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Tahia Carioca

Submitted by : Regina Hampton

Alternate spellings:  Taheyya, Taheya, Tahya, Tahiya, Tahiyyah, Caryoca, Karioka, Karioca, Karyooka

Tahia Carioca was born Badawiya Mohamed Kareem Al Nirani in Ismaileya, Egypt.  In her teenage years she had overbearing brothers and she ran away to Cairo.  She lived with an old neighbor from Ismailia, Souad Mahasen who owned a nightclub.  Tahia took dance lessons at the Ivanova Dancing School.  Souad would not subject young Tahia to the environment in her nightclub and refused to allow her to perform.  Tahia was soon introduced to Badia Masabni who owned a famous western styled cabaret in Cairo.  Badia hired Tahia to perform in a dance troupe with the stage name:  Tahia Mohamed.  She quickly rose in the ranks, becoming very popular with the patrons and earned solo spots in the show. 

Tahia excelled at a Brazilian dance (made famous by Carmen Miranda, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers) called the “karioka” and was renamed: Tahia Carioca.  She incorporated the latin footwork and beats into her performances.  She then moved onto to star in many films during the “Golden Age” of Egypt.  Tahia not only had the great talent of dancing, but could act and sing as well.  The first film in which she starred as an actress was opposite El-Rihani in Li’bet Al-Set (Woman’s Play) done in 1946.  Her most famous film is Shabab Imra’a (A Woman’s Youth) in which she played an older woman who seduced a college student.  She went on to star in over 200 films, theater plays and soap operas.

In 1936, she danced in the procession for King Farouk’s wedding.  He was 16 at the time and had just been crowned king after the death of his father. She performed to music sung by the great Om Kalthoum, who was a great admirer of Tahia.  Om Kalthoum once said that Tahia Carioca is an “artist who can sing with her body”.  She was known for her play on words, gestures and ironic flirting during her performances.  By the age of 31, she had achieved the status of legend in the Egyptian dance world.  There was a well-known rivalry between her and Samia Gamal, who also danced in Masabni’s nightclub.

Tahia followed in the footsteps of her father (who married 7 times) and married 14 times.  She was even married to an American, many famous Egyptian actors, directors and singers.  Never bearing children of her own, she had great love for the children of her siblings.

She also played a role as activist off the big screen.  In 1953, she was placed in prison for 3 months when she voiced her support for a post-revolution return to constitutional democracy.

Tahia Carioca died on September 20, 1999 of a heart attack at age 84.



Al-Ahram Weekly:

Tahia Carioca Signature Moves

  1. “half circle with dip” - the hips to a full front circle and then comes back to neutral while leaning back, arms at chest level
  1. “latin high step” - moving forward with arms in the air, lifting knee up and crossing leg to other side
  1. camel - lower body camel with arms up in the air
  1. arms in the air - This dancer is known for keeping her arms in the air, with graceful hands for at least 50% of her performance.