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American Bellydancer
American Bellydancer
Actors: Morocco, Jillina, Miles Copeland, Amar Gamal, Ansuya
Director: Jonathan Brandeis
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
NR     2005     1hr 28min

Documentary about the world of belly dance in the U.S.A., focusing on the creation and rise of the acclaimed Bellydance Superstars and The Desert Roses. Film covers the historical perspectives on the art of belly dance alo...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Morocco, Jillina, Miles Copeland, Amar Gamal, Ansuya
Director: Jonathan Brandeis
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Studio: Ark 21
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 08/02/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 28min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Promotional video for Desert Roses!
Stephanie Medina | Amelia Island, Florida | 08/11/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"I think the Desert Roses are awsome but when purchasing a documentary I was hoping to see the history of American Belly Dance which should include American Tribal. This video is completely about how the Belly Dance Superstars were formed, which is fine if you market it that way. Rachel Brice's name is heavily used in the advertisement but she's barely seen on the video. Where's the history of American Belly Dance? Where's the Tribal? Where is all the stuff that makes American Belly Dance What it is today? I love all the ladies on this video but there are so many moore icons of our art. This is NOT a documentary on Belly Dance but rather a documentary on one mans vision to make international belly dance superstars."
Spinal Tap for Bellydancers!
HeartofAvalon | Denver, CO USA | 08/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This video is a hillarious good time. It shows the Bellydance Superstars, Miles Copeland, and what everyone goes through to be a part of the show. I watched it in Denver on the big screen with hundreds of bellydancers in attendance. The audience was surly and angry most of the time, but I have also watched "This is Spinal Tap" with real rock stars...and they didn't think that was funny either. If you have a good sense of humor about yourself and your art form. Can identify with the pitfalls and the joys of it, then you will like this video. I don't hold Miles Copeland responsible for the commercialization of has been happening forever. It's his investment, his opportunity to make money. Everybody lighten up! Enjoy the show. Take it for what it is worth. I don't know if you NEED to buy this's sort of a "rental." I would much rather put my hard earned bellydance cash on the line for a local workshop, class, instructional DVD and the like, and improve my own skills. But, for a hoot, this is a good one."
A Good Beginning
Parthena Black | Oklahoma | 04/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The subject of this documentary is close to my heart and really strikes a nerve. I live in a part of the country where, due to misinformation and ignorance, bellydance is equated with stripping. My co-workers were appalled when I told them that I had started dancing and invited them to class. The typical responses I get from women my age and even some younger ones range from "I'm too fat to be 'shaking it' around" to looks of disgust. I find it very sad that we apparently have made no progress toward positive body image and acceptance of our feminity and sexuality. Society has been aware of the damage that media has done for the past twenty years, yet sometimes I think we'll never get there because not much has changed.

I love this DVD because the issue is as passionate for me as it is for the dancers in the movie. In founding the Bellydance Superstars professional touring troupe, producer Miles Copeland had the right idea in presenting bellydance as a respectable art form and show equivalent to "Riverdance," but he also had a lot of wrong ideas. Mainly, Miles was more focused on youth and beauty than the skill of the dancer - his primary goal was to make money. Suhaila Salimpour helps to straighten him out in a strong and hilarious manner, and Jillina makes her point more subtly but just as strongly. Both dancers work toward convincing Copeland that bellydance is open to women of all ages and sizes and that the dance is an art form that should not place looks above talent and skill.

And Miles Copeland listens, but only to an extent. Jillina alludes to the fact that as choreographer, she still didn't have a say in choosing all of the dancers in the Desert Roses. It is implied that Miles got his way in choosing some of the dancers for their looks. Some didn't have a strong dance background and this made Jillina's job more difficult in addition to the challenges of blending the talents of the strong soloists to work together successfully.

In the end, the documentary successfully communicates the fact that bellydance is as much an art as any of the performing arts and deserves recognition and respect. This is put across through interviews with the dancers, instructors and dance historians such as Morocco. The different styles of bellydance are presented and we get occasional glimpses into the personalities of the dancers, a treat for those of us they inspire. The reality of touring is also presented - we see that it is hard work and often not at all glamorous. The dancers try to cope with this with humor - I enjoyed Rachel Brice's impromptu rap song about their "dressing room." The only criticism I would offer is that I would have liked to see at least one whole dance performance instead of the medley of clips shown throughout the film. The clips that are shown do highlight the beauty of the dance very well. The footage consists mainly of Miles and others in the industry discussing and planning the troupe, interviews with the dancers, auditions and tour footage.

When the movie's over, grab your zills for the percussion lesson included in the bonus features. Mary Ellen Donald was diagnosed with macular degeneration at age 8 and was almost totally blind by the time she was in her twenties. She not only learned to bellydance but also learned to drum. She's fascinating and she offers some helpful tips on playing your finger cymbals. Other bonus features include additional interviews and deleted scenes.

I ended up actually liking Miles Copeland. I think he does "get" it and his heart may even be in the right place. He took very good care of the dancers, as evidenced in his advocating for and protecting them in Bali. He is, after all, a businessman and the fact that he happens to be male makes him more villainous to some. The disturbing reality is that part of the non-bellydancing public wants youth, beauty and "T & A." This part of the audience is really missing out. I know many "goddess sized" dancers who are incredibly beautiful dancers. If the project is going to continue, it needs to make money and sometimes compromises have to be made, at least in the beginning. Perhaps once the show is on more solid ground older and less physically flawless dancers can be introduced.

We still have a long way to go in educating the public. The Bellydance Superstars shows are still not producing enough revenue to support the level of show that Copeland and the Superstars would like to produce, but bellydance is gaining in popularity. The film is an excellent advocate for the art form of bellydance and is a good beginning. The bonus music CD features great music from the film and is worth the price of the DVD."
American Belllydancer
N. Lamming | British Columbia, Canada | 09/04/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"I'm glad I've had the opportunity to watch 'American Bellydancer'and its certainly a good $$ value, especially since you get both the dvd and a cd, but aside from satisfying my curiosity, I felt I could have lived without this dvd.

I actually got a headache watching it and found myself wondering at the end if it was really necessary to cram EVERTYHING into it. I realize its a documentary and the story being told was long, and multi-layerd .. but, it felt like information overload. It felt too convoluted. I certainly can't say I enjoyed watching it over all. There were segments I really liked, but after a certain point I found myself wonedering when it was going to end.

There's been so much debate among bellydancers about Miles Copeland in regards to his motives, and if he's helping or hurting bellydance so I was really curious to see this one. I hoped to get a sense of it all. I certainly didn't come away from this dvd with warm fuzzy feelings about Miles .. IMHO he's definitely in this for the money not the art, but I don't think he's going to hurt bellydance either.

There's not much actual bellydance is this dvd, but I didn't mind that as I felt the movie's intent is to tell a story; its not a performance video."