Belly dancing, a trend imported from the Middle East, is now developing in major Chinese cities.
The tip of Fatma Sule Sahin's toe gently brushes the floor as she performs one of the oldest dances in history. The darbuka drum creates an unmistakable aura of Middle Eastern mysticism as the 22-year-old sways sensuously to the rhythm of the music. Her fluid movements are beautifully alluring and enchanting.
Turkish belly dancing has always been popular internationally. Latino superstar Shakira and Hollywood celebrity Paris Hilton are among the many fans enamored of this dance, which originated in the rakkase - Turkish dancing girls who performed at the height of the Ottoman Empire.
Sahin is a native of Izmir, Turkey. She gives free belly dancing classes at Beijing Union University. Proud to say she is the dance instructress of the Antalya belly dance troupe, Sahin taught in Turkey for three years, where she also toured as a dancer. But, she says she is happier teaching than dancing.
The Chinese language student has lived in Beijing for nine months and was soon captivated by local dancing traditions. She joined the locals in their morning and afternoon dance sessions, and performed with Chinese dancers at Beijing University stadium. She has already learnt six different forms of Chinese dance.
As Sahin is still learning Chinese and sometimes find communication difficult, she bypasses the linguistic barrier through the language of dance. Not restricted to Turkish belly dancing, she is also adept at hip-hop and contemporary dance.
"I often go to parks where Chinese people dance in public and mingle and dance along with them. They have taught me different forms of Chinese dancing."