Every once in a while you come upon a dancer that has made a difference to you and your dancing. Whether you know it or not here are few dancers that have most certainly influenced bellydance and have made it what it is today.
Thank you original bellydance superstars!
Badia Masabni owned a couple of different nightclubs in Cairo at different times. She first opened Casino Badia in 1926 and later another called Casino Opera. Through her nightclubs Badia was a vital influence on Middle Eastern dance and performance. She was a dancer and singer herself so she was very familiar with the dance from all angles. Her nightclub catered to the tastes of European and upper class Egyptians. The shows consisted of a variety of acts; dancers, singer, musicians, comedians, etc.
Before Badia Raks Sharki had a very subtle and restrained look and feel so as to come across as refined and also it was danced in a small spaces (homes, etc). Once on the stage a dancer had to cover more territory. Badia hired western dancers to incorporate traveling, turns, ballroom and ballet movements into both choreographed and improvised dances.
Badia employed many dancers as several numbers included a chorus of dancing girls. Two of the more famous dancers that moved up to the featured solo dancers and then onto film were Tahia Carioca, Samia Gamal.
Taheya Carioca (1920-1999)
Taheya Carioca, Egyptian, was born Badaweya Mohamed Kareem Al Nirani. As a young girl she moved to Cairo. She had a friend that owned a nightclub and as much as she wanted to work at the nightclub her friend refused as it was a disreputable career choice. She soon became a chorus girl for Badia at Casino Opera. She first danced under the stage name Taheya Mohamed. As she gained experience she became a solo dancer. She was particularly adept at a Brazilian dance that was popular at the time called "karaoke". From then on she was known as Taheya Carioca. In 1936 she danced in the procession for King Farouk's wedding. The music was sung by the great Oum Kalthoum. One of the greatest compliments was given to Taheya by Ms. Kalthoum who said she was an "artist who can sing with her body".
Taheya was not only a dancer but a singer and actor as well. She married 14 times, never had children. By age 31 she was already a legend and a much loved artist.
Samia Gamal (1924-1994)
Samia Gamal, Egyptian, was born Zainab Ibrahim Mahfuz.
She was invited by Badia Masabani to join her nightclub performance group. Samia studied under Badia and Badia's star dancer Taheya Carioca. She went on to featured dancer status and eventually to film. While working in film she met the famous singer Farid Al-Atrach. They not only played each other's love interest on screen but off as well. Apparently crossing the social classes and marrying a bellydancer was not for Farid Al-Atrash.
In 1949 King Farouk proclaimed her the "National Dancer of Egypt" -- really? They have a national dancer?
In 1950 Samia came to the US and danced in the trendy New York nightclub "Latin Quarter". She married a supposedly "Texas millionaire", didn't last.
No worries, she returned to Egypt and married Roshdy Abaza, a very famous Egyptian actor with whom starred in many movies.
Naima Akef (1929-1966)
Naima Akef was a performer at an early age. Her family owned a circus and she was the star of the show until the family business closed.
Naima joined one of Egypts first professional folkloric groups, Leil Ya Ain Group and helped to make it a success.
Besides acrobatics and circus talent Naima was a dancer and singer. While working at a famous nightclub called the Kit Kat Club she met her future husband, Hussein Fawzi a famous movie director.
At 15 she starred in her first movie and was an instant success. She was one of the most famous dancers in film of her time.
In 1966 she died from cancer at the young age of 36.
Tell me what other dancers have made a difference to you? Don't be shy, please comment.