreography. When I set out to audition, I thought
I would have a chance to do a solo before being judged on
choreography, based on the format given by the office.
But that format was changed at the last minute.
do not fault them, choreography is what the show is all
about and it is a fabulous show. I've seen it 3 times
in order to survive that first audition one must have an
extensive background in Western choreographed dance forms
such as jazz, modern or ballet, as well as belly dance.
This brings to mind a comment made by a great old time dancer,
long ago, in one of the restaurants I danced at. She was
heading toward retirement as I was coming into my glory
back then. Her comment was simply "I hate choreographed
in then, the age of choreographed Belly Dance. The standards
just got higher, girls.
note that I like choreographed belly dance as much as improvisation.
It is all good and the Belly Dance Superstars is an awesome
show, well worth seeing. I look forward to the new troupe
even if I am not to be in it.
Experience with the
BDSS Audition in Paris
I wasn't sure about going on tour with the Bellydance Superstars--they
are under a lot of heat right now from the bellydance community,
which must be hard.
agree with some ways that the troupe is being marketed.
For example, on their website, there is a close-up of several
sets of breasts lined up in a row (in pumped-up costume
tops) and the captions say "see what's shakin' with
the Bellydance Superstars!"
photo combined with such words reminds me of a porno site!
appalled by this type of advertisement for bellydancers
because bellydancers have fought so hard over the years
not to be confused with strippers and whores. I know the
women in the troupe are not that at all. It's the producer's
site, but it's very bad marketing and insulting for the
dancers. Bellydancers are so much more then tits and ass!
all the same, I decided to go to the audition. Why? Because
it's a way to have regular work, go on tour, promote yourself
and give workshops. Although it really doesn't have to do
with the quality of your dancing, it looks good on your
of about 45 women, I was selected as one of the 10 finalists.
I was told by other dancers who saw me dance that I would
be taken, without a doubt. In my humble, personal opinion
there were 3 women who were the strongest dancers (including
me). Only one of those women was taken. Some women who were
taken looked like they had just taken their first bellydance
class 2 months ago. I was not taken and many of the other
dancers, including ones who were taken, were shocked that
I wasn't taken. Yes, I look like a bellydancing barbie with
my costume on, but I also have skills and beautiful energy.
I walked up to the producer, Miles
Copeland, and asked him the first logical question that
came into my mind: "Am I too tall to be a Bellydance
this because I am 6 feet and I tower over the choreographer
and all of the chosen dancers. He said: "No, you're
not too tall, but you would have to be a soloist and you're
not ready to be a soloist." In that moment, I forgot
that I have been a soloist for many years. So I asked him,
"What do you think I need to work on?" He gave
me some tips and told me he thought I needed two years.
This struck me as odd because a dancer can improve drastically
in a few months to 6 months. Why 2 years? He then referred
me to his assistant saying she could better answer my question.
told me to take more ballet. Ballet! I thought she was
going to critique my bellydance technique! It wasn't a
ballet audition! I went home, cried and threw up.
dancers study ballet on a daily basis, therefore, you can
always tell any dancer, no matter how good, that she needs
to take more ballet. It's an easy 'politically correct'
response for dancers in general, but politically wrong for
aware of the politics of show-biz. I knew before going to
the audition not necessarily the best bellydancers were
in the troupe. Although there are some great bellydancers
in the troupe, I know many great ones who are not. But all
the same, people outside the bellydance community take the
name of the troupe seriously (the unfairness of show-biz).
I cried because I felt that people should see me when they
see the "Bellydance Superstars", because with
my origin and my dance background, I fit the profile of
the shows' claims.
some crying and feeling sick, I realized, as I seemed to
I have the experience of doing solos in concerts, huge
theaters, night clubs, private parties and restaurants,
winning the applause of all. I've done solos in many 500
people shows which sold out every night.
have studied ballet for many years! I'm not a ballerina,
but that is no reason to not hire a bellydancer. The girls
who were taken who looked like they had only studied bellydance
for a few months definitely did not look like they had
ever taken ballet.
So why did he say I needed 2 years when I'm at solo-performance
myself together, took a pain killer for nausea and went
to the show. Miles was nice enough to give me some tickets.
that all of the girls in the show were about the same height.
The soloists did chorus lines in which they stood side by
side with other dancers. Even the drummer was about the
same height as the dancers. I am 6 feet tall, a head taller
then all of them, so unless they get taller girls, they
will never hire me.
two years? Is that the amount of time he needs to be ready
for a woman like me or does he want me to keep hoping and
talking about his show so he can further promote it?
hurts me most is that he lied to me. He didn't want to
tell me that I was too tall for his troupe.
wanted me to believe that his troupe was too good for me.
He only cared about promoting his business.
is my culture. My mother is Lebanese-American (she gave
me my hips), my father is African-American, Native American
and European (he gave me my belly rolls). I grew up in Hawaii
with strong Hawaiian and Indian cultural influences, learning
the art of belly dance along with other cultural dances.
From the age of four, I've studied Bellydance, Hula, Tahitian,
Indian Dance, Yoga, Ballet, Modern and Jazz. That's why
I was so hurt--I think I am what Bellydance Superstars claim
to represent. I think it's quite rare to see someone with
my look, origins, background, experience, and skills. In
retrospect, I must tell myself that I was being protected.
Sometimes rejection is protection as the story goes.