March 16, 2008
Midway into the year 2007 the Bellydance Superstars have, in the space of four years, performed almost 500 concerts in 18 countries to over 1 million people and more than 60 television shows to over 100 million viewers.
Their DVDs and CDs are bestsellers, and workshops are typically sellouts and in high demand. All in all, things are good for the world’s only full-time, professional bellydance troupe.
It was not always easy. In 2003, after the high profile Lollapalooza tour, playing some nights in front of 25,000 people, they headlined their own tour of 56 shows in 55 cities in 62 days. One run had them performing 28 shows in a row! Mercifully, this was followed by one month in Barcelona, Spain, where they performed 24 shows in 30 days in the same theatre. The year 2005 ended with a three-month engagement at the famed Casino du Monte Carlo. Prince Albert surprised everyone by coming to see the show twice. In fact the troupe was invited back for another three-month engagement in April of this year.
The periods in Monte Carlo proved useful by having all the dancers present in one place for an extended period of time to work on new choreography and hone their chops in ways that are often difficult to do on tours of one-night stands. As respect grows for the Bellydance Superstars, even more is expected. The pressure is on to continue pushing the envelope of the bellydance art form to compete alongside major shows like Riverdance and the Royal Ballet, all the while remaining true to the essence of bellydance.
Meanwhile, the Bellydance Superstars have never pretended to be traditionalists. This is not a “folk show” or a show married to a narrow view of what bellydance is. Yet some shows, even in the Middle East veer away from bellydance all together in a seeming attempt to “go modern” à la “Las Vegas.” Our view is that there is plenty of room within the bellydance art form to be adventurous, yet still remain primarily a bellydance show. Even our one Polynesian-influenced number (we call it “‘bellynesian”) is an expression of the fact that thousands of miles from the Middle East, another culture hit upon a similar dance, showing the inherent universality of bellydance moves and feminine sensuality.
While some purists look upon bellydance as a purely Middle Eastern art form precluding such styles as “tribal” from inclusion, we see bellydance as greater than a mere narrow cultural expression of one region. Creative mutations and hybrids of the dance in other lands are a testament to the brilliance of its originators. Great art grows; it does not stagnate within rigid rules. Rock-and-roll is no longer purely American, any more than the blues is black. Both are great and vibrant because they moved beyond borders and acquired new influences. Today, more bellydancers are in America, all dancing predominantly to Arab music, than in the rest of the world put together.