American Bellydancer

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In the 1970s and '80s, Miles Copeland became a force in the music industry by taking paths other folks wouldn't follow; he helped bring new wave rock to the top of the charts as manager of the Police (and later guided Sting's solo career) while also running the IRS Records label, which helped edgy acts such as the Go-Go's, R.E.M., Wall of Voodoo, and Fine Young Cannibals reach mass-market success. Following the dawn of the new century, Copeland was searching for a new challenge, and looked to the Middle East, where he spent time as a child (his father was attached to the CIA). Copeland struck upon the notion of bringing Middle Eastern music and dance to the West with a show that would present belly dancing in a theatrical context, much as Riverdance had done for Irish music. However, Copeland's dream was neither a sure thing nor simple to realize; many of his performers were torn between a desire for greater recognition and fears of seeing their culture trivialized and distorted in the interest of the marketplace, while many Western audiences were not immediately receptive to Middle Eastern art in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Documentary filmmaker Jonathan Brandeis followed Copeland as he assembled his troupe and put them on the road, and American Bellydancer offers a glimpse of this sometimes difficult merger of art, culture, and commerce.


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