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Welcome to Asmahan


Egyptian Bellydancing Costumes design
Egyptian Bellydancing Costumes design in london

Asmahan was a fashion designer in San Francisco where she owned her own business, Aquarian Princess, specializing in couture design, dresses, men's shirts and accessories. Her clientele was the society world, rock stars and other artists. All the pieces were theatrical, made of antique and exceptional fabrics with beads, fringes and embroidery. She made stage clothes for the Jefferson Starship, Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Stoneground and Greatful Dead. She had a window display on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills at JAKS. Her career as a designer was very promising.

She decided to go to the San Francisco Renaissance Pleasure Faire in a Medieval costume to show her work and network. This decision would change her life. It was at this event that she saw Bal Anat, the Middle Eastern troupe of dancers whose artistic director was Jamila Salimpour. The costumes, music and dance opened an new world of creative possibility. The asute fabric, coins, chains, authentic jewelry, and rich fabrics caught her imagination. This was the ultimate in exotic femininity. Immediately she began imagining her own costumes in this new medium.

The students attending Jamila's classes were very competitive. Many of them were members of Bal Anat, some were in training to become professional dancers. All of them were in wonderful outfits, pantaloons, scarves with fringes, embroidery tops and flowing veils. It was clear that image was very important. As well as attending dance class regularly (two times an week), Asmahan immediately went to work finding beautiful fabrics, scarves, and jewelry to create the costumes. When she was dancing in Cairo for the first time, the advantage of having original costumes was more important than ever. She was performing the sword dance and now was the time to find ethnic materials in the Souk and design new work. The fashion was for beaded fringe to the knee. Most of the skirts were full circular with masses of sequin trim. This was the era of the palette, sequin motifs, and fringe everywhere. Performing six nights a week and several shows a night meant that about four costumes a night were needed to change two times for each show with the tableaux. It was necessary to employ a dresser to carry the suitcase and manage the changes. Most of the Egyptian dancers wore a stomach net, it was not compulsory, only Hanan bared her stomach as well as Asmahan. This was a very liberal and progressive time in Cairo, a dancer could show her legs and midriff with no problem from the Adeb. Most people thought Asmahan was a new upcoming Egyptian dancer because she looked liked an Egyptian.

Returning to London after a year and a half, the fashion turned to lace and frills. The Egyptian dancers were more infulenced by European glamour and the Parisain couture style more apparant in the stage wear. More fine fabrics were being used, like lace embroideries, silk chiffon glitter prints, lame, and sequin embroideries. Asmahan was making a collection to go to Tunis for six months and included leopard, pearls, and a mermaid style. This was a very French influenced area and the high fashion look was very successful.

After 10 years of professional dancing six nights a week, the time was right to draw on the experiece from the stage, the contacts in the Middle East and the talents of her friends to produce a film. Asmahan had always been interested in the evolution of the dance, and used costume designs from many different periods of history. Now she wanted to use this knowledge and create a fantasy film conjuring up the romantic images that are associated with Egyptian Dance. The format would be rock video with with the pictures cut on the beat, with many costume changes and using historical themes. They would include Pharonic, Ottoman Harem, Bedouin, Modern Raks Sharqi, Isis of the Future, and Folklore. Costumes would be researched and made for all these themes by Asmahan.

Again, Asmahan returned to Cairo to work the summer season at the Ramses Hilton Hotel. Ofcourse this meant designing and making fabulous costumes. This was the era of Dina, and thoubs by Hafez. The styles were very flamboyant with no fringe, amazing combinations of fabrics, some knee length skirts, tight wrap skirts with one leg showing, beautiful embroidery beadwork, and many more costume changes. Most dancers changed at least four times, some even six or eight.

Dancing once again in London, the style was influenced by Lebanese designer, Waseif. This was Indian influenced lavish beadwork, in Arabian Nights themes, with headresses, cuffs and armbands all matching. Lovely full chiffon skirts were back in fashion in gorgeous colors to compliment the extravagant beadwork.

Once more Asmahan was contracted to dance at the Ramses Hilton and this time the fashion was for stretch fabrics, body clinging cut-out dresses with sequin embroidery, and feather boas. The colors were neon, there was no fringe and bad taste was evident everywhere. She avoided all the "styles" of the moment and used her own designs. This included a white pleated tight dress with Pharonic beading on the straps and belt, leopard lame, snakeskin sequin with halter strap bra with gloves, and all the traditional coins and asute for the sword dance.

Costumes today are still creating a sensation and are a hot topic of discussion with all dancers. Most articles about a dancers performance will include a description of her costume and some critique about it. The costume is still an instrument which enhances or detracts from a performance, it allows the dancer to create her own image and leave a lasting memory with the audience.

Egyptian Sword Dance costume


Egyptian Bellydancing Costumes design for a movie
Egyptian Bellydancing Costumes design

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| asmahandance@gmail.com

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