Introduction to Naima Akef
Naima Akef (نعيمة عاكف) was also an innovator in the field of raqs sharqi, because of her training and background and she was very influential for future generations of raqs sharqi practitioners.
The famous Egyptian dancer Nagwa Fouad admired her very much, and she said in an interview ‘I used to escape from school to go to the movies and watch Naima Akef dance in films’ (Adum, 2010, para. 28).
Randa Kamel was also heavily influenced by Naima Akef as she once said:
As I grew I started to appreciate Naima Akef another beautiful dancer . . . I watched so many times their performances [Samia’s and Naima’s] that I know exactly all the steps they are doing during the scene.(Zahara and Shahin, 2012, para. 4)
Laban Analysis & Movements of Naima Akef
Indeed, watching Naima Akef, I noticed some movements that seem familiar to other movements I saw Randa Kamel do, including some being taught by her in workshops I attended.
Other modern dancers seem to have been influenced by Naima Akef. For example, I have noticed a particular step performed by Naima, which Dina seemed to perform in a very similar way, although adapted to Dina’s style.
The movement I noticed can be seen first in a Naima Akef solo in the 1958 movie Ahabek Ya Hassan (I love you Hassan) (INTELLECT FOCUS, 2013, sec. 03:13) and in the movie Tamra Henna, from 1957 (TheCaroVan, 2014j, sec. 00:42).
Dina performs it, during her solo, in the last episode of Al Rakesa (Al Rakesa, 2014, sec. 00:00:19), a 2014 Egyptian TV show and belly dance competition.
The movement consists of stepping back with one foot behind the other, whilst swaying the hips side to side in a half horizontal figure of 8 layered on top of each step.
Perhaps Dina saw and studied Naima Akef’s videos, but it is also possible that she learnt these movements from Ibrahim Akef , Naima Akef’s cousin, who was a famous choreographer from the 1950s, who started his career in Badia Masabni’s club and who trained many raqs sharqi dancers (Egyptian and from all over the world) until his death in 2006 (Todaro, no date; Ziliotto Boudress, no date; duniaoriental, 2007; Chamas, 2009; Rodriguez, 2013).
Being contemporaries, related and having worked for a while in the same settings, it is very likely that Ibrahim and Naima influenced each other.
I have summarised Naima Akef’s style, gathered from analysing her videos, in Table 14. It was very refined and polished and, Ibrahim Akef told belly dancer Jalilah that ‘it was his first cousin, the dancer and actress Naima Akef, who was the first to completely choreograph her solo performances (Chamas, 2009, para. 12)’.
Background and Training
Naima Akef’s desire to experiment and innovate could have been influenced by her background and training.
According to some sources she was born in 1929 (Artemis, no date; Green, 2015) and in 1932 according to others (Ramzy, no date b).
All sources though agree that she was born ‘in Tanta on the Nile Delta to parents who were acrobats in the Akef Circus’ (Green, 2015, para. 1), where she worked from a young age as an acrobat (Artemis, no date, para. 1).
In 5.3.5, I will analyse her stylistic choice using the theories from my conceptual framework and comparing Naima Akef with Tahia Carioca and Samia Gamal.
Badia Masabni’s Club
Naima Akef worked at Badia Masabni’s club for a while and the first film in which she acted was in 1944, Al-Eïch wal malh (Bread and salt) (although, according to some other sources, the date of this film was 1949 (Fawzi, 1949)).
Naima joined the first Egyptian folkloric group Leil Ya Ain and in 1954 she was nominated the best dancer in a folkloric dance competition in the Youth Festival in Moscow Group (Artemis, no date).
According to Green (2015, para. 8), ‘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’.
Naima’s dance style was very eclectic and we can see her perform (in addition to raqs sharqi) many dance tableaux and other dance genres such as rumba, tap and acrobatic dances in her movies such as:
- Aziza (Fawzi, 1955, sec. 00:52:19)
- Aish Wal Malh (Bread and salt) (Fawzi, 1949, secs 00:45:33; 01:41:00)
- Ahebbek ya Hassan (I love you Hassan) (Fawzi, 1958, sec. 01:03:27)
Indeed, according to Ramzy (no date b, para. 10):
Naima rarely ever danced in nightclubs but more through her films and theatre dance tableaux’s [sic] which she regularly organised in Egypt as well as abroad. Those were not purely Egyptian dance performances, but more of a free expression and more of a music and dance extravaganza.Ramzy (no date)
All these various influences in her dance can explain why Naima Akef introduced so many new movements and combinations in her raqs sharqi performances.
Naima Akef was and still is very influential in the field of raqs sharqi. She is still very much-loved today by practitioners such as Lidia Rosolia, who told me ‘Naima Akef always was my favourite of the old dancers . . . maybe it’s her smile, her energy’.
1 – Dina writes, in her autobiography, that she studied raqs sharqi with Ibrahim Akef (Talaat and Guibal, 2011, pp. 57, 64)