Gilded Serpent presents
a famous pop music promoter, has been catching flack from our Middle
Eastern Music and Dance community regarding his involvement in
the scene. Most of us became aware of his company's involvement
when we received the press releases sent to us last spring per
email. Miles and his assistant Barbara Bolan invited us to collect
questions from the community. Barbara wrote- "Don't worry....Miles
can handle all questions, no matter how tough. "We asked you
for the questions and here are his answers.
here to see initial email publicity releases sent
out by Ark 21 regarding their auditions for their tour with
Lollapalooza festival and beginning of production of their
documentary "American Bellydancer."
you have come from a background in the music field, what
attracted you to the belly dance scene? Was it the
music or the dance itself?
is no question that my entry point to the world of Bellydance
was through music. Having become the principle company releasing
Middle Eastern artists, to the mainstream market in the US, my
challenge was first to identify what audience there already was
and then find ways to expand that audience to the broadest range
On several occasions, I hired belly dancers for a promotion of a
concert or a new CD. I soon learned that there was in fact a Bellydance
scene all over the US thriving and VERY interested in the music I
was putting out. I put the two together and presto I was into Bellydance.
is interesting is that once I entered and got to know the
dancers I actually became more interested in the dancers
than my starting point, which was music.
Of course, they do go hand in hand but my emphasis is now as much
the dancers as the music.
2) Have you
been in touch with dancers all over the US or
did you confine yourself to the LA scene. Are you going to document
the stories of the pioneers of the dance in
the US or are you telling the stories of modern dancers
who are newer to the scene?
From the beginning
I was intrigued by the world of Bellydance as an American phenomenon.
Of course, living in LA I got to know more dancers here but never
looked to this area alone. It was much more intriguing and exciting
that Bellydance was happening in obscure parts of the US and Middle
happens in LA, so what, but Lexington, Kentucky…now
When we began
filming “American Bellydancer,” a full-length documentary
film, which we are just completing; our first filming was in Miami
with the help of many in that community, especially Tamalyn
Dalah, Tiffany Hanan, and Ansuya.
Then we went to San Juan Puerto Rico for two days with Yashira.
That was followed by two days in San Francisco with Suhaila and
company- Rakkasah, and Mary
Ellen Donald. Here we met Rachel Brice and
asked her to join our show. THEN we filmed in Los Angeles a day
(or night) in the life of a bellydancer with Jillina.
We also have filmed in NY with Morocco-
Washington D.C. with the two Rachels, and Lexington,
Kentucky with Phyllidias; and of course all the Lollapalooza dates.
Yes, I’d say we covered the US. How can you document Bellydance
if you do not?
basic brief of the film American Bellydancer, we soon realized
that this was a BIG subject that couldn’t be captured in
a two-hour film. So we had to focus (Leaving room for American
Bellydancer II). Our focus became very much bellydancing in America
TODAY, but of course a number of dancers we interviewed talked
about the history. We do believe we have a nice balance that will
satisfy the hard core Bellydance community, but also be captivating
to a new audience. After all, one of our major goals is to open
up a whole new audience to this wonderful art form- we can’t
do that documenting every minute detail in Bellydance history.
art of filmmaking is as much about what you leave out as
it is about what you put in a film.
and everything will be covered to the degree some people think
you continue to do shows all over the US
since your Lollapalouza tour was such a success?
We learned a
lot on the Lollapalooza tour and especially the solo dates we did.
What’s more important is that promoters in the mainstream
concert business learned what we were all about.
biggest challenge has been to convince legitimate professional
promoters, and theatre and club owners that Bellydance has
an audience and can make a great show.
Most of them
think the audience can only be Middle Eastern or ethnic and that
Bellydance is something you see in restaurants.
sorry to say that many promoters have asked us about the “look” of
the belly dancers, imagining them to all be fat. This may
sound offensive to people reading this and let’s face
it- it IS offensive but that’s what I have to put up
My job has become
as much about educating as it has been selling a show. There is
no question that the Bellydance Superstars and The
Desert Roses dancers, on Lollapalooza, did a lot to change
opinions about belly dancers all across the US. I take some pride
in that so did they.
Early next year,
we embark on a nine-week tour starting in San Diego on February
12th finishing in Los Angeles April 18th. We will perform in fifty-two
cities in the US. The dates will be posted on the Bellydance Superstars
Website. We will also hold workshops all along the way.
4) Are you
interested in the history of the dance and how
it is taught? Will you be working with qualified teachers
who have retired from the performing circuit?
We are hoping
that our efforts as a company and my personal efforts will become
welcomed and appreciated by the Bellydance community- and all will
benefit from our efforts to expand interest in this art. We are
interested in working with everyone out there that wants to help
us but we obviously cannot be all things to all people. No one
also don’t want to encroach into areas better left
to people better qualified and experienced than we are.
I can be interested
in the history of the dance but I will never know what Morocco knows,
or Fatim, Suhaila, or Tamalyn.
5) Are you
interested in the American dance scene only or are
you interested in the scene around the world, i.e. Cairo, Turkey,
Greece, Germany and Europe?
