Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Stars of Dance Spotlight: Naima Akef

Naima Akef was born in 1929 in Tanta on the Nile Delta to parents who were acrobats in the Akef Circus. This unique childhood resulted in Naima's first performance to transpire at the tender young age of four. She quickly became a popular circus performer, ultimately leading her to stardom as a belly dancer and actress in the Golden Age of Egyptian cinema.

When Naima was 14, the Akef circus disbanded, but she continued on performing both an acrobatic and a clown act. Eventually she found her way to Badia Masbadni's nightclub, the Opera Casino. It was here that she received training in belly dance. However, her time the Opera Casino was short-lived. Due to Masbadni's supposed favoritism of Naima, the other dancers tried to gang up on her and assault her. Naima managed to come out of the episode physically harmed, but the incident resulted in her being fired from the Opera Casino.

But when one door closes, another opens. Shortly thereafter, Naima was hired at another famous nightclub, the Kit Kat Club. It was here that she was introduced to the siblings and film directors, Abbas Kemal and Hussein Fawzy, resulting in her first movie appearance in the 1949 film, Bread and Salt.  From there Naima's career grew rapidly, staring in 17 films between 1949 and 1964.

One of Naima's most famous movies was 1955's Aziza, in which Naima can be seen dancing to the famous song by the same title, composed by Mohammed Adel Wahab.

Another of her more famous roles was in 1957's Tamr Henna, in which she can be seen dancing below.

And I've included one final clip of Naima just because I like how this one highlights her ability to execute turns. Unfortunately, I'm not sure which film this is from. If you know, please leave it in the comments below!

In my opinion, Naima's style is the epitome of "classical". Her style is relaxed and graceful, with clean, simple movements that aren't muddied by too much layering or hyper-activity. The sharp, staccato isolations popular today are replaced with juicy, rounded ones. Nonetheless, her grace is underlied with strength, balance, and dexterity, likely developed in her youth as an acrobat. She has some of the best turns I've ever seen in a belly dancer; sharp, precise, and exact. Her demeanor and carriage exude confidence and femininity, as she practically floats across the floor like many of the dancers of the Golden Age do. 

Naima quit acting in 1964 to take care of her son and only child. Sadly, Naima succumbed to cancer and died just two years later at the young age of 36. Despite her short time with us, her contribution to the world of belly dance will always be remembered.

Photo Credits: All photos Naima Akef

1 comment:

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