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Gilded Serpent presents...
How to Prepare for
a Superstars Audition

by Samira

I recently attended the Bellydance Superstars auditions in San Rafael, California. A number of factors influenced my decision to participate. Mostly, though, I believe in the vision of BDSS, and that of every professional belly dance group in the country.

These hard-working artists continue to elevate our art form to a level of recognition and respect it has long deserved.

Clearly, I’m not the only one. Close to fifty hopefuls showed up in San Rafael, and many more have auditioned over the life of the company. So how do they prepare for this incredible job interview? While every artist’s process is different, here is what I learned to consider along the way:

Do I Really Want This?
It may seem superfluous to say “be sure you want the job before you apply,” but it’s a huge factor that sometimes gets overlooked. In the professional dance world, a plurality of troupes exists because art, by nature, has a plurality of visions. The BDSS have their own agenda just like Raqs Sahara, Fat Chance or the Sahlala Dancers have. If your professional goals don’t match up with at least some of the goals of the company, it’s probably not a good fit for you or for them. Consider: why do you want to be part of a professional dance troupe? Why BDSS specifically?

Also, remember that a professional troupe is a business. So if mixing business and pleasure turn you cold, this may not be the right artistic outlet for you.

What am I Getting Myself Into?
It’s hard to know that you want the job if you aren’t familiar with the company. Have you seen the show live? The DVDs? Are you familiar with any of the dancers’ other work? Auditions are a great unknown, and that’s nerve-wracking, but what you do to prepare is under your control.

The author, Samira's moment.
Mere mouse clicks away, there is a treasure trove of information available on the Superstars. They’re visible and controversial, which means much has been said by and about them. Miles Copeland posts, responds to questions and writes articles for several publications and online forums. The dancers have been profiled in belly dance magazines and have professional works available. Troupe members have even written articles about the Superstar experience itself.

What About This Choreography Stuff?
Most of the auditions begin with a group choreography section taught by Jillina, the artistic director and main choreographer of the troupe. Miles may make the big decisions, but by and large, Jillina has to deliver the show.

The section of steps that are taught is pulled straight from the show – which means you have an opportunity to prove you’re capable of the work.

Jillina is a well-known dancer with a specific style and movement vocabulary, like most professionals. She also has a series of instructional videos and appears on several other performance tapes. Do you need to see all of them? Of course not. But it might be a good idea to bone up – the equivalent of reading an article by a prospective employer. It’s a great opener to be able to say, “I was intrigued by your position on brand equity in the most recent edition of Ad Age.” In dance, familiarity with a choreographer’s style gives you the opportunity to pay that compliment through your bodywork.

And Now I Have to Sell Myself?
I recently heard a coach say, “Performance is a different kind of job. You have to be responsible for your own success.” Like it or not, that usually entails self-promotion of some kind.

BDSS requests press materials prior to an audition (photo, bio, demo, etc.). Your submitted materials are the first impression BDSS will have of you. Make sure they’re on time (at least a week in advance), professionally presented, and relevant to the information requested. Several good, free resources for writing resumes and professional bios are available online. Look for information geared to actors or dancers, if not specific to belly dance. hosts a series of articles on professionalism that includes presentation to agents and directors.

You, the Artist
Researching a company’s goals and vision is about finding a good fit – it shouldn’t turn you into a Jillina-clone with no statement of your own.

Most directors look for artists that have a clear point of view, plus the flexibility to work as a group.

Use music that moves you and shows off your particular talents. Whether you plan for improvisation or a choreographed routine, consider the flashy as well as the basic. A performance with some wow! that doesn’t feel like a one-note will leave everyone wanting more. Give particular thought to costuming that flatters your body, style of dance and music and movement choices. Standing out is good, but not if you’re standing out as a “Glamour Don’t”!

It’s Audition Day Already?
If you’ve managed all of this prep work, now’s the time to forget it. Really. Relax into autopilot and let the spark that makes you unforgettable shine through. Personality and feeling go a long way for most audiences – and they make you memorable. You have the chance to perform for a talented and wonderfully generous group of professionals. Enjoy the moment. Watching others delight in what moves you can be one of the most rewarding aspects of performance.

Reflect and Regroup…Or, Now What?
Whatever path you follow, and whatever the outcome of your audition, respect the achievement. What did you get out of the experience that you can take with you? I know I become a better dancer when I work and rise to an occasion, whether it’s a performance, competition or audition. That accomplishment is worth the price of admission for me, and more than enough incentive to keep going.

Of course, unless you’re hired on the spot, auditions can be just the beginning of ongoing work to put yourself in front of the organization until a job with the company is yours.

Successful artists of all varieties say again and again that determination, not talent, is the true defining factor for those who make it to a place in the spotlight.

So many belly dancers today are working towards their dreams, their own vision of all this beautiful art form can accomplish, and I cheer them on. Believe it, and make it a reality. We are all capable of so much.

And Miles, don’t think I’ll let you get away. I’ll keep on harassing you until I’m on the bus.

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Ready for more?
3-27-06 The Bellydance Superstars Show In Perspective by Miles Copeland
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1-17-06 Bellydance Superstars, Our Plans for 2006 by Miles Copeland, 2005 Photos by Monica Berini
There is nothing like consistency and constant pressure to deliver at your best each night to weld a group or troupe together.

2-17-06 Belly Dance Superstars ~Raks Carnivale! Review by Dondi Simone Dahlin
Am I jaded because I was part of the company for so long? Am I unable to view the show from unbiased lenses? How I yearn to have virgin eyes, seeing belly dance for the first time.

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Consequently, we did not allow Hurricane Katrina stop us from driving 450 miles to immerse ourselves in and perform with Mark and Ling Shien Bell of Helm!

3-30-06 Interview with Magdy el-Leisy by Lynette
Ballet gave me freedom to create my own style. I didn't go to folklore school as a child so I have more freedom to express my own style.

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