Here are just a few reasons why “Bellydance Superstars: Bombay Bellywood” is not like your average restaurant belly dance performance:
• It features 14 belly dancers, along with elaborate costumes and lighting effects.
• The dancers – all are from America – are not only world-class belly dancers, but highly trained dancers, period.
• The show has an Indian twist, with an Indian dancer/contortionist fresh from the Cirque du Soleil.
• It attempts to do for belly dance “what Riverdance did for Irish music.”
The above quote comes from the show’s producer and creator, Miles Copeland, who, 800 performances ago, launched the Bellydance Superstars tour.
Copeland says the tour presents this ancient art form in a modern way.
“Most belly dancers don’t really get an opportunity to dance on a big stage with full production and all of the benefits,” he said in a phone interview. “So when they take the art form out of its smaller context and into a big context, they have the ability to spread their wings and push the boundaries.”
Copeland said his show is competing in “the same world as ‘Riverdance,’ ‘Stomp,’ Blue Man Group and the world of ballet.”
So it must have high production values and be fast-paced.
“I work with the three-minute attention span rule,” he said. “That comes from my days in the music business, when every single had to be three minutes or it wouldn’t work.”
If the name Miles Copeland rings a bell, it’s because of his impressive rock credentials.
He was the manager of The Police, which featured his brother, drummer Stewart Copeland. He also managed Sting in his solo career, as well as Squeeze. And he’s the founder of I.R.S. Records, whose most famous act was R.E.M.
Copeland grew up in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria – his father was a CIA man – and developed a love for Arab music and culture.
The show’s music, 70 percent of which is recorded, has plenty of Arabian influence, but it ranges all over the map. One thing it won’t have, in Copeland’s words, is a lot of “weird ethnic stuff.”
The dancers all come from the world’s hotbed of belly dancing: America.
For various reasons, ranging from family pressures to religion, even in Egypt the top belly dancers are foreign, said Copeland.
He said America has more “belly dancers here than in the rest of the world put together,” followed by Argentina, Russia and Brazil.
“In America, it has become a woman’s art from, about women and for women, and the majority of the audience is women,” Copeland said.
“Our show is really about the beauty and femininity of a woman, dancing in a very pure manner. And of course, women appreciate that – seeing a woman being strong and sensual without having to push sex – and, number two, I find that the men appreciate that.”