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Asmahan London Belly Dance Performance


Egyptian BellydaAsmahan London Belly Dance Performancencing
Asmahan London Belly Dance Performance

Asmahan London Belly Dance Performance

Asmahan began her professional danceing career at the Greek Taverna in San Francisco. Working for one year with a four piece Greek band was a good begining experience. This was a lovely family resturant and perfect to learn to dance in front of an audience. The next job opportunity came to dance at The Casbah with Fadil Shahin who was a superb singer and oud player. Jallal Takesh played kanoon with Salah Takesh on tabla. Other musicians accompanied on violin or nai with the dancers playing def. Some of the other dancers at this time were Rhea, Aida, Selwa, Raina, Safia, and an Iraqi called Princess Samia. Asmahan continued her training with Jamila and studied drum with the tabla player at the Bagdad, to learn the intricate drum rhythms. The music was fantastic. She played the def on stage with the band.

Aboud Abdel Al came from London with his orchestra including Bashir Abdel Al, Mohammad El-Berjway, George Basil, and Chazi Darwish. They made a guest appearance at the Casbah and recorded an album with Fadil Shahin and the Casbah band. These musicians told Asmahan about London and encouraged her to go there to dance.

In 1976 the London night club scene was limited to three famous venues. One of them was the Gallipoli, an elegant Turkish resturant with a dinner show. It had previously been a Turkish bath in Queen Victoria's time and was declared a monument which protected it from change. They had been bringing famous dancers from Turkey like Soroya and Princess Banu. Asmahan was given a one year contract and "Star" billing. There was a good Turkish band including Erol Grochen, Emine Zihni, and Bahri Karaduman. After her show she would go to Omar Khayyam to watch the famous Egyptian dancers Aisa Sheriffe and Mona Said, and to see the singers Ahmed Adaweya and Katcut El Amir. This club was bringing the most famous dancers, singers and musicians in the Middle East to London. At this time she was learning the modern Egyptian style of dance and learning the new music being composed for the dancers. The next club for Asmahan to perform at was The Pars Persian 1001 Nights. They had a twelve piece orchestra with six dancers and six singers. The videttes while she was dancing there were Jamila (Persian), Soroya Giseria (from Algeria), and Safa Yusri (Egyptian). The famous Lebanese singer Wadia Safie, Adnan Ahlen and Yasmine were featured at this time. Now many more clubs were opening and the London scene was very competitive.

The next venue where Asmahan danced was Shehrezade, which was a private membership club. The vidette was Amira Fouad. The famous singers performing were Fahed Bahlen, Mohammad Rhushdie, Samir Adaweya, and Walid Tawfic. The composer and accordianist Farouk Salama was the Chef d'Orchestra, Maher Chairi played flute, violin was Fouad Rahaim and Nasser Khaseb, Mohamad Afifi on kanoon, and the famous composer for Om Khalsum, Ramadan el Subati played organ. Sultan's Palace was located in Berkely Square in the Mayfair area and attracted an exclusive clientele. Asmahan was a feature dancer there for six months. The vidette was Hairtum and a beautiful dancer Shehrezade danced there as well. The famous singers performing were Mouharem Fouad (who was tipped to be the next Abdel Halim Hafez), Souad Mohammed, Layla Afrom, and Naga Salem. The Saidi group Les Musicians du Nil, with Metqal Qenawi Metqal produced a folklore show from Upper Egypt. Aboud Abdel Al played his world famous solo violin show, and the band leader was the the famous composer Hassan Aboud Soud. The organ artist was Sayed Fahim el Sayed, Ibrihim el Akhad played tabla and Joseph Alexander played def. The comedian Ahmed Shanowi was the compare.

At El Nile, there were twelve dancers and only three were allowed to dance every night (with the others dancing evey other night). Asmahan was one for those dancing every night. The videttes over an one year period were Nahed Sabri, Nelly Fouad, and Safa Yousri. The famous singers performing were Mohammad Abdel Mouteib, Souhad Mohammed, Nahad Foutah, Adel Salem el Khir, and Mohamed Gamal. There was a fifteen piece orchestra with Bashir Abdel Al playing nai, Nabil Abdel Al on guitar, Nagati on violin, Sukar al Ghouri on accordian, Samir bin Yamin on def, and the renowned tabla Nabil Hassan. Aboud Abdel Al played his solo violin number.

L'Auberge opened in Mayfair with the famous Egyptian dancer Mona Said as the star. Asmahan danced there for six months. The singers were Adel Mamoun, Naga Salem, Faten Farid, Katcut el Amir, Mouharem Fouad, Ahmed Adaweya, Talal el Mada, Faiza Ahmed, and Shadia. Magdi Housaini, who worked with Abdel Halim Hafez performed his solo organ show. Hany Mehanna who composed for Nagwa Fouad was the chef d'orchestra. Sahar Hamdi was also a star dancer who performed during this time.

