Dance has an integral place in Egyptian cultural history; from the dance performances engraved and depicted on the walls of Ancient Egyptian temples to internationally recognized belly dancers like Samia Gamal and Taheyya Kariokka, dance has taken center stage in Egypt’s ancient and modern histories alike.
This is not say, of course, that Egyptians have only excelled at belly dancing; in fact, Egyptians have also excelled at ballet. How can we forget the viral photos and videos depicting the Ballerinas of Cairo, as they gracefully move through Egypt’s streets?
This article, however, is not about these young women rather it is about a much older, and pioneering, woman. It is about Egypt’s first Prima Ballerina: Magda Saleh. Magda Saleh will be honoured in New York, following the screening of two documentaries, scheduled for March 13th and March 17th.
The first of the films, entitled A Footnote in Ballet History? (2016), is directed by Hisham Abdel Khalek and co-produced by Magda Saleh. According to the film’s official website, the film discusses “the establishment of the art of classical ballet in Egypt. Prima ballerina Magda Saleh and fellow dancers recall the founding of the first national ballet school, staffed with Soviet teachers – the early triumphs, collapse and renewed hopes over five decades.” As such, the film boasts interviews with Nelly Karim, and with many more leading Egyptian ballerinas/dancers.
The other film, entitled Egypt Dances (1977), has Saleh as its primary narrator and protagonist. According to Egypt Independent (who source a press release) this film “travels the length and breadth of Egypt to create a visual record of the numerous indigenous dance forms throughout the country.”
It is extremely refreshing to see Egypt being represented in such a manner, and via a figure like Magda Saleh, across seas!