Magda Saleh, Egypt’s first prima ballerina, passed away early Sunday morning on 11 June in Cairo.
Saleh started ballet from a young age and led a successful career as a dancer and patron of the arts, receiving many opportunities and honors over the decades. She remained active and involved in the Egyptian art scene throughout her life both locally and abroad, continuously supporting Egyptian artists.
Ballet had always been a part of Saleh’s life. In 1963, she was one of five ballerinas to receive a scholarship to study at the Bolshoi Ballet company in Moscow. In the years that followed, she joined the Cairo Ballet company and performed many times in Egypt’s Khedivial Opera House, until it was burned down in 1971.
Saleh went on to complete her PhD on Egyptian ethnic dance traditions at New York University in 1979, where she first met Egyptologist Jack Josephson, who she would eventually marry many years later.
In 1983, Saleh became professor and dean of the Higher Institute of Ballet. She also played an active role in the opening of the New Cairo Opera House and was named its founding director in 1987.
When she moved to New York in 1992, she continued to act as a patron for aspiring Egyptian artists, especially by organizing events for them.
For her contributions to the arts, Saleh was honored by New York’s Theater in 2018 during their “From the Horse’s Mouth” series.
After her husband’s passing in 2022, she returned to family in Egypt.
Saleh was a pioneer in the arts of Egypt and her passing marks the loss of a legendary cultural icon. Beloved by many, her impact will be felt by Egyptian and international dance communities alike.