from tour this year in Taiwan contributed by The BDSS
The American Bellydance Superstars
Marin Civic Auditorium, March 3, 2007
by: Sadira Sierra
Copeland and his Bellydance Superstars
hit Marin’s spotlights on Saturday to the delight of the packed
audience. There has always been a lot of hot discussion
around his shows and format of touring with the Bellydance Superstars
as a venue for American audiences to explore and experience what
American Bellydance is. What I came away with is that Bellydance
in America is truly that, a unique format that can only be relayed
as an American style of interpretation. Even though the
dancing from Egyptian cabaret to tribal and venues in between
is incredibly bold, excellent in stylizing and format… it truly
is an American tableau of how we represent this art.
show is dynamic and fast paced with incredibly beautiful but most
importantly talented dancers. Unlike other “belly dance
shows”, the pacing was tight, the music on spot most of the time,
and extremely present with showmanship, allure and power.
Each dancer, as soloist, no matter what style dance being done,
is a pure pleasure to watch. I not only take into account
the actual performance but the entire show’s components, from
lighting, sound, pacing, choreography and costumes. All
of it is done with a very in depth attention to detail and professional
liked the fact that the Tribal Fusion dancers are highlighted
as a separate style and venue from the Egyptian and other forms
of belly dance being presented. Truly this shows the Americanization
of what is created and performed in the United States under
the broad umbrella of the term “belly dance”. Showcasing
the two styles as different aspects of the dance; yet commonality
in the dance art form as a whole is a wonderful interplay that
allows each to show its own strengths and stylizing that sets
Isis wings solo gets more beautiful each year, combining stunning
fabrics with the slight finger movements, which create the illusion
of a bird's fluttering wings. There was so many different
routines, costume changes that it was spellbinding and mind-boggling
how everything went so smoothly. How do these dancers change
costumes in between performances so quickly?
really loved seeing all the different sub regional styles of dance
represented in one way or another, from Whirling Dervish, Zar,
Cane, Turkish Karsilama, Debke, and of course solo’s and shimmy
routines that never became boring.
is the first tribal dance group that I have seen where I really
got a mesmerizing, and feeling for it’s luscious, sinewy, exotic
and complicated movements. I have not seen any tribal dancing
that is as superior as what is presented in this show. The
languid, almost contortionist movements, evoke feelings of being
an observer in a culture and era reminiscent of Theda Bara
and Mata Hari. It also brought to mind, with its
at times discordant musical renditions of old side show circus
anything, American Bellydance Superstars offers too much.
At times it feels as if a blend of Cirque de Soleil amateur night
and carnival after hours is blended with a mélange of choreographies
that swim by your vision so fast, you can’t take it all in.
really is an American show, designed for an American audience.
I wanted to see so much more of some of the brief interchanging
strobe light themes of debke, zar and karsilama extended to a
longer and more comprehensive version. Though everyone’s
caliber of dancing is excellent, the emphasis on mostly Egyptian
shimmy work and accents could be shortened and replaced by fuller
representations of some other types of beledi/folk styles or ethno
the time the second half was in play, I felt it had over grasped
its initial achievements and was now becoming more repetitive
and a bit too long.
highlight for me was the spinning and whirling veil dance, with
the two dancers in the background in traditional dervish skirts.
The soloist spun without stops with alternating transitions in
the spins, using her hair as accent points and the accumulation
of double veil to four veils at a time to make for a dramatic,
graceful, poetic dance. Also the amazing shimmy, drum solo
with Jillina… actually dancing on top of a dumbek still stands
out as a feat of balance, incredible body isolations, interpretation
and “how did she do it” unblinking, mouth dropping acclaim.
of the stars of the show is the amazing drummer, Issam Houshan.
Not only is he a drummer extraordinaire, he also brings life to
the stage. His solos were undeniable the major energy that
really pulled the show to its highest levels. He has a warm
and outgoing personality, and interacts with the audience in such
a way that you feel you’re in the presence of a friend and enjoying
a small Hafla together with him. You can tell by his interactions
with the dancers that he truly enjoys drumming for them and they
also play off of that energy. I know there were audience
members who came solely to hear his fantastic drumming.
some of my least favorite parts of the show; first I find all
of the fluff choreography that is going on behind a soloist is
distracting from the dancer and actually shows some glaring mediocrity
in those not dancing at the standard of who is in the solo.
