re:BDSS concert in Berlin
Dear Gilded Serpent,
wanted to send you a short report about the performance
of the Bellydance
Superstars in Berlin last Monday evening September
27th, 2004. There has been a lot in the press about them
and of course here in Germany we have been waiting with
anticipation to see the performance. As Beata
and I organize performances and tours ourselves, we know
what is behind such a production and such a level of perfomance.
Of course, it is very easy to crititzise other
dancers if you are sitting down in a chair watching a
video or having coffee with friends. It is another thing
altogether to get up and work hard in order to achieve
what these dancers have.
I must honestly say that I was very impressed at the level
of professionalism that I saw on that stage on Monday. All
dancers were in good shape, showed strong dance training
and a professional approach to oriental dance which is something
sometimes lacking in bellydance circles.
I was very happy to see bellydancing presented
in such a venue and I think that the tremendous effort
from these women is beneficial to all of us because we
are now acknowledged from the general public in a new
Regardless of the fact that my personal taste in music differs
to that of Mr. Miles Copeland, I felt that
did an excellent job in creating choreographies to that
type of music.
Mr. Copeland is not a dancer himself, he cannot possibly
understand the essence of oriental dance, something that
takes at least a few trips to Cairo to achieve.
Therefore, I felt, there were some fundamental elements
missing in the show. At the end of the performance I was
sorry that I didnt see a "solo oriental", a good
solid "baladi" and a dramatic song by Um
Kalthoum danced by a woman alone. I felt that Jillina
was very diplomatic in the way that she choreographed her
position in the group dances, positioning herself not always
in the center although I think her place is in the center.
All and all, it is not the fault of the dancers
if there are some essential oriental dance elements missing,
after all they are hired to fulfill a position which they
do well. It would be the Job of Mr. Copeland to either
get information on the subject or trust someone who does.
I want to extend my congratulations to Jillina for her talent
as a dancer/choreographer and dancers as well as all the
wonderful performers of the Bellydance Superstars.
appreciate very much your supportive words on the Bellydance
Superstars show. Lord knows it is not easy doing this and
I need all the help I can get. Bellydance is so often misunderstood,
if not disregarded by both the public and the other dance
my taste in music, you should know this. I grew up in the
Middle East from age 5 and am currently the biggest (by
far) promoter of Arabic music in the USA. I am personal
friends with many of the biggest stars and I know and appreciate
the early roots of the music.
I went to Fayrouz and Sabah concerts in the mid-60s.
my job is to bring in a new audience to Arab music and bellydance.
There is no point preaching to the converted. This means
choosing music with a wide appeal- or what I think has a
wide appeal. Also, I don't like folk music or more correctly,
I don't want to tell any social group they must remain stuck
in their traditions.
I told a Black American that he should be playing blues
and only blues and not modern rap because he was black,
it would be just as insulting and stupid as telling an Arab
that the music of Om Kalthoum was where
it's at and they should stick to tradition. What is exciting
to me about Arab music today is that it is breaking with
tradition- finding new hybrids and vitality.
I like creatively breaking the rules which means
never letting tradtion be a straight jacket.
I know one cannot please all the people all the time. If
one tries, one will fail because too much of a mixture loses
focus. My taste may not be yours, but I have absolutely
thought about my choices.
same goes for the dance. Again, I can not cover everything.
I will not please all the people all the time. The best
I can ever do is please all of the people some of the time
and some of the people all of the time- or most of the people
most of the time.
people suggest I am missing a dance style, my reply is usually
"if I add such a dance, which dance do I take out of
the show?" The show is probably already a bit too long
for the average audience and I certainly cannot make it
longer. It's all a matter of choices to fit into a tight
what choices I make and understanding the essence of oriental
dance: First, I should say I was seeing bellydancers before
you were born (though I hate to admit it).
I would not argue ever with someone such as you that I fully
understand the essence. I would argue that that is exactly
why I am a better judge of what is going to work to the
mass audience. I am that audience. You and Jillina
are not. I was always a better judge of what Sting
song was a hit than he was. Why? Because he was too close
to each song to dispassionately make a judgment.
are judging my show- whether you want to admit it or not,
as a dancer. As such, your comments are totally valid. And
as such, I respect and consider your opinions just as I
do Jillina's. But if I ONLY appeal to the dance community,
I will go bankrupt as that community alone cannot sustain
the show. I wish it could.
must apply my instinct, such as it is, to reach the bigger
audience. AT THE SAME time, I want and need to satisfy
as much as possible the dance community. It is a delicate
balance. I am thankful that for the most part I did that,
as evidenced by your support. I am truly thankful for
that and thank you for taking time to comment.
am particularly glad to see you fully appreciated Jillina's
work. This is a truly smart lady who understands that the
good of the whole means she places herself only where appropriate
in the show and NEVER tries to "hog" the limelight.
She sees each dancer as an asset she can use. She knows
she can never do what Rachel Brice or Sonia
do on stage just as they do not do what she does. Her ability
to use the whole troupe to create the overall best show
is what sets her apart from everyone else. For me, she also
puts up with my vision, even when I reject a particular
choreography. I believe she knows that I do not make judgments
on prejudice or preconceived ideas, but purely on what I
think is going to work in the big picture.
this means she has to trust me as much as I trust her.
I should also say that many of the dancers have input into
the show and we like that. They more often than not have
great latitude in choosing what songs they want to dance
to. I would be a fool not to consider their knowledge, experience,
you can appreciate that any endeavor that is at all visionary,
new and never been done before, must be driven by someone
who is fully committed, passionate and confident enough
to bulldoze through any resistance that anything new encounters.
Such confidence comes primarily from trusting one's own
instincts NOT someone else's. There is NO history of a successful
bellydance show, so there is no information/history to draw
from. We are in uncharted waters. In such waters, I have
been before with The Police and other "no
hope" artists who eventually became superstars. If
I had listened to experts then, and not trusted my own instincts,
there would have been no Police, Sting,
Bangles, GoGos, REM,
NO, I will not "get information on the subject or
trust someone else." The day I do that is the day
I should get out of the business.
say all this only because it's important to me that someone
as respected as you who has taken the time to support and
critique what I am doing in a positive way, should be honestly
answered. I want you to know where I'm coming from and I
want to encourage you to continue to offer any suggestions
you have. I value your thoughts and I truly thank you for