Dance instructor Allena Berger, right, teaches a Middle Eastern line dance at the Sterling Heights Community Center June 11.

Dance instructor Allena Berger, right, teaches a Middle Eastern line dance at the Sterling Heights Community Center June 11.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Mideast dances go ‘on line’ at community center

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 22, 2022


STERLING HEIGHTS — For Allena Berger, every class she teaches at the Sterling Heights Community Center is a chance to celebrate dance.

On Saturdays this month, Berger has been there, teaching line dances that are commonly done at Middle Eastern weddings. Berger, a volunteer with E’rootha Dance, said her current class of around 10 members is for beginners who want to have fun while participating in dances at Chaldean, Assyrian or Syriac weddings.

“I think I’ve been volunteering with E’rootha for about 10 years now,” Berger said. “We have a lot of line dancing for Chaldeans and Assyrians. We teach the most basic ones, four to five line dances.”

Berger said E’rootha Dance coordinates with the city, and she was impressed by the “amazing” studios that the new Community Center has.

Berger described what it feels like to learn Middle Eastern line dances, calling the movements freer than many people think.

“It is not necessarily a 1-2-3 step movement, but practice makes perfect, like everything else,” she said.

Even after only the first class, many of the dancers showed promise and progress in their capabilities.

“It was great. We got through two dances,” she said. “Some people were awkward in the beginning, but by the end of it, we definitely felt more connected and more comfortable. We are able to form a line.”

Berger explained that her students dance to music by popular Middle Eastern performers, such as Juliana Jendo and Janan Sawa.

“We try to pick and choose popular songs that they play at weddings and festivals,” she said.

Kyle Langlois, Sterling Heights’ parks and recreation director, said the city is always looking for great opportunities to bring recreational programs to residents, and hosting the program is a great way to reflect the city’s diversity. He also said it isn’t the first time the city has had such a program.

“Many years ago, we had Middle Eastern line dance classes,” he said. “Over the years, those went away, for various reasons. … This was a scenario that was brought to our attention — somebody looking for an opportunity to teach.

“We thought it was a greater opportunity to serve a different segment of our residents. It’s not just for the Middle Eastern community or Arabic community or Chaldean community. Anybody who has interest in a different type of exercise or cultural dance is certainly welcome to participate.”

Although the current line dance program ends in June, Berger added that she hopes to continue teaching classes at the Sterling Heights Community Center in the future.

Learn more about the Sterling Heights Community Center, 40250 Dodge Park Road in Sterling Heights, by visiting or by calling (586) 446-2700.