Janie Yao says that much of her own Chinese heritage she learned through dance. As the director of Mitsi Dancing School, located in Alief, teaching art forms of her homeland has expanded her own awareness of the 56 ethnic groups, dialects, food, music and costuming that thrives in her country — and here in Houston.
Stepping outside of dance class, it takes just one glance over at the commercial plaza on Bellaire Boulevard that houses the 28-year-old studio to discover that the same overwhelming diversity exists next door, literally.
Kubo's Cafe Sushi serves up traditional Japanese delicacies and street food, not the usual fare found at fusion eateries that modernize the cuisine, and Tofu & BBQ House is a Korean establishment that specializes in Korean barbecue, tofu soups and kimchi-inspired dishes like kimchi pancakes — just to offer two examples.
The Alief Super Neighborhood #25, nestled between Westpark Tollway on the north and Beltway 8 on the east, is where many immigrants settle: 42 percent of the residents were born outside of the United States, much higher than the average rate of 28 percent in other parts of Houston.
In this Hidden Houston profile video, watch as business owners, students and restaurateurs talk about the neighborhood, the area's growth patterns and their passion for Alief. Click on the photo (above) or here to watch the video, produced by Houston's Voice.
Editor's note: Hidden Houston, an interactive multimedia series, aims to reveal the many things that are unique about the Bayou City and its surrounding areas.