Belly dance as we recognise it today is less than 100 years old. The performance style of Egyptian dance was stylised for the cabaret stages of Cairo around the 1920s. Prior to this, the local dance, known as Baladi, was a social dance which was performed by women in local cafes, meeting places and festivals.
The stylised version of Egyptian dance took the basic baladi movements and embellished them creating a more theatrical style of dance. Costumes were created for this new style of dance drawing on the fashions from around the globe at that time and the dance took on a new glamorous image... and is the one we recognise today! Many of these new stars of the stage became icons in Egypt and went on to become huge film stars whose dancing is still iconic in Egypt today.
Through youtube, it is still possible to watch the film extracts of Samia Gamal, Tahia Carioca plus many others from the golden age of bellydance, whereas todays Cairo dance stars play less of a role in cinema but still have a considerable influence on bellydance worldwide.