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American belly dancers are rescuing a Middle Eastern tradition

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Students in Sarah Johannson Locke's Tuesday evening dance class learn to improv as a team. Droves of Western-born men and women are headed to belly dance classes across the country.

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Carolena Nericcio, director of Fat Chance Belly Dance, created American Tribal Style in the early 1990s. American Tribal, she says, is "more like a folk dance that it is Egyptian belly dance." (Courtesy of Carolena Nericcio)

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Sarah Johansson Locke teaches American Tribal Style in Manhattan, where she dances with her troupe, Alchemy Performance. For her, American belly dancing is an opportunity to make something new from a variety of ethnic traditions. (Courtesy of Sarah Johansson Locke)

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Students in Sarah Johannson Locke's Tuesday evening dance class perfect their form. Droves of Western-born men and women are headed to belly dance classes across the country.

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Students at Sarah Johannson Locke's Tuesday evening class perfect their form. American Tribal Style often attracts younger dancers who are put off by the showgirl-like cabaret style.

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For David Schleifer, one of Sarah Johannson Locke's students, belly dancing is a great alternative workout. "Dancing is so much more fun and satisfying," he says. "I never feel like working out is a chore."

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Inspired by Shakira's music videos and exotic world beats, women are flocking to belly dance classes across the country. They’re also bringing change to a Middle Eastern folk tradition.


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