I am very interested
in the WORLD of Bellydance and who is who in Cairo etc. but I am
an American living mostly here and here is where most of my efforts
will be. The US is also very much in need of opening it’s
mind to other cultures,
we are to dominate the world let’s try to understand
and appreciate the good in other cultures as we are trying
to mitigate the bad.
covers all sorts of people and all sorts of perspectives. One high
point which, will appeal to many, is Suhaila yelling
at me for many minutes telling me I have “No idea” about
are your priorities, what is your focus? Since
most of the people in the Middle Eastern dance community are “dance
enthusiasts” or hobbyists, will their voices be
heard in your documentary?
priorities are to help Bellydance be taken seriously as an
art and a business by as big an audience as possible that
will enable dancers in the future to dedicate their lives
to it and be paid fairly for doing so.
can do this without losing the sense of community that is so charming
about Bellydancing in America today.
7) Do you
see yourself continuing to support and bring
attention to belly dancing?
YES YES YES
Answering Some Questions:
can you address these issues?
- The dancers
were not the same in every city and some people were upset
that their favorite dancers were advertised but were not present
at a particular show.
- The dancers
were given second or lower billing and many people weren’t
even aware there were dancers with the show.
were too small, overcrowded, poorly lit and had bad sound.
prices were overpriced for such a poor show, i.e. venue, staging,
We tried to keep
the same dancers throughout but ran into several prior commitments,
which couldn’t be avoided. We always tried to replace any
missing dancers with an equally impressive one. As we are now more
organized the dancers information for each show will be posted
on our Website.
Our choice of
venues depended on who was willing to book our show. Some venues
were great and others were not. As what we are doing becomes better
known, venues will improve. On the February-April tour we are in
a far better class of venues than the last tour. This is because
more promoters are willing to take a chance on us now and we have
more time to prepare.
prices were reasonable in our opinion, if not cheap. It costs
a lot of money to take sixteen people across America and
pay them reasonably.
We had an unusually
high caliber of dancers and a consistently high caliber show- that’s
the overwhelming feedback I got. It is true we did not have a lot
of staging and production value as we were not in a position to
do so either time wise, or financially. The next tour will have
far more to offer.
we will be able to give Riverdance a run for its money but
don’t expect ticket prices to remain under $20.00.
8) I think the
most important point I can make is to say that I cannot be all
things to all people; nor can the film possibly cover everything!
The film is titled “American Bellydancer,” not “The
History of Bellydance.” It’s also not about “Who
Was First in Bellydancing.” It’s a snapshot taken at
a fascinating time for Americans generally, and for Bellydance
I should also
say its not my vision alone, if anybody it is that of Jon Brandeis,
the director of the documentary. He is the one filming and editing,
not me. I have great faith and trust in his ability and integrity
to make an excellent film. I think 99% of people will be happy
with it. BUT, neither he nor I are out to please the Bellydance
world. That would be easy.
are out to dig into what makes this art work; why and what
it all means; why it is happening in America particularly
after September 11th. Do we bring up controversies, show
blemishes and ask tough questions? Yes.
At the end of
the day I want all Americans to appreciate this dance and the people
who support it, live it, and struggle for it. Their story is fascinating
and needs to be told. It is sometimes the outsider who can do this
the best. I hope I am that outsider.
9) February 12th
launches our second tour of the US nine weeks, 52 cities. The dancers
throughout the tour will be Ansuya, Amar Gamal, Sonia, and Kaeshi. Rachel
Brice will do all shows but three. Jillina performs
the first two weeks and the last two weeks. She will be replaced
by Bozenka from Miami (Tamalyn Dallal’s
partner who also taught Shakira.) Newly joining
us, and both being discovered on the last tour is Yasmin from
Charlotte, North Carolina and Petite Jamilla from
an accomplished dancer and has a very successful Bellydance school
in Charlotte. Petit Jamilla, aside from her dancing
skills, is also a musician who will show her unique talent, playing
the bagpipes. This will be interesting. Also joining the tour dates
will be Dondi and her alter ego Marilyn.
Roses, Colleen, Georgianne, and Kaeshi will
be joined by several yet to be determined roses; and two tribal
dancers to work with Rachel Brice. I want to
include a greater tribal element in the upcoming tour.
master drummer, Issam Houshan will also join us
for the tour. Also
we will be inviting local star dancers to perform in each city,
as we did on the last tour.
We will be carrying
with us a well stocked vending booth of CD’s, DVD’s,
Egyptian imported hip scarves and our new Bellystar line of apparel.
and answer to follow soon!
Have a comment? Send us
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
DVD or All Jillina, All the Time Video reviewed by Yasmela/ Shelley
In fact, the production quality is exemplary.
of the Eastern U.S. Middle Eastern and Balkan Music and Dance
2-5, 2003 report
The camaraderie of a camp - bunking with
strangers who soon become friends, "breaking bread" together,
learning new dance steps, songs, and drum rhythms - has all the ingredients
for a treasured experience, and this camp lived up to that potential.
from the The 10th and Final Festival Fantasia photos by
by Rose Productions, Black Sheep BellyDance and the Sebastopol Community
October 11 & 12, 2003, Sebastopol, California
a Revivification of Ancient Sacred Dance performed by The
Silk Road Dance Company Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Washington
D.C. report by Pen Katali, M.L.S. Egypta
impressed me as a stunning artistic success, splendid beyond