TAHIA - QUEEN OF THE DANCE SAY I !


 

 Tahia is one of the highest respected dancers, that ever was. Tahia is considered an artist, something dancers in Egypt are always striving for. She accomplished it nearly effortlessly, due her natural talent to dance beautifully with out fault. Nearly every other famous dancer, I have written about, has at some point said that Tahia is one of their favourite dancers and they look to her for inspiration. Tahia was very good friends with Samia Gamal and in later life Fifi Abdou.

 

Tahia was born on the 22nd of Febuary,1919, in Manzala, with the name Badaweya Mohamed Kareem Al Nirani. Shortly after her birth, her family moved to Ismailia. In her teens she began dancing. Like most dancers she initially suffered criticism from her family, this for her, came mostly from her overprotective brothers. To escape her brothers Tahia, by herself, moved to Cairo, to live by an old neighbour of hers she knew from Ismailia. Tahia, when in Cairo went to Dancing School. She became quite well known for being a good dancer  by the school and by the friends of the neighbour, who was in the entertainment business.

Badeia Masabni, a great belly dancer of the time, teacher and owner of a famous nightclub, heard of this great dancer. Once Badeia saw Tahia dance and sing, she offered Tahia a job in her club. She joined the Badeia’s troupe of dancers. This is when Tahia's name was changed from Badaweya  to her stage name Tahia.

 

It wasn't long before Tahia was given solo spots .....the crowd loved her, I can't emphasise how much. Dancing was so natural to her, this is evident when you watch her in action, her hips just flow so softly and smoothly to the music, something dancers spend years to master. When Tahia walks onto a stage she has this indescribable glow which takes over the audience, they can do nothing but get lost in her dancing. Her popularity grew at the club and she became their top performer.

Tahia was always open to new ideas, she's danced with candles and swords in the past. What she was most renowned for and what increased her popularity at the night club was her incorporation of Brazilian dancing and music with her Egyptian style. This Brazilian-Egyptian combo was her original, own individual style. She became so renowned for this that she was named after the Brazilian dance The CARIOCA changing her stage name to how we know and love her today; Tahia Carioca.

It was at Badeia's club that Tahia befriended the younger dancer Samia Gamal. She helped Samia greatly into going on and becoming the famous dancer that we know her to be now. This friendship was for life and lasted till Samia died.

Badeia's club brought so much fame to Tahia, it automatically lead to her working and acting in films. At the time, the entertainment and film industry was booming. Around the 1910’s, Egypt had over 155 film production companies, each producing at least 3 films per term. And what was the type of film most in demand for from the Egyptian public? The most popular theme at the time was comedy dance musicals. It was the best time to be a dancer, you were in constant demand. Tahia being the best certainly was.

 

After appearing in a few films as just a dancer, Tahia went on to act as well. Her fist acting role was as a main character along side the famous comedian Naguib El-Rihani. The film was Li'bet Al-Set (Woman's Play, 1946). It was a brilliant hit not just for the box office but also for Tahia. Her gift for acting had also been showed to the world. After that the offers of acting and dancing roles didn't stop. Tahia performed in over 200 films over 50 years!!!!!

An amazing accomplishment. She stared if film alongside all of Egypt's stars throughout the times, including her friend Samia Gamal and her love Farid Al Atrash. Despite all of this film making, Tahia continued to work in her nightclubs as well. Why? Because, she loved to perform for a live audience, I share the same love. Also she couldn't stop performing for her massive amount of fans and admirers. Tahia would also dance for Egypt's last King, Farouk, at royal banquets, sometimes with Samia Gamal.

As I said before, Tahia was a highly respected dancer and always is alongside the likes of Umu Kalsome and Abdou Halim Hafis as the best of Egyptian stars. But this artistic title she had, didn’t mean that her dance was compensated, so to be accepted by conservative and religious people, (like the dance of Mahmod Reda and Farida Fahmi).  Tahia’s dancing was sexy. She was a strong, sexy, intelligent lady. This went through to her acting she was often given the dominant, seductive female role. Seductive through her dance  

As you can see from her list of films Tahia stayed very active in the Egyptian dance industry through out her life. She became friends and a mentor for new dancers entering the field, especially the amazing dancer of the 90's Fifi Abdou who looked up to her with the deepest respect.

Tahia automatically married all the men which she fell in “love” with. She had a lot of love to give, yet none were worthy enough.  Her total number of husbands amounted to about 14, I’m not exactly sure. When Tahia was interviewed by Edward Said (see below for article source) and he asked the question: which of them she had loved? she replied; “None of them. They were a shabby lot of bastards”, as I said she was a strong woman. Her husbands included nearly every important male celebrity in Egypt at that time. One of her husbands was an American and she moved to the sates with him. The marriage didn't last long. She missed the Egyptian night scene too much, and to the delight of the fans returned to Egypt.

Despite her various marriages, Tahia was never able to conceive a child this deeply upset her, she wanted nothing more than a child to love. Therefore she became very involved with the children in her family and donated to many orphanages. However very close to her death her hopes and dreams came true when a baby was left on her doorstep in 1997, Tahia took the baby on as her own and looked after it, until she died. Then as Tahia wished, the baby was then adopted by Fifi Abdou. Tahia died on the 20th of September, 1999.

Tahia did not just affect Egypt's entertainment industry, she influenced the whole of Egypt not just with her dancing, but also with her strong political views. Tahia was imprisoned for three months in 1953 when she expressed her support for a post-revolution return to constitutional democracy, in Egypt. In prison she went on hunger strike. This actively encouraged the revolution. Also, Tahia went on strike following a change in the laws concerning workers' unions in 1987. The law was unfair to actors.

Tahia was so successful for one reason; people the world over, loved her dance. People loved to watch her and it brought them joy. She had a never ending amount of admires who loved her throughout her career. Tahia did not need contacts to promote her career; her hips did it for her.

 

 

 

Watching Tahia dance, is so relaxing because her hips just role to the music in a soft perfected way. The joy of dance is so evident it is shared with the audience. That's why they loved her, she shared her joy.

 She is undoubtedly one of the biggest inspirations for dancers around the world. I know she's one of mine!

"Dance, Dance, nothing but the dance - I will dance till I die!"

 (Sources: Youssef Rakha, Dancing to the rhythm of time,  http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/1999/448/cu1.htm Edward Said, Homage To A Belly Dancer, London Review of Books, 13/10/1990)

 

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