Around the Island

Friday Night Dialogues: ‘Egypt Dances’ film screening and narration

The film “Egypt Dances,” described by its creator, Shelter Island’s Magda Saleh, as a “time capsule,” will be presented Friday, June 21 at 7 p.m. as part of the ongoing Friday Night Dialogues series at the Library. The film, a unique blending of dance, music and song with live narration by Saleh, is a feature-length ethnographic documentation of the wealth of Egypt’s dance traditions.

The Theatre Times said, “In this, a groundbreaking documentary, Magda Saleh travels the length and breadth of Egypt to create a visual record of the numerous indigenous dance forms throughout the country.”

The film was created as the audio-visual supplement to Dr. Saleh’s Ph.D. dissertation, “A Documentation of the Ethnic Dance Traditions of the Arab Republic of Egypt” (New York University in 1979). Its production was subsidized by Egypt’s Ministry of Culture. Dr. Saleh will narrate the film, providing cultural context, and hopefully have time to weave in why she was uniquely positioned to bring it to fruition.

Beyond the historical, entertainment and educational value of the film, the added interest here is the quite amazing career of its creator/narrator – Magda Saleh – Egypt’s prima ballerina. Dr. Saleh’s life and career, for those who missed the screening last summer of “A Footnote in Ballet History,” were and are forever interwoven with Egypt’s culture. She was one of the first five Egyptian ballerinas to graduate from the Bolshoi Academic Choreographic School, Moscow (1965), and made her mark on the stage of the old Khedivial Opera House in Cairo (1966-71), as well as at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and the Kirov Theater in Leningrad, and at the Higher Institute of Ballet of the Academy of Arts, first as a student (1958-1965), then professor and dean (1984-86).

She served as the founding director of the New Cairo Opera House-National Cultural Center of Egypt (1987-88). Moving back to the U.S. in 1992, she married Egyptologist Jack Josephson and has since lived in New York and Shelter Island, but never detaching herself from her home country.

For dance fans and historians alike “Egypt Dances” is a magical documentation of  traditions that may never be captured again due to the rapid political and social change that has overtaken Egypt in recent decades. Introducing Dr. Saleh will be John Claassen of Fusionworks, a longtime collaborator with her on numerous cultural presentations focused on Egypt. Joins us on June 21 for this important screening and meet Magda Saleh, Egypt’s prima ballerina. See you at 7. Admission is free with donations accepted.

Up Next – On June 29 at 7 p.m., Walter Wisniewski and Allison Vanaski will speak about their book, “The Millionaire Within.”