Arts in Context

Austin entrepreneur shakes up cultural misconceptions one belly dance at a time

Austin entrepreneur shakes up misconceptions one belly dance at a time

Editor's note: CultureMap is proud to present the latest installment in our partnership with KLRU's documentary series Arts In Context. The series explores the process of creation and what it's like to be a working artist in the Austin area. You can watch more stories at klru.org/artsincontext.

Zein Al-Jundi began teaching belly dancing classes in 1999, about two years before opening her shop, The Arabic Bazaar, in Hyde Park. Once open, she moved the classes inside her store, and has spent the past 18 years developing a rich community for local women.

"Belly dance is a dance genre that was designed specifically for the female body. It's not about sexuality, it's about the beauty of a woman's body and having her become the music on the dance floor," she says. "It's a beautiful environment for people to come here, feel safe, develop friendships and deal with body issues."

But more than exercise, the classes are a vehicle to understanding the rich history and traditions of Arabic culture — a culture Al-Jundi believes is often misrepresented by modern media.

"It is far more important now to talk about the aspects that are not talked about in the media of the Arab culture and my heritage," she says. "In reality, [Arabic people] are a fun crowd. They love music, they love to dance, they love to eat, celebrate family, celebrate life."

KLRU-TV, Austin PBS is dedicated to telling stories that entertain, inspire, and change our lives. KLRU highlights what makes Austin unique — whether music, arts, or public issues — by creating and distributing award-winning original content. KLRU produces several series including Austin City Limits, Arts In Context, Central Texas Gardener, Decibel, and Overheard with Evan Smith. As a nonprofit educational organization, KLRU also prepares children to succeed in school and creates lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Arabic Bazaar
Zein Al-Jundi has taught belly dancing in Austin for two decades. KLRU-TV/Austin PBS