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Before Badia Masabni and Tahia Carioca....
This blog entry was inspired by a new article on

The article clarifies my thinking on something I have believed for a long time - belly dancing as we know it DID exist before Badia Masabni, Tahia Carioca, and Samia Gamal.  I've heard many, many dancers on the forums say over the years that they consider the "origin" of belly dancing to be Badia Masabni and her famous dance stars.  But the more I learn, the more clear it is to me that a style of performance we would easily recognize as belly dancing existed long before Badia moved to Egypt.  

So why do so many people think time began with Badia?  I think it's because the movie industry in Egypt didn't begin until 1927-ish with the release of the movie "Layla".  It's almost as if today's belly dancers are saying, "If it didn't show up on the silver screen, it didn't exist."  And in fact, the perspective is even narrower than that - "If it didn't show up on the silver screen on home video that I could buy in my own country it didn't exist."  Another factor is the dearth of biographical information available in the English language about any dancers other than Badia Masabni, Tahia Carioca, and Samia Gamal, as if only dancers who have been written about in English matter.  Hmmm.

That article about Shafiqa el-Koptiyya tells us that:

1.  There were elite nightclubs in Egypt before 1900.  
2.  These nightclubs attracted the wealthy and powerful.
3.  These nightclubs featured something we would recognize as belly dancing.
4.  Patrons of these nightclubs showered money and favors on the dancers.
5.  Celebrity dancers existed and were hired by the wealthy/powerful to perform at their weddings.

Shafiqa and her teacher Shooq were obviously not obscure Ghawazee living in rural villages dancing to mizmar and rebaba shaabi music.  They lived in Cairo, and were hired by the Viceroy (the ruler of Egypt under the Ottoman empire) himself, which means they were probably dancing to classical music played on the oud and qanoun.  

There were many prominent high-class nightclubs before Badia Masabni moved to Egypt and opened hers.  There were many famous celebrity dancers when Tahia Carioca was still a young child, and  Badia lured some of them (such as Hekmet Fahmy) away from whatever clubs they were already dancing at once she opened hers.  When Tahia Carioca was still a child, celebrity dancers included not only Shafiqa el-Koptiyya (who would have already been in her declining years at the time Tahia was born), but also Zouba el-Klobatiyya, Bamba Kashar, Hekmet Fahmy, Imtithal, Mary Queeny, and many others.


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