During the 19th century, there were two types of dancers in Egypt: the ghawazee, who danced outdoors in the markets, usually for low-class audiences, and the awalim who were more respected and besides dancing, they sang and recited poetry, usually for rich people. In both cases, the dance was improvised.
But in 1926, a Lebanese actress and dancer named Badia Masabni opened a famous nightclub called Casino Badia, one of the most prominent nightclubs of the time. It had a diverse program, with local dancers, singers, musicians and comedians.
She was very intelligent because she offered this type of show for foreign people, mainly Europeans who were in Egypt. So she modified some things in order to attract western audience.
The oriental dance had always danced in small spaces. In Casino Badia it had to be adapted to big stages. Badia Masabni in addition to training her dancers with European choreographers, she included elements of other Western dances like ballet.
These dancers performed normally in groups, although those that stood out by their talent sometimes made a solo.
Most people don’t know that modern belly dancing was originated in the nightclubs of Cairo, conceived as an Eastern version of Western music-halls. For that reason Badia Masabni is considered the creator of the modern belly dance, her ideas and her style definitely influenced the conception of the dance.
Another of the brilliant ideas of Badia was the incorporation of classical musicians to the orchestras, who accompany the dancers.
There was two dancers very famous of their time: Samia Gamal and Tahia Carioca. Both became idols, movie stars in the golden age of Egyptian cinema (Cairo was known as the Hollywood of the Middle East).
Recently, Google in its famous doodles, took a minute to pay homage to Samia Gamal (well done Google)
Badia died in Beirut (Lebanon) in 1975, and was so beloved in Egypt that they gave their name to one of the most important bridges in Cairo, the Badia Bridge, next to the modern Sheraton hotel, which currently occupies the place that used to occupy the Casino .