Miles is ready for your feedback!
by Miles Copeland
Backstage Video by Lynette
As the Bellydance Superstars Show completes the second leg of its US tour, it
is now apparent that acceptance by the mainstream performing arts world has
largely been achieved . Having had a well-respected booking agency specializing
in performing arts, representing the show, has made a big difference, as we
are not out there, alone pushing our wares. It took four years to get such
an agency to take us seriously and when the theatre managers who talk to each
other on a regular basis begin to say nice things about the show the job gets
easier and easier. Thankfully, that is happening. Still, there are challenges
we face and people to convince.
Maintaining a positive image for the show is not the only issue;
I can control that for the most part. However, I cannot control
the message the bellydance community at large puts out as the
art becomes ever more popular.
of the controversy and criticism the BDSS and I have generated
in the past, we have
never caused anyone who actually saw the show to question our
basic goal of elevating the art to broader mainstream acceptance
and to do so with quality and good taste as we saw it. People
can argue that we are not traditionalists, prefer younger,
very fit dancers, and we do too much fusion, or whatever, but
of lowering the tone.
I received an email from our booking agent, telling me of a
bellydance show that was taking place with its advertising clearly
using sexual innuendo and highlighting "nipple tassels" and
a "fascinator" (I’m not quite sure what that is!) are
to be given away. Ms.
Farhana was performing along with others—with
“DJ Sleaze” orchestrating the flow of performances. What a nice
choice of a name for the disc jockey—don't you think? Needless
to say, I find such shows that clearly link sleaze and Burlesque
with bellydance (as if they naturally go together) a danger
for what I, and most of the bellydance community would like
to see happen for the art of Belly dancing. If performers want
to incorporate Burlesque, or nudity, it is their right to do
so, but they should realize that there is likely to be fall-out
that will affect the work of others. There is no question that
growing awareness of the success of bellydance will mean that
shows that heretofore would have gone unnoticed will now be more
liable to garner attention. Previously, our booking agent (who
lives in a mainstream world) would never have noticed
such a show, but when he saw the word bellydance coupled with
Burlesque, it caught his attention and concern.
Most of us realize that the success of bellydance as an art
form will reflect on the plight of bellydancers
in the Arab world who are often regarded as prostitutes.
The blessing of freedom and liberation that women can
count on here in the West is one that others elsewhere
do not have.
possible that bellydance, gaining respect in the West,
can affect its
regard in Arab society and therefore, have
a role in elevating women's participation in those societies
in general. Linking bellydance to nudity, Burlesque,
and other risqué associations does not raise its respect but
reinforces it as a low-life pursuit in the minds of those
likely to see it as such. Therefore, to sell a few tickets
by titillating public interest via relying on carnal
instincts is, in this regard, highly irresponsible! As
I am trying
to get the Arab community here in the U.S. (and by splash-affect
the Arab world itself) to have greater regard for bellydance as a legitimate, respectable art by writing articles
Beirut Times, An Nahar, Alo Hayati, Aramaca and other
Arab papers, I see any public advertising of Burlesque-bellydance
shows as a detriment to that effort.
I am aware that MECDA, an organization that has been in the forefront of trying
to promote bellydance in a positive manner, is going through some organizational
issues that I hope they can resolve to everyone's benefit. However, I am surprised
to see that they are featuring teachers at their event in June who are associated
with a more sexually oriented exploitation of the art of bellydance. This
seems like an unlikely choice for such an organization and one that must raise
a few eyebrows within the community. In fact, is it not about time that the
bellydance community starts to speak up strongly? It would seem so, since
we all realize that if more eyes are watching this art, more care has to be
taken by all involved in it to project the image the community would like it
to earn. Creative differences are one thing, and there will never be agreement
among all within an art is to what is great and what is not. The fusionists
will always upset the traditionalists to some degree, but all should be on
the side of artistic acceptance as a respected art form, especially, given
the problems with the art in the Middle East.
it is traditionally understood, I do not find Burlesque,
(meaning nudity—no matter how hard one pretends it does
not) amusing or creative in
the slightest when it comes to including bellydance, an art that has suffered
too long with such unfortunate associations. I find it completely irresponsible
in the U.S. may find it liberating (though I fail
to see why) but meanwhile, in the Middle East, it is another shackle fastened
on dancers who are burdened with quite enough already. I fear it is a shackle
that we in the West all will come to feel as well. Meanwhile, from an artistic
point of view, I always assume when a dancer resorts to this sort of approach,
it is because that dancer lacks the talent to get attention in any other
way. It is too bad those limitations can, and will, hurt
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
Dancer's Guilt, a Response to Naajidah, by Miles Copeland
have occasionally suggested Arabs would be “horrified”by
the inclusion of the Tribal style in our show but I can tell
you that this style is extremely popular with Middle Easterners
who come to our show.
Bellydance Superstars Show In Perspective by Miles Copeland
are many factors to balance, and ANY show can be improved. The
point is to also know the limitations that one faces in doing
all the things one would like to do.
BDSS Experience and Miles Copeland; Doing What He
Does Best by Sausan
though Miles Copeland’s vision is similar to that of mine
and the majority of bellydancers I have canvassed in my lifetime,
he and I differ in our mission approach to elevating the dance,
and this is where the discussion became a heated debate.
Good Care of our Stars by Miles Copeland
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.
BEWARE! comic by Lynette
dare they pollute our pond!"
Dance, Burlesque and Beyond: Confessions of a Post
Modern Showgirl by Princess Farhana (Pleasant
WAIT!!!”I can hear you screaming, “BURLESQUE IS STRIPPING!”
the Hip Hits the Fan by Princess Farhana
fan dancing is not considered traditional in raqs sharqi, due to
the increasing popularity of fusion, many Oriental dancers are
exploring fusing the many styles of fan dancing and Belly dance
with stunning results. When used onstage, fans are FAN-ciful, conveying
various emotions to an audience, as well as being a spectacular
visual treat. They can be dramatic and stately, or coy and flirtatious
and are always a crowd pleaser!
Rituals and Beyond: Exploring Current Controversies in
Middle Eastern Dance by Barbara Grant
If you are like me, (I know that many are not) you first
responded viscerally and negatively to both situations. Then, as
the shock wore off, perhaps you tried to make sense of it all.
along the Nile, Part 1: Raks Al Asaya by Gamila
El Masri, Reprinted with permission, from Bennu, Issue
is strength in the cane twirl but not aggression, extreme rapid
twirling should be held as an additional sensational feat, less
is more. Have your body of twirling be moderate so that you can
vary from slow to climatic; always reflecting the music, it's
mood and tempo. Get down without getting crazy.
New Venue for Rakkasah Festival West by Susie Poulelis
retail, there is a saying that having an item sell out was a
happy problem to have. You want to keep your customers yearning
for more, making sure they won't hesitate to buy the next time
they see something they want.