Very few belly dancers have been elevated to national Egyptian treasures, but Samia Gamal, born Zaynab Khalil Ibrahim Mahfuz, was and probably still is one of Egypts most loved dancers.
I’m sure you’ve already seen lots of video clips of her and if you’ve studied with me you’ll know that I adore her iconic moves and have taught several workshops based on her intricate technique.
She clearly had it all from good looks, stunning technique and not least the ability to look like she was floating across the floor whenever she was moving. She studied with Badia Masabni, the owner of a famous Cairo night club, and her star dancer at the time – Tahiya Karioka [the probably second most iconic and loved Egyptian dancer, although it’s hard to make a choice between the two of them].
Badia gave her the stag name Samia Gamal, and she soon developed her own unique style combining technique from ballet and Latin and became a popular soloist and started in dozens of films. She was said to be the first dancer to perform in shoes because she ‘could afford them’ and that also influenced how she moved and not least how the moves looked on her.
Her films are still shown on TV throughout the Arabic world today adding to her popularity and iconic status. You can spend hours looking at clips on YouTube, but I’ve selected a few to give you an insight into her dancing.
Zeina is probably one of Samia Gamal’s best known dance routines. In it she really shows of one of her signature trademarks – the contestant turning on a diagonal, light on the feet and almost throwing herself into her position on the diagonal using a small arabesque simultaneous with a shoulder hit. Undulations up and down is another one. Enjoy. Watch Samia’s Zeina performance here.
Ma Eli Oultilu is one of my favourite Samia clips simply because it has so much going on in it. She dances with Farid Altrash, who was her partner in many films as well as off screen, although they were never able to marry [he was said to be a Druze prince and could therefore not be seen to marry a belly dancer]. Their interaction is amazing but the backing dancers are great fun to watch too! In her two piece you can really get a feel for how much technique she is applying, yet it looks effortless. Using her 3-dimensional figures of 8 and her arms opening across her body to use a dramatic frame and stunning lines. Watch the clip here.
Busy arms and the use of veils attached to or as part of her dress was another Samia favourite. In this clip from the film ‘A glass and a cigaret’ she uses the veil to great effect and it shows of her fluid and beautifully framing arms.
In this clip from the film Zanouba Samia shows of her precise and strong hip work as well as her flair for other dance styles. The hip work can best be described as a slow shimmy yet she delivers it very accurately and of course effortlessly. Shimmies as we now know them weren’t really used at the time, yet Samia perfect a move somewhere between a hip drop and a shimmy which she always liked performing side on for maximum effect. Also – I adore this dream sequence!
One of Samia’s later films. Still moving just as fast and using veil and skirt to add drama to her dancing. View clip here. Her style in this clip has slightly changed to reflect the times, but she still uses plenty of her signature moves with lots of twist and movement across the floor. Also note, she is barefoot in this scene, something she otherwise only was in dream sequences and not in ‘cabaret’ routines but this probably due to the character she plays in the film.
You can view more clips of Samia and other Golden Era dancers, as well as a few of my performances in that style, on my YouTube playlist here.
Also, if you would like to learn some of Samia’s signature moved then check out my Bellydance Mastermind Network on Facebook. I am now sharing live tutorials on there, which you can review whenever it suits you, and a special Samia tutorial will be coming soon.
I hope you enjoyed these clips and will return to them time and again like I love doing. I always spot something new and find lots of inspiration in Samia’s Golden Era style dancing. Which clip is your favourite? Have you ever tried emulating Samia Gamal’s styles or routines? Leave a comment below so we can keep the knowledge sharing going.
Happy informed and and beautiful dancing – always 😉
Did you miss my last post? Read it here: Committing to your movement