BELLY DANCER AND DREAMER, HODA SHAMS EL DIN
Okay so before we get started on Hoda, let me just tell you the back story about this post. I came across Hoda’s name a while ago and wrote it down on my list of posts to do. Yesterday, I picked her name at random and began to do some research, only to find there was nothing out there about her. This intrigued me more, so I searched through all kinds of sites – saw some things that I can’t un-see, lol, and finally came upon another blog that mentioned her name. The awesome/very informative blog is called unmundodeluz and it’s run by dancer, Giselle Habibi, who is a Mexican journalist, translator, belly dancer, and total sweetheart. The site was in spanish, but thanks to the interwebs I translated the page and my curiosity was heightened even more. Giselle wrote that Hoda was known for having clairvoyant dreams and that other dancers were superstitious and scared of her. I looked at the bottom of Giselle’s post and found that this information had come from a book entitled, “El Reinado de las Bailarinas” by Shokry Mohamed. So, I started trying to find the book. It doesn’t exist in America – obviously (*pulling out hair!*). I found out it was published in Madrid and I began searching for the title in Madrid library databases -Resultados de la búsqueda…0000. I looked for a bibliography so I could find out where Mohamed got his info – nada. Then I thought – why not just email Giselle? So that’s what I did, and literally minutes later I had a response and images of the section from the book about Hoda AND photos! I was so excited and it really reminded me of how tight knit our community is and how it and extends far beyond national borders – so thank you, thank you, thank you Giselle for making this post possible! <3
SO HERE’S THE DEAL:
Hoda Shams El Din was one of the many amazing golden era dancers that performed at Badia Masabni‘s Casino Opera Club.
She was born in Damascus Syria in 1930, of Armenian parents (have not been able to confirm this). At an unknown time Hoda moved to Cairo, where her belly dance career began. She was an active dancer from about 1945-1965 and during that time was also featured in several films.
*The info below is a summary/translation of the stories told in Shokry Mohamed’s book, El Reinado de las Bailarinas (my friend and incredible dancer Florencia told me this book recounts life stories of the greatest belly dancers)*:Hoda worked at a time when there were many belly dance stars. This pressure motivated her to work day and night in order to perfect her dance and rise to the challenge of being a soloist. Although she found performing to be nerve wracking at first, over time she was able to ease into the soloist life.
One of the very interesting things about Hoda is that she was known for having psychic dreams. The first time this happened the dream went as follows: Hoda was performing, she was dancing nonstop. The audience were saying things in unison that she didn’t understand, then they came onto stage. In the next act she began to have a pain that took over her whole body and she realized that she was beginning to bleed uncontrollably.
Hoda woke up shaken and described the dream to her mother. Her mom tried to comfort her, saying it was just a dream and there was nothing to be afraid of. Unsatisfied with this answer, she told Badia about her dream but Badia didn’t think anything of it. Neither did the other dancers at the Casino to whom Hoda had also confided in. Yet, Hoda was still convinced there was some element of truth in her dream and that at least part of it would come to be.
Fast forward to a later date
During this period the casino had a circular rotating stage. The purpose of this was to speed things up/change set design so a dancer could be performing for an audience on one side, while the other side was being prepared for the next starring dancer.
At this time the Casino was presenting a comedy. The show required the decor to change frequently. Sometimes the stage had to turn very fast. Hoda recounted one event in particular:
“Everything happened so fast that I had to jump from one side to the other while the stage was spinning. I always closed my eyes when jumping, but one day, suddenly the stage stopped spinning when I jumped, at that moment I was knocked over onto one of the tables surrounded by spectators. While I was laying on the table suffering the audience clapped thinking that what happened was part of the comedy.”
The curtains closed and Badia was going to explain what happened to the public but they kept applauding and asking Hoda to come out again.
Hoda continues, “I came out to greet them with a broken ankle. So I learned to give more importance to my dreams because they form a part of the reality I live.”
The second prophetic dream that Hoda had concerned an actor and hottie of the time Anwar Wagdy. Wagndy wanted to hire her as a dancer and actress in one of his movies and she didn’t want to miss out on that opportunity. Through negotiation they reached a contractual agreement. On the night of the agreement she dreamed of him. He was sick in his bed surrounded by friends and everyone around was crying. She woke up distraught and in the morning called Badia to tell her the dream. As usual Badia didn’t pay it any attention. However later that same day, Hoda received news that Anwar was very sick and had to be taken to England. He passed away shortly after (wikipedia says he died in Stockholm). That dream effected Hoda for the rest of her life, it impacted her personally, artistically and professionally.
Promoters felt they couldn’t rely on Hoda for supersitous reasons. They didn’t want to work with her, in 1948 poor Hoda only got one role in a film 🙁 . She made a come back though, she returned to the Casino and became part of a dance group created by Pepa ez Din and Badia. She did this until Badia sold the Casino in 1950. Then Hoda dedicated herself to working at different venues in downtown Cairo, like Mena House Hotel. Later she worked as part of various theater companies, but she was always surrounded by a halo of superstition making many people afraid to collaborate with her.
She earned a living in Cairo for many years until 1958 and then moved to Alexandria. She returned to Cairo for a number of years until the mid sixties, then she went back to Syria and after that she falls off the radar….. and the mystery continues…..
The information from El Reinado de las Bailarinas was obtained from Arabic magazines and newspapers of the time. I unfortunately do not have access to these – but if anyone has more info on her, send it in!
*Also HUGE shout out to my belly dancing prima, Gabrielle who helped me translate the above.*
WHY I <3 HER:
Aside from the fact that I’m totally fascinated by this dream thing, I think Hoda’s is dancing is beautiful. She is classic, elegant, and fluid. I love that her energy can be playful yet very womanly and almost goddess like at the same time. I also like the way she combines smooth movements with very precise ones.
Here are some videos of Hoda – take a look and let me know what you think!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend!