Detroit: Belly dancing hotspot
The Motor City has become an epicenter of scantily clad shimmies, but belly dancing is still controversial.
This story was originally covered by PRI's Studio 360. For more, listen to the audio above.
Detroit is home to one of the biggest Arab populations in the United States. The website Arab Detroit estimates that there are more than 400,000 Arab-Americans in Michigan, and some 300,000 in the greater Detroit area. The area is now experiencing a renaissance, of sorts, in the ancient art of belly dancing. Amira David, a Lebanese and Palestinian, told Studio 360, "It's kind of in our blood."
Belly dancers are often hired at weddings, banquets, bridal showers and even sporting events. Health clubs and YMCAs around Detroit have begun offering belly dancing classes.
The art has gotten so popular that belly dancers from other states have begun flooding into Detroit during wedding season for extra work. And though the Arab-American community may be fueling this belly dancing boom, few of the dancers themselves are of Arab origin.
One mother of Arab descent, when asked by Studio 360 if she would allow her daughter to be a belly dancer, responded "I don't like it." Amira David explained: "Everyone agrees that it's an art and it's absolutely beautiful to watch, but, you know, it does expose certain parts of the body that are considered controversial in a certain way."
The popularity of belly dancing is still celebrated, even if many of the belly dancers aren't Arab. "These dancers essentially become advocates of the Arabic culture," David told Studio 360. "I think it's great that they're out there doing what they're doing because they're enticing people to learn about the Arabic culture in some way."
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