“So You Think You Can Dance” made its way to Michigan this weekend, but this one had a new spin.

On Friday evening, TEDxUofM Adventures ran the “So You Think You Can Dabke” event in the Michigan Union to celebrate and teach people about dabke — a traditional Arab folk dance performed at many weddings and other occasions. About 40 students attended the event, which was taught by Arabesque, a dance group on campus that practices Middle Eastern styles of dance.

LSA junior Hannah French, a TEDxUofM member explained the idea behind Adventures was to help people step outside their comfort zone, and learn about new cultures.

“Essentially an Adventure is an experiential event,” French said. “So we take members of the community and we put them into a space that they might not normally have the opportunity to be in-such as dabke, Arab folk dancing, or we may take them to a farm and let them experience why it’s like to try something new or live that lifestyle for a day.”

French also noted the main difference between a TED talk and an Adventure was the idea of first-hand experience.

“When listening to a TED talk, you’re trying to live vicariously through the speaker, and you think about what their experience was like, but with an adventure you really get to live that life yourself,” French said.

The event began with an explanation of dabke’s origin and importance in Arab culture, and then participants had an opportunity to learn a choreographed dance taught by Arabesque choreographers — including LSA junior Maya Youness. The evening ended with a lively dabke free-style in which everyone had a chance to let loose, and have fun.

Youness reflected on the history of dabke, and explained how it began long ago with everyday workers and today has spread to the larger Arab community.

“Dabke started out a really long time ago with men that would be building roofs,” Youness said. “So they would be stopping to try to make it flat and smooth and it kind of took on a rhythm and became a dance and now everyone does it at weddings and celebrations and things like that.”

Youness has been dancing with Arabesque since her freshman year. She explained she joined because dabke combined two of her passions, and she stayed with the organization because it brought her friendship.

“I joined because I really like dancing and I really like Arabic music, so it was a good mix of the two, and now I’m in it because all of my best friends are in it,” Youness said.

LSA sophomore Hala Abbas came to the event with the hope of getting more involved with the Arab community on campus. She also talked about how TEDx Adventures is important on campus because of its ability to bring different groups of people together.

“They’re important to have on campus because they bring small communities on campus like ours, and people on the outside are able to see the things that we have to offer,” Abbas said. “I hope to see bigger turnouts in the future so that more people can we what we have as a culture.”

French shared these sentiments and explained it’s hard for some students to try something new, and hoped TEDx Adventures could help them do just that.

“There aren’t a lot of opportunities to really live an experience other than your own at U of M — not to speak for every other group that exists,” French said. “But I do think that’s a really cool thing that adventures offer is the chance to go somewhere that you would never be able to go without the help of an organization on campus.” 

Correction appended: this article has been updated to reflect the event’s sponsors

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