In 1979 Asmahan wanted to begin to develope her tableaux (feature dance) which in her case was the sword dance. In London only the big stars could change costumes and do a second show. An impressario booked her to dance in Vienna for six months as the vidette at a beautiful dinner club called Asmahan.The show was a great success with OPEC ministers attending performances, Shiek Yamani of Saudi Arabia booked her to dance at his daughters wedding. This was the winter Ball Season in Vienna and European royality were adding a glamorous influence. The sword show was a sensation with the audience.

In 1980 the time was right to try to work in Cairo. She had met and worked with many famous artists in London and was hoping to make connections in Cairo to secure a contract. All of the artists were always helping each other to find work (or if they didn't like one or were jealous would prevent one from working!) She was optimistic someone would show her the way as this had always been her destiny. Soroya G'Algersiawas working at Arizonaand El Leil,she advised her to take a job at the Atlas Hotel in Opera Square, where she could live as resident dancer and have a base of operation to find a prestigious contract. This was a favorite hangout for movie stars and she was soon in with a group who brought her to the Meridian Hotelto see FiFi Abdou, after being invited to dance by Fifi, the manager gave her a contract to dance for two months at the Meridian Hotel. She hired her own twelve piece orchestra with a mismar for the sword show. There was always a huge applause every night when she placed the sword on her head for the balancing and when she played finger cymbals in the last section, with a spinnng finale there was always a feeling the show had been a big success. So much so that she was contracted to work for Hanan at the Mena House Oberoi, she improved the orchestra and added the saidi drums.

Then Asmahan signed to substitute for Nagwa Fuwad when she left the Cairo Sheraton and Mona Said would be starting in six weeks. These were the most famous dancers in the world and to entertain their audiences was quite a feat. There was always a fantastic reception for her and she felt she was making good progress towards making a name and eventually getting a contract. There were no other foreign dancers. Being foreign meant Lebanese, most people thought she was Egyptian.There was always alot of competition to have the biggest and best orchestra, the most wonderful Magency, (original music for the entrance), most incredible costumes, best singers and back-up dancers, and best folklore shows. The big stars had the most money to buy the best talent, and each dancer had her own style and unique show. Asmahan was constantly sewing new costumes and having rehearsals and bringing in new musicians as the budget allowed. Every bit of money earned was invested in a better show.

When working at the Holiday Inn, again for Nagwa Fouad, (while she made a film for two months), Tahia Carrioca came back stage to compliment her on her show. Tahia said it was nice to see a dancer using the classical technique, and Asmahan told her the American dancers were big fans of her films. The next opportunity was a two month contract at the Hayatt El Salem, for Aisa Sheriffe. There was one agency that was representing the dancers to the five star hotels and they would call Asmahan to work for the stars because her show was always successful. The hotel was responsible to provide a show that the clientele liked and a guest could refuse to pay the bill if the dancer was not the star or if they took exception to the substitute.



The Nile Hilton had a dancer, Mervat Badri, who they wanted to replace. Asmahan was booked to substitute and this was the first opportunity to secure a contract. All the musicians know the working situations at all the hotels, they know all the other musicians who are working with every other dancer and they meet in the Mohammed Ali coffee shops and share all the news and gossip every night. It is like a communication center and everything good and bad gets passed on everynight, all the news of the dancers experiences gets back to the other dancers through the musicians. They are very loyal to the dancer they work for if they like her. It is the most fantastic feeling in the world to dance to the music of musicians who are playing with their hearts and souls as well as their technique. The musicians wanted Asmahan to get the contract and they had a rehearsal and brought in some new musicians bringing the group up to twenty. This was the best show she had ever produced.

After working for two months at the Nile Hilton, the call came from the empressario that the management had been coming to the show and were so impressed they wanted to offer her a contract. At the meeting in the office, the manager of the hotel, Hassan Humza, was astonished that Asmahan was not Egyptian. He was clearly upset that he would have to withdraw the offer of a contract and admit that he was doing so because "she was not Egyptian". A long and polite conversation followed where her empressario said that if she could dance and look good enough to impress the management and the audiences were all happy with the show there should be no problem. But the management at this time in 1981 would not accept a "Foreign Dancer". So she danced another month at the hotel until they found someone else. Then she decided to take a holiday job and took a two month contract at the Sheraton Hurgada, which was on the dead sea and a lovely, relaxing venue to take stock of the situation. While there she met the Area Manager for Hilton Middle East, and he offered her the star postion in a new hotel he was building in the future the the Ramses Hilton.

Asmahan had been the first foreign dancer to ever work the five star hotels and after two years of dancing at least two shows a night for seven nights a week she was exhausted and disenchanted. As there was not a possibility of a contract at that time she decided to return to London. This was 1982 and London was a fabulous place to work. All the famous stars were performing, most of them were Egyptian, but there were more international Arabic performers from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and the Gulf. Beriut was still in civil war, so the Middle Eastern tourists, businessmen and diplomats used London as their city of choice for holidays, shopping, business, finance, and political alliances. A few were going to Geneva or Paris but London was by far the top city in the world displaying Arabic music and dance after Cairo.

