Thursday, March 24, 2011

American Bellydancer: Quick Review

First and foremost, this is not a dramatic film but rather a documentary for those interested in the more recent developments of bellydance in the context of North America within the past decade, in particular relation to Bellydance Superstars (BDSS), Desert Roses as well as interviews with Suhaila Salimpour. Beginning with an explanation of who Miles Copeland is and his original vision of wanting to share Middle Eastern music, including an interview with brother and drummer Stewart Copeland of The Police. (The Copeland brothers were raised in the Middle East.)

With a brief of introduction of how bellydance was introduced to the West via the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, this 2005 BDSS film is exceptional in its well-planned documentation of the creation of BDSS, with interviews with a few of the major people involved in the development of bellydance in the United States. A lot of interactions, conflicts between Miles Copeland and Jillina, and Suhaila Salimpour reveals each person's motivations.


A discussion with Amar Gamal, Sonia, Jillina, Ansuya sharing a variety of perspectives of how they see their dance form as well as their personal motivations, problems encountered and relationships developed, knowledge gained through collaborating. This film is unapologetic in its coverage of the business side of bringing something like BDSS to life. Of course the film is not completely without biases, however this film is more about how Miles Copeland brought Middle Eastern music and bellydance to the forefront of popular culture using his knowledge of business and made it more widely known.

"The human body moving well is beautiful." Morrocco

The film itself is not about bellydance, but bellydance in the context of America and American culture and how it has affected dancers post 9/11. It is a documentation of the beginnings of BDSS and each of the participants visions for the dance.

"Dancers are the unsung heroes of the art world." Perry Farrell
"Often it is the women who are more judgemental than the men..." Rachel Brice

The 40 minute bonus footage begins with snippets of the multitude of perspectives by well-known figures in the bellydance scene including Rachel Brice, Morrocco, Suhaila Salimpour, Tamalyn Dallal, Tiffany Hanan, Amar Gamal, Rachel Ortega. The documentary soundtrack is sprinkled with some of the most popular bellydance musical choices from Hakim, Oojami, Cheb Mami, Zohar etc.

"A higher level of knowledge was reached in the 70s & 80s... More people know about it, and more about it."

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