May 27, 2020
By: Nada Salem
On April 20, 2021, Nadia Abdel Malek celebrated her 80th birthday. Nadia is a former ballerina from the early days of Egyptian ballet. She later studied Art History and trained as a ballet stage director in Moscow. Nadia recently spoke with Women of Egypt about her journey in ballet.
“Ever since I was child, I loved to dance more than anything. I started dancing under the guidance of Madame Carollo–an Italian ballerina who had a private ballet school in Cairo. My sister (Mary Abdel Malek) and I later found out that the Academy of Arts in Cairo had started a ballet program.”
Tharwat Okasha, the Minister of Culture at the time, had a vision to cultivate a diverse cultural landscape in Egypt. In 1959, he established the Academy of Arts–one of his most prominent legacies still standing today. The Academy of Arts had opened a Higher Institute of Ballet that was run by Russian instructors from the esteemed Bolshoi Theatre. Having the expertise of the world’s greatest ballet institution was instrumental in developing Egypt’s first class of ballerinas to the highest caliber.
The Academy of Arts soon began recruiting children to begin an intensive, years-long training program. When Nadia and her sister learned of the ballet institute, they immediately jumped at the chance to audition.
“There I began to dance on the big stage in ballets such as ‘The Fountain of Bakhchisaray’, ‘La Bayadere’, and ‘The Swan Lake.’”
It was there at the Academy of Arts, in between dance classes and rehearsals, that Nadia met her future husband. Alongside the ballet institute, the Academy of the Arts also housed the Institute of Cinema, where Ahmed Abdel-Fattah was studying to be a filmmaker. “The young cinematographers were assigned to create a film about the ballerinas next door. That’s how we met each other. Later he proposed to me and we got married.”
The couple graduated together from the Academy and, in 1968, they were offered a scholarship to continue their education abroad in the Soviet Union. While Ahmed studied cinematography in the Gerasimov Institute in Moscow, Nadia joined a ballet graduate program at the Russian Institute of Theatre Arts. Nadia still lives in Moscow today, lecturing in Moscow’s cultural institutions.
As fate would have it, Nadia and Ahmed’s two daughters took a very similar trajectory in life. The two girls, Galla and Geba, were born and raised in Moscow. Galla is now an accomplished Fine Art painter whose work is greatly influenced by her father’s fascination with Ancient Egyptian history. Meanwhile, Geba became a Bolshoi ballerina.
“Watching my daughter dance on the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre is my greatest pride,” Nadia concluded.
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