Stars of the Golden Age of Egyptian Oriental Dance (aka Belly Dance)
Exquisite hip movements, extraordinary body isolations and sensual expressions. These are components of the beautiful artistic expression known as Oriental Dance (the proper name), commonly called Belly Dance. There are many styles of Belly Dance, with Egyptian Oriental arguably being the most prominent and respected throughout the world.
This alluring dance became popularized in the latter half of the 1900’s through movies, such as Stars of Egypt, that featured sensuous, talented dancers. During the 1940’s and 50’s, Cairo was the cultural center of Middle Eastern entertainment. Four women in particular heavily influenced today’s Egyptian Oriental dancers – not only in Egypt, but all over the world.
Born around 1892, this talented Lebanese dancer, singer and actress considered by many experts as the woman who brought belly dance to the forefront of the entertainment industry. After overcoming a challenging youth, Badiaa Masabni started her own business. Casino Badiaa was located on the banks of the Nile River where the old Cairo Sheraton stands today. She invited dancers, choreographers and other artistic types to her Casino. Her company became so famous that the people of Cairo named a bridge after her – Kubri Badiaa. It was the cultural haven of her Casino where today’s style of Egyptian Oriental dance with glittering costumes and glamorous stage-show began.
One of the last legends of the famous Golden Age of Oriental Dance in Egypt, Tahiya Karioka met the famous dancer/entertainer and casino owner Badiaa Masabni. Tahiya began her rise to stardom as a background dancer in Badiaa’s dance troupe. She worked very hard, enduring hours upon end of practice and several performances each day, and advanced to the status of solo performer in the troupe. Like many dance stars of the time, she started a big film career that took her to America and to Twentieth Century Fox. She danced for kings as well as common people and was well-known for her stage presence, soulful interpretations of music and heartfelt Egyptian dance.
Another woman who started her fabulous career as a background dancer in Badiaa’s troupe, Samya’s strong background in ballet was very clear in her belly dance style. She advanced to the star of the troupe and very soon after, debuted in films. She fell in love with a famous Lebanese composer and singer, Farid el-Atrash, and they traveled to many Middle Eastern destinations, enjoying success after success. During their travels, Samya performed for King Faruq and immediately became one of his favorite dancers. She was well-known for her stunning veil work, beautiful smile and elegance.
Born to a famous Egyptian circus family, Naima Akef was a performing artist and acrobat by the age of three and by ten, she could proficiently walk a tight rope. As with Samya and Tahiya, Naima began dancing professionally at Casino Baidiaa. She was never an official member of Badiaa’s troupe; however, she occasionally substituted for other dancers when the need arose. Naima’s big chance came when Baidiaa allowed her to dance a solo part in her show. She won the audience over with her talent, soulful style and expressive dance – but at the same time, her ability brought envy and jealousy from the other troupe members. Naima left Casino Baidiaa and went to its rival, the Kitkat-Club. She began a successful film career as an actress, singer and dancer and continued performing in night clubs and theaters. In 1957, Naima Akef participated in a dance-festival and won first prize. Her picture was in all newspapers and they lovingly called her “Isadora Duncan of the East.”
Belly Dance Today
Modern women continue to learn the beauty and allure of Egyptian Oriental dance. Raksanna has studied and trained in the Egyptian style for two decades.
In addition to teaching workshops, Raksanna has an award-winning, full curriculum for beginners through advanced/professional levels. For a class schedule and tuition, visit www.raksanna.com or call 630-689-3611 for information.