Many times the choreography seems like the chorus line and blurs
the edges of clarity in the dance performance… too much stimulus,
unfocused, unnecessary. I do know it is common in Egypt
for the headliner to do some of her numbers with the inevitable
chorus line in the background, but even then it still looks amateurish
and destroys the integrity of the dance piece.
there were dance numbers that were based on other dance styles
that were not part of the Bellydance art. It was blaringly
obvious that the dancers in the “Bollywood” take off, have minimal
training in traditional Indian dance, and their entrance was clumsy,
as they had not refined the particular foot movements used to
glide in with. On top of that there appeared with them a
disorganized section of dancers with the same color costumes that
appeared to be doing cheerleading routines and using Pilate bars
with no apparent reason for them in the skit. It would be
better to put energy into learning more dances from different
regions that are considered part of the Middle Eastern influence
then to add other cultures dances and influences into the mix.
no matter how talented the dancers in the show, they cannot
possibly learn these other cultural styles with enough finesse
and complexity to be considered proficient in it.
culturally appropriated piece was the Polynesian/Tahitian suite.
It was bland and minimal in its affect, as the dancers are not
good South Pacific dancers, and it has no place in the venue at
all. Here we get into where do you draw the line with American
cultural appropriation of dances that take years to learn, and
present them as a creative venue in a slipshod tableau of dances
from around the world. That brought the show’s merit’s down
considerably; but as a matter of course it is true American style
to incorporate any culturally appropriated material from other
venues and decide they too can master and perform it, without
regards to it’s roots or people. If I wanted to see Hula
and Tahitian dancing, I would go to a professional Hula and South
Pacific performance. Miles, please, you have to draw the
line somewhere before the show becomes so full of any dance form
you throw in it and it really does become a vaudeville act.
As well as unfortunately, the dancer, who amazingly danced en
Pointe traditional ballerina shoes, but instead of making her
look more graceful, she looked encumbered and out of place.
The deja-vu routine that reminded me of the 1980’s movie “Flashdance”,
with the dancer draped over a chair had me simultaneously laughing
at the similarities and wincing at when the bucket of water would
be dumped over her reclined figure. The costume was not
flattering and it was a great showmanship of gymnastics, but hit
a sour note. The finale with stilt walker, fan dancers,
and every act from 1920’s Busby Berkeley thrown in, does injustice
to what a finale for the caliber of performers you have in this
show. It’s an incredible show to see and something to be proud
of as American belly dancers for almost all of it, as the dancers
are some of the best I have ever seen… the production is top line.
Cut out the fluff and dancing from areas that your dancers have
no long term background in, shorten it… give Issam more venue
and it’s almost apple pie perfect.
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Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
The Myopic View of Bellydancing
It is interesting to note that among dance fields that
are culturally based, ours is one of the few that adhere to this
stigma and prejudice.
Memories from Planet Earth
Apathy is alive and well.
and the Arabic Movie Nights by
an incredible store, not only did Sam have the largest selection
of records, and cassette tapes of Arabic and Middle Eastern music,
but he and his wife Mona embraced the dance community and their
desire to find music, videos, and help with anything under the
So much is happening right now in the Middle East, and
we write about our dance shows and events, travels and remembrances
but no one dare takes a step to mention political strife. .
Interview with Kay Taylor
by Leila of Cairo
Kay seemed a bit older and wiser to the ways of Cairo, many people
assumed she was my manager. They would address their questions
about my fee or my experience to Kay.
The Bou-Saada Bus by Yasmela
single one of us could play an instrument, sing, dance, run a
sound board, set a stage with backdrop, lights, monitors and microphones,
plug them in, and put them away. We made our own costumes and
our own drums and used duct tape in a thousand creative ways.
While we never made a living from it, it was our way of life.
Our experiences will bond us forever.
How to Charge What You Are Worth
by MIchelle Joyce
first step to becoming an effective negotiator is to emotionally
detach yourself from the outcome. If you can’t walk away
from the deal, you have already lost.