TAHIA CARIOCA



The beauty of her dance was its connectedness: the feeling she communicated of a spectacularly lithe and well-shaped body undulating through a complex but decorative series of encumbrances made up of gauzes, veils, necklaces, strings of gold and silver chains, which her movements animated deliberately and at times almost theoretically.

Edward Said

SO HERE’S THE DEAL:

Tahia Carioca is no doubt one of Egypt’s most legendary dance and film stars. She was in over 300 movies, and is known as the “Marilyn Monroe” of the Arab World. She was married over 14 times, later in her life, she referred her husbands as, “a shabby lot of bastards.”  Tahia was very fiery, it is even said that she once slapped King Farouk in the face because he stuck an ice cube down her dress. So, who is this legend that leaves us wanting to learn more?

Tahia was born in 1919 in Ismaïlia, but it wasn’t long before she set out on her own for Cairo. Her family (especially father and brothers) really disapproved of her dancing which surely pushed her to pursue her career alone. She moved in with a nightclub owner, artist, old friend and neighbor, Suad Mahasen. Luckily, the mother of the “Golden Age” belly dancers,  Badia Masabni, took Tahia under her wing, and  got her  to star in her troupe, which was the first big step in Tahia’s stardom. She stopped dancing in 1963, but we relish all the videos available of her mesmerizing performances. She helped give Oriental Dance a respectable name, and was a true pioneer of her time.

WHY WE <3 HER:

Ever since her debut performance at King Farouk’s wedding in 1936, Tahia dazzled audiences with her subtle sensuality and beauty.

Author Edward Said noticed this when he saw her for the first time, “As in bullfighting, the essence of the classic Arab belly-dancer’s art is not how much but how little the artist moves: only the novices, or the deplorable Greek and American imitators, go in for the appalling wiggling and jumping around that passes for ‘sexiness’ and harem hootchy-kootch. The point is to make an effect mainly (but by no means exclusively) through suggestiveness, and – in the kind of full-scale composition Tahia offered that night – to do so over a series of episodes knitted together in alternating moods, recurring motifs.”

Tahia took her time; she gave life to each movement with a “majestic deliberateness.” She wasn’t in your face or overly sexy, that’s what we love about her. Her air of mystery.

She once said that dancing was like being in a temple. To her it wasn’t just about being provocative, but connecting with something deep inside that allowed her to cast a spell on her audienc

 

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