Last Updated on
(Continuing on the section on Raqs Sharqi in Egyptian Cinema and TV (1970s and Early 1980s)
The Early Career of Nelly Fouad
Nelly Fouad (نيللى فؤاد), as Evanoff (2012) reports, was born in Alexandria and she first became famous in Lebanon, before returning to Cairo.
Her career spanned from the late 1970s to the 1980s and one of her teachers was Raqia Hassan (whom I will talk about in 5.7.1, because of the great influence she has had over modern raqs sharqi dancers).
Raqia encouraged Nelly to start teaching. She still teaches in Raqia’s annual Ahlan wa Sahlan festival in Cairo and she has also appeared in volumes 10 and 11 of Raqia’s instructional DVDs.
Nelly Fouad did not appear in many movies, but she appeared on TV and the fact that she teaches at international festivals means that her style has influenced dancers worldwide.
Main Characteristics and Movements of Nelly
Fouad as a Dancer
Nelly Fouad’s main characteristic is being an innovator. However, while Nagwa Fouad innovated through her dance productions, Nelly innovated by introducing new movements, as Naima Akef did during the Golden Ages.
Thus, she draws her artistic resources from the movement vocabulary domain.
These new movements, which I will list more extensively in Table 25, are now part of the raqs sharqi movement vocabulary.
Some of these movements were in Soheir Zaki’s repertoire as well (the tossing of the head with back to the audience, the pelvic tilts with weight transfer and the Egyptian walk), but Nelly Fouad did a lot more inventive variations and layering.
In a raqs sharqi TV performance from the 70s called Raks Nelly (PrinceKayammer, 2013), it is possible to appreciate many of her intricate hip layerings, fast spins and innovative movements and travelling steps, such as gliding across the stage with tiny steps and hip shimmies, ‘her famous “shuffle” (choo choo) shimmy on demi pointe’ (Evanoff, 2012, para. 9).
Outward Vertical Hip Figures of Eight
Nelly Fouad first used the maya (outward vertical hip figures of eight) in Egypt.
Raqia Hassan once said that ‘it was the first time she had seen the movement which she calls “maya”. . . Raqia says that that move must have come from Alexandria as dancers in Cairo were not doing that move at that time’ (Evanoff, 2012, paras 10, 11).
The name maya, according to some American sources, was given to this movement by Jamila Salimpour after the dancer Maya Medwar, who danced in the USA in the 1960s (El Safy, 1994; Sciacca, 2015; Shelaby, 2015).
We do not know where the Maya originated from and who did it first, but I have not seen it in any Egyptian videos of raqs sharqi I have analyzed, before Nelly Fouad.
It is now a very common component of the raqs sharqi vocabulary.
Another set of movements, which I had not noticed before Nelly Fouad, and which shows transculturality, are movements that are reminiscent of dances from the Gulf (Lo Iacono, 2016).
For example, the handshaking with an open palm and chest lifts (video n. 027, min 08:24) and kneeling with head tosses side to side (video n. 027, min 08:33). Table 24 summarises Nelly Fouad’s style.