VOA TV – Miles Copeland’s Bellydance Superstars
Miles Copeland is best known for his work with rock bands like R.E.M. and The Police.
MILES COPELAND: “I really started trying to promote Arabic music. I did a big single with Sting called ‘Desert Rose’ and it proved that Americans will buy music coming from the Middle East if it’s put in the right context. So I started releasing records by Andy, who is an Iranian artist living in L.A. I put a lot of Arabic artists out.”
Eight years ago, Copeland organized a belly dancing competition to help one artist. He soon found that the ancient dance form is popular in the United States.
MILES COPELAND: “We had 180 dancers who flew in from all over America for this contest. So, ‘Wow!’ I never realized there were so many belly dancers in America.”
Today, his professional belly dancing troupe has performed more than 800 shows in over 20 countries.
MILES COPELAND: “We have to convince people that yes, belly dance does belong on a proper stage. It isn’t just something for a restaurant with one soloist while you are eating your dinner. The other challenge I had, of course, is that when I got involved, they were all like, ‘Oh my God, here is this rock and roll impresario.’ He is gonna destroy belly dance’ …”
Copeland hopes that his Bellydance Superstars will send a message to the Middle East, where he spent much of his childhood.
MILES COPELAND: “In the Sunday Times in England they actually wrote ‘Bellydance Superstars are the world’s most important dance troupe’ because they are the only dance troupe in the world that actually is made up of American ladies. When you see the Bellydance Superstars, you are seeing Americans appreciating a foreign culture.”
Petite Jamila is a dancer for the group. She thinks the reason for its popularity is being open to change.
PETITE JAMILA: “America is extremely accepting to it because they see an avenue for something that they can also place their own trademark on.”
Moria Chappelle is a world famous tribal belly dancer.
MORIA CHAPPELLE: “The style that I do is tribal fusion belly dance, which is unique to America as sort of an American interpretation of Middle Eastern movement, and then using antique textiles and antique jewelry, but then putting to modern music.”
Bellydance Superstars has yet to earn a profit or become really famous. But Copeland says there are other ways to measure success.
MILES COPELAND: “When I get a letter from some lady telling me that, you know I’ve given her husband back, when I have a man come up to me and say that I’ve made him feel proud about his culture. We had ladies come up to us in Morocco and say ‘thank you.’ So when you see the effect that you’re having on people, as long as those rewards are there and you are not going totally bankrupt, you know, you think, well, we are gonna get there in the end financially. So it is worth it.”
Worth it to the performers and to Miles Copeland, who has a history of risk-taking and success. I’m Faith Lapidus.