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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.

Last month I traveled to D.C. or my aunt’s 60th birthday. My aunt and cousin have both taken/ are taking classes at the famous D.C. belly dance studio, Sahara Dance. My cousin spoke so highly of Sahara’s well known owner Rachel, that I decided to send her a message to see if she would like to meet up for an interview. Lucky for us, she said yes! yay!

We decided to grab coffee at Whole Foods and sit and chat/interview. Let me just tell you – this woman is amazing! Not only is she the founder and director of Sahara Dance, she is also the director of both of Sahara’s dance ensembles, Raqs Sahara and Raqs Caravan East, she created an intensive teacher training program, and…oh yea – she’s an incredible dancer!

The path that led Rachel to creating Sahara dance included learning from some of the best. She studied with both Autumn Leah Ward and Yousry Sharif as well as Sahra Saeeda (whom she also did a dance enthnology tour with in Egypt), Yasmina Ramzy, Haida, Faten Salama, Aida Nour, Jillina and others. All of this training allowed Rachel to cultivate her own vision for belly dance. She focuses on community, mindfulness, celebration of all body types, and developing belly dance as an art form.

I really can’t say enough good things about Rachel. When I was editing her interview I couldn’t stop smiling watching it – she’s just such a warm person, so wise and articulate, warm and sweet, humble, inspirational and incredibly cool. I hope you guys enjoy getting to know her as much as I did.

For more background info on Rachel visit the Sahara Dance site.

*disclaimer – the filming quality is a little low budget, content quality is high ;)*

TBB: How did you get started in belly dance?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrPlZ-K5dgI]

TBB: What type of belly dance/ME music speaks to you the most?

RKB: I love Egyptian dance, I love Egyptian music, I like a lot of different types of music that fall into the belly dance genre or can easily be adaptable to belly dance movement, but  Egyptian is my first love.

TBB: What is your favorite song right now?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIn7FIexx8I]

Listen to White Flag by Gorillaz feat. Syrian National Orchestra :

[spotify id=”spotify:user:1272124796:playlist:5E0SMWQXJWsrhXiXo5tXa5″ width=”300″ height=”80″ /]

TBB: Who were some of your belly dance mentors?

RKB: Autumn Leah Ward  is my first teacher and probably my largest influence and then from there Yousry Sharif is certainly a big part of my dance training, Yasmina Ramzy, Sahra Saeeda, Hadia, and then going to Egypt and studying… there are a lot of influences, but those I think would be primary.read more

Her achievement was beauty, a delicate, fantastic beauty, created with brush and pencil. Almost unschooled in art, her life spent in prosaic places of the West and Middle West, she made pictures of haunting loveliness, suggesting Oriental lands she never saw and magical realms no one ever knew except in the dreams of childhood … ~St Louis Post-Dispatch

If you ever need inspiration for costume, mood, etc, definitely look up some art nouveau illustrators. Virginia Frances Sterrett is one of my all time favorites and she did an incredible illustrated version of the Arabian Nights (above).  She was born in 1900 in Chicago and unfortunately passed away when she was only 30. Just to put her in a little more context, she was illustrating in the same time period that  Badia Masabni was dancing, and her first commissioned work was published in 1920, the year after Tahia Carioca was born.

Hope you enjoy!

xoxo

N

“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.

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