The world of belly dancing may not be as popular as some great arts and pastimes, but it has been around for roughly five thousand years. And the world has produced some outstanding performers over the years. In this blog we look at belly dancers that have gone down in dance folk law for being the best of their trade, starting as early as the late 1800’s which was the golden age of Egyptian dance. Many of these dancers were stars of the Egyptian cinema in its heyday of the 1950’s.
Best known for founding the Opera Casino in Egypt, Badiaa Masabni was also responsible for the Egyptian cabaret style of belly dancing. She danced for the upper classes and foreigners and her dancing incorporated many western influences that were not known before in Middle Eastern dance.
Tahiya Karioka was one of the best known dancers of the Golden Age of Egypt. She started her career in Cairo after fleeing her home in Ismaileya because of family problems concerned with her dancing. While she was in Cairo she was introduced to Badiaa Masabni who took her under her wing. She found fame in this troupe of dancers and eventually starred in over 150 movies.
Samia Gamal was born in Egypt and was another member of the famous Opera Casino’s dancers. Although her background was in classical ballet, she was far more interested in belly dancing and appeared in movies, such as, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and starred alongside Robert Taylor in 1955 with the blockbuster Valley of the King. Samia is particularly famous for being elegant with superb veil work.
Naima Akef danced along with great luminaries of belly dancing who were working in the Golden Age, dancers such as Badeia Masabni. She starred in many Egyptian movies and was once presented with a first prize in the Bolshoi Theatre.
Working in the famous cabaret club Kitkat, Hekmet was surrounded by controversy as being a spy in WWII, her allegiances were firmly with the Nazis. Hekmet used her charms to pry information from English and then pass her ill-gotten gains on to the Germans.
Shafiqa was born in Cairo and a student of Shooq, she was famous because she was the first oriental belly dancer to perform in Egypt. Already famous by the 1920’s she was also reportedly the first dancer ever to perform the candelabra dance. The club where she mainly danced was called the El Dorado, but she was so successful that she actually opened her own club which was named Alf Leyla. Shafiqa unfortunately came to a sad end, she became a drug addict and was addicted to cocaine, her days ended destitute and in poverty.
All these great ladies were the pinnacle of their profession at their time of dancing. Some made it to the silver screen and became famous around the world. Others performed dances that were original that had never been danced before, some were surrounded in intrigue and others fell by the wayside destitute.