Magda Saleh, Influential Egyptian Ballerina, Is Dead at 79

Magda Saleh is a Bolshoi-trained Egyptian ballerina and star of the Cairo Ballet, who played a key role in introducing ballet to a wide audience in her home country, and later became the founder of the company’s ballet school and new opera house. acted as a director. He died in Cairo on June 11th. She was 79 years old.

Her death was confirmed by Diane Hakaku, also a former principal dancer of the Cairo Ballet. Hakaku, who lives in New York, said she was informed of her sister’s death by Saleh’s brother, Tarek Saleh, in Cairo. No cause has been identified.

Saleh, who lived on Shelter Island, New York, returned to Cairo to spend time with her family in March, shortly after the death of her husband, Jack Josephson.

Like the United States, Egypt did not have a permanent national ballet company until the 1950s, although it had a large opera house in Cairo. But Americans have seen ballet productions. The major European ballet companies have performed in the United States since his 19th century. In Egypt, ballet recitals were largely confined to private dance schools run by British teachers, and students typically came from upper-middle-class families like Saleh.

Saleh trained with these teachers until the late 1950s, when teachers from the Soviet Union arrived to teach at the new government-funded school in partnership with the Cairo Ballet. She was then invited to the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow along with four other teenagers.

After rigorous training there from 1963 to 1965, the young Egyptian women returned to the Cairo Ballet. Saleh and Hakak became the best known. Others included Nadia Habib, Alia Abdel Razek and Wadood Faiz.

In 1966, the company’s dancers spent the summer rehearsing a large production of the 1934 Soviet ballet Bakhchisaray Fountain. Based on a poem by Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, the ballet tells the story of a Polish princess who is kidnapped by a Tatar chieftain and killed by a jealous harem favourite. Ms. Saleha was the pure Princess Maria, and Mr. Hakaku was the ardent favorite Zarema.

The production was a huge success and was seen as justifying the establishment of the Cairo Ballet and Ballet School with government grants by Culture Minister Tawat Okasha a few years ago.

Ms. Saleh was a guest artist with several Soviet ballet companies, including the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad, the Bolshoi Ballet at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow, and the Novosibirsk and Tashkent Ballets.

Although Saleh has become a cultural celebrity, the Egyptian press dubbed her Cairo’s first prima ballerina, she was more concerned with exposing people of all walks of life to ballet than celebration and pomp. He often said he was interested. She often recalled a performance by the Cairo Ballet in Aswan, a city on the Nile River. A dam worker who had seen her perform later appeared on her stage and told her that the performance was “really beautiful”.

Magda Saleh was born in Cairo on April 2, 1944. Her father, Ahmed Abdel Ghafar Saleh, was Egyptian. Her mother, Gertrude Florence Edgar (Peasant) Saleh (Florence), was Scottish. The two met in Glasgow, where Saleh was studying agriculture, and married in 1937. Mr. Saleh was a noted scholar and later became Vice-Chancellor of the American University in Cairo. his wife was a housewife.

In 1993, Saleh married Josephson, an American businessman who later became an Egyptologist and expert in Egyptian archaeology. In addition to her brother Tarek, she has another surviving brother Sheriff. Her third brother Amr died in January.

After retiring from ballet due to injury, Saleh received a master’s degree in modern dance from the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1979 she received her Ph.D. She earned her PhD from New York University, for which she produced the documentary ‘Her Dance in Egypt’ about a little-known traditional dance performed in an Egyptian village. She later argued that if lifestyle changes in rural areas lead villagers to abandon these traditions, it could be seen as evidence of backwardness, and thus there would be a “cultural loss”. warned.

In 1983 she returned to Egypt and became dean of the Higher Ballet School. In 1987, she was named founding director of a new opera house to be built with her $50 million grant from the Japanese government. Built in 1988, she was quickly sacked, reportedly due to disagreements with the new Minister of Culture.

In 1992 she moved to New York and became active in introducing Egyptian performers to the United States. She also frequently gave lectures on ballet and Egyptian dance at the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center and the Smithsonian Institution.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button