Many new venues had opened including the Empress and Elf Leila Wah Leila, which was the next club where Asmahan was a feature dancer. Now she could do a costume change and perform the sword dance as she had danced in Cairo and had "a name". The vidette was Mona Said who had returned from Cairo as well, the singers included Layla Abdel Aziz, Fareg Abdel Karim, Salah Hassan, and Mohamed Gamal. Magdi Houseini played his organ solo. In the orchestra was Ibrahim el Minyawi (who had been Asmahan's tabla player in Cairo), Ahmed Mouad, Shariffe Zaki, Mamoud Rahsad and Ahmed el Hafauwi were two musicians who had worked with Om Kalsum. Another beautiful night club called Cave du Rois opened across the street from the Ritz Hotelin Mayfair. Asmahan was contacted by their agent to perform for a year. This club was frequented by celebrities, and Omar Sharif was a customer. The Star singer was Sabah the most famous Lebanese diva of all time. Other singers included Fahed Bahlen, Isam Raja, Tony Hana, Souad Mohamad, George Wsouf, Ahmed Dowal, Naga Salem and Wadia Safie. The videttes were Zizi Moustafa and Louisa. In the orchestra was Abdel Aziz on kanoon, Emile Basali on violin (who worked with Om Kalsum), Bashir Abdel Al on nai, Sukar el Ghouri on accordian, and Ali Abdou Salem on tabla. She did her costume change and the flute player Sayed played mismar for her sword dance show. The scene in London was very sophisticated and this program brought elegant customers.

Next Asmahan was contacted by the owner of many clubs internationally to dance for a six month contract at Paradis du Liban in Tunis. She had just comissioned Mohammed Salem to write new music for her and he had composed a beautiful piece. This would be the first time it would be peformed. The orchestra was the National Radio Orchestra of Tunis and it was composed of the best musicians in the country. The show was a great success and they extended her contract by another two months.

Over the next few years Asmahan produced a film in Cairo and London, making all the costumes, having music recorded, scouting locations, organizing props, and co-ordinating all the aspects of the project. It was a personal project made on a modest budget with everything done very resourcefully. It took several years to complete and was shelved for years until the post production money could be found. She designed and made costumes for other dancers and movie stars. The most famous movie star in the Middle East, Nabila Ebeid, had seen her photos at the studio of Bastet. She asked to be introduced and ordered costumes for her upcoming film: Al Raqassa wal Slyassi, where she played the role of a dancer. While in Cairo working on the costumes for Nabila, Asmahan was asked to dance at the Ramses Hilton Hotel. She signed a contract and began producing a show for the summer season. She was training with Madame Raqia Hassan who choreographed her show. The music by Mohammed Salem was used for the magencie. Mohammed Abdel Wahab had just written Mein Ghere Lei, and it was included in the show. The sword dance was of course for the finale. Asmahan made the costumes and Samasen helped as creative consultant. The musicians included: Said Saudi on tabla, Said Askar on accordian, Mohsen Chairi on nai, Amar Abdel Salem on organ, and Hassan Ein on mismar. The band leader was Hamada Abou Zara and Safaa Farid was the singer. The show was very successful, the other artists in the show were Alla Abdel Khallek and Hendia. Now the hotels had booked singers into the five star hotel shows, there were no show ballets. The singers brought a different atmosphere into the shows, and people danced on the stage like they did in night clubs. The year was 1990 and in August Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Business was not affected and Cairo was very exciting, with George Bush coming for diplomatic talks and then every Arab leader. But finally a few days before the Jan 15th deadline for war to start, Asmahan left. The Gulf War had begun.

Back in London there was a serious recession, the Middle Eastern art scene was at its all time low. Asmahan worked in Sagghi, an elegant Persian club, and at GoGoush, another Persian club. She sold some of her costumes and made the Pharoahic costume for Nabila Ebeid for her film L'Auture.

Again in 1995 Asmahan was signed to the Ramses Hilton Hotel. She again made a new collection of costumes and worked with Raqia Hassan for the choreography. There were two singers, Amr el Ougami and Heba Hamid. The band leader was Hamada Abou Zara and the musicians were: Sukar Artiste on tabla, Mohamed Shedid on accordian, Wahed Asfour on violin, Magdi Saber on organ, Samer Ibrihim on kanoon, Fadil Morsi on nai and kalwah, Attia Abdel Aziz on saxaphone, and Hassan Ein on mizmar. This was a difficult atmosphere in Cairo with alot of problems with Muslim Fundamentalists putting pressure on hotels, artists, musicians, and government officials to stop all entertainment. There were fewer customers and not the elegent, sophisticated, and classy types like before. There were only ten hotel shows working on the weekends, whereas in the past there were a least fifteen hotels working seven nights a week. Many dancers were stopping their work and taking the veil. There were poor prospects for the future and after a year Asmahan decided to return to London.

Recently she has performed for the Conservative Party, the British Egyptian Society, British Museum, Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, Turkish Ministry of Tourism, The British Red Cross, Alabina at the Shepherds Bush Empire, Vitality Exhibition, and at society weddings at the major hotels.


Asmahan London Belly Dance Performance
Asmahan London Belly Dance Performance

Asmahan London Belly Dance Performance


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