Usually considered a tradition of Arab countries, belly dancing has a devoted new group of followers you might not expect: young urban Chinese.
Riding the wave of popularity, belly dance schools have been opening all over Beijing.
Wen Kexin has a lot to do with the new trend. A charismatic figure with a lot of enthusiastic pupils, Wen has come up with a kind of Chinese-style version of the dance.
She developed her unique style by adopting elements of Chinese traditional dances into the hand movements of conventional belly dancing.
Wen's school attracts students from across the country. Many room together in the capital for several months while taking daily dance lessons with Wen. And most dream of opening their own schools when they return home.
One 22-year-old student came here on vacation a month ago from Kunming in Yunnan Province, southern China, just to take Wen's dance lessons.
In Kunming, too, the dance style is fashionable, but there is only one school which is always crowded.
The student, who asked to remain anonymous, is a nurse with the Chinese People's Liberation Army.
She says she has to keep her dancing aspirations secret from her military peers.
"It is very difficult for us to find a job after resigning from the military," the woman said.
"I believe I would be successful if I opened a belly dance school in Kunming now," she said.
Lida, 26, came here for Wen's lessons 10 days ago from Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of western China.
Lida, a member of the Uyghur ethnic group, performs traditional folk dance, which is thriving in the area.
So, too, is belly dancing. But, says Lida, "People are belly dancing in their own ways without correct knowledge."
To help them out, Lida wants to open a full-fledged belly dance school in her home town Urumqi. It would be the first of its kind.
(Asahi Shimbun via China Daily March 1, 2006)