“Nadia Gamal is the greatest cabaret oriental dancer in the Middle East…she expresses pure spirituality with her arm movements but then those hips begin to move and she pulls you right into the earth!” ~Ibrahim Farrah
This weeks #TBT post is inspired by my interview with Aszmara! When I asked Aszmara ” if you could meet any dancer from the past, who would it be and why?” Her answer was, Nadia Gamal, although she actually had met her before- lucky duck!
I know it’s super late, but I had to really go into detective mode to get some info on our girl Nadia. I even searched for old Arabesque articles on EBay and I found one! Hehehe….ANYWAY… here’s the deal with Nadia:
Nadia Gamal was born Maria Carydias in Alexandria, Egypt, 1937. Her mother was Italian and her father, Greek. Nadia first began dancing in her mother’s cabaret act which performed at the Casino Opera in Cairo (opened by Badia Masabni), she performed European folk dances. Being part of her mother’s act allowed Nadia to study many different types of dance; ballet,modern,jazz, tap and acrobatics. However, her passion was for oriental dance ( Nadia didn’t like to call it “belly dance”). At the age of 14, she got her big break. While on tour with her mom’s act in Lebanon, one of the oriental dancers in the group became ill, and after proving that she could fill the role, she was allowed to do so. And the rest is history! …but I’ll tell you more anyway :p
Nadia’s career took off and she was featured in numerous Egyptian and Indian films. In 1968, she was the first oriental dancer to perform at The Baalbeck Festival in Lebanon. It’s a festival that celebrates world music and dance – both classical and modern. It’s held in an ancient Roman acropolis, which is pretty cool. She also danced at the Cairo Opera House, for King Hussein, and the Shah of Iran. She toured the world – Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Latin and North America.
Dancers in NYC were lucky enough to get to take workshops with her in 1978 and 1981. While in NYC she performed at Town Hall along with Ibrahim Farrah’s troupe.
Later in her life, she started a school of dance. Unfortunately in 1990, while undergoing treatment for breast cancer, Nadia contracted pneumonia and passed away.
Why TBB <3’s her:
I’m sure many of you have seen videos of her, and if not, when you watch them, you’ll see why everybody loves her. She just transports you to another place. I was smiling the whole time I was watching her dance, her energy is captivating even through a screen. All I can say is WOW.
Not only is Nadia credited with being the originator of the modern style of Lebanese oriental dance, she is also the first dancer to perform a zar as part of an oriental choreography, you can see her do this in one of the videos below.
Randall Grass quotes Nadia in his book, Great Spirits:Portraits of Life Changing World Music Artists, ” It is an expression dance, we express everything we know and feel.” She brought many layers of feeling to her dance by incorporating narratives. In an article by Andrea Deagon for The Best of Habibi, Andrea talks about how she watched Nadia dance on a tv show, and Nadia later explained that she was pretending to to be ” a bride who, on the eve of her wedding, was possessed by a demon, exorcised it, and returned to real life.” She also told stories of , ” a dancing slave who begs the sultan not to kill her.”
” You can show anyone a step, but not a soul. Always remember the music!” Nadia was known for her musicality and how she heard and responded to all the subtle nuances in the music, which you can see in her videos below.
“Ms.Nadia Gamal has often been called the ‘Queen of Polite dancing,’ in her native environs. By this it’s meant that audience focus on her total being during her performance, rather than only her body. Ms. Gamal does not use her body as an instrument of provocation, but rather as a medium of expression, along with her face and arms.” ~ Glenna Batson, Arabesque.