"Hey, wanna go learn belly dancing next week?" I almost choked on my hummus when my friend made the casual suggestion recently.

Belly dancing instantly brings to mind sensual dancing and tiny cymbals on beautifully manicured hands. Certainly, a fascinating thing to watch, but not something I'd ever have imagined I'd consider learning--especially here in East Texas.

Ah, but it's true. Belly dancer Lauren Raqs is teaching at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, May 28 at Rose Rudman Park in Tyler.

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Originating in Egypt, and also called "Arabic dance," Wikipedia describes belly dance as "an expressionist type of dance [...] that emphasizes complex movements of the torso." Ya think? In different places around the region, belly dance has diverged into various styles. So, if you seen a variation both in movement and costume, that's why. It has a primal vibe and tends to, over time, take on different rhythms of the region in which it performed.

Some people find it a bit too exotic and aren't altogether comfortable watching it in mixed company. However, for others it's an exhilarating, expressive form of dance that can also be incredibly effective exercise. As someone who has loved dancing for years, although I've never learned this particular form, I find it mesmerizing. Although I'm not completely comfortable with the idea of practicing in a public place, I may be brave and go for it.

If you or someone you know is interested, this ladies only class is perfect for beginners and for those seeking a refresher course in the basics of belly dance. Lauren's focus will be on basic movement including body isolations, simple drills, and beginning combos. All women are welcome and the $15 payment can be made with cash, or via Venmo or Paypal.

Sign up and