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Aizza Sharif

Azza Sharif was a well known Egyptian belly dancer during the 1970’s and 1980’s. She started to dance at the age of 18 at Sahara City and Hilton al Nile with the help of her friend, belly dancer Nahid Sabry. She was considered too young, however, to work in Egypt so she went to Lebanon, Germany and England to perform until she was old enough to return. (20 years old). When she arrived in Egypt she made a long term contract with Mena House. Eventually, she performed in parties for Abdel Halim Hafez and Yousef Wahbi. Om Kalthoum said of Azza, “Your body is perfect for raqs sharqi.” She is one of the most beloved dancers in Egypt and is known for her perfect musical ear and her respect of raqs sharqi as an art form.

Aizza began appearing in Egyptian film as a dancer in the 1970’s.  Over the course of her career she made 21 films. One of her first acting roles was in Khalli Balak min Zuzu (Watch Out for Zuzu), with So’ad Hosny and Tahia Carioca.  During her career she appeared in: 
Ah Ya Leil Ya Zaman (Missing Old Times)
Ramadan Fouk Al Bourkan (Ramadan on Top of the Volcano),
Eshareet Morror (Traffic Light),
Al Metassauol (The Beggar),
Nebtidi Menain Al Hikaya (From where Shall We Start the Story).

Before the Lebanese civil war, Aizza periodically appeared in numerous Beirut nightclubs.  As did the other stars during the period, she commuted between Beirut and Cairo and worked with a multitude of musicians of various levels of proficiency, including Reda Darwish and Fouad Marzouk.  In the 1970’s she married the famous sha’abi singer Katcout El Amir, nicknamed the Cat.  They are now divorced. 

Aizza is not as well known as some of her contemporaries including Mona Said and Sohair Zaki.  In an interview for the Gilded Serpent, Reda Darwish describes Aizza as a second-class dancer.  He discussed how he worked with dancers of different levels during his career, starting with third class dancers such as Sohair Ahmed, Zezit, and Mirvet Bader.  He considered Aizza Sharif, Nelli Fouad and Fifi Abdou as second class dancers, and Sohair Zaki, Nagwa Fouad, Nahid Sabry, and Mona Said as first class dancers. (There are many in the profession in Egypt who consider Reda Darwish as a second class musician himself.)

Aizza is retired from dancing and has been for several years, yet she continues to inspire many of today’s professional and aspiring dancers.  Musician Fathi Bilalgia and dancer Jihan were so inspired by the relationship between Aizza and one of her accompanists, renowned Egyptian percussionist Khamis Khandish, that they created a workshop entitled, The Dancer and the Drummer in 1994.


Signature moves:

1.         Alternating hips/single hip crescents – Aizza’s hips were in constant motion, often alternating back in forth in single hip crescents.  She would move them one at a time in a crescent shape, usually vertical but sometimes horizontal.  She would layer other movements on top of the hip crescent, including shimmies, hip drops, and torso undulations.  The hip movements seemed to the foundation from which the rest of her dancing came.  The alternating hips could transition into figure eights, snakes, shimmies, or beladi. Aizza usually moved her hips in alternating patterns, rarely together in one movement.

2.         Arms – Aizza’s arms were usually moving and held in an upright position at or above chest level.  She would often use veil arms in an alternating fashion even when dancing without a veil.

3.         Shoulder shimmies/accents – Probably due to her broad shoulders, Aizza had a very pronounced shoulder shimmy and accent.  She was able to isolate the movement in her shoulder, not incorporating the ribs.  The shoulder was often used as an accent or to flirt, while she kept her gaze on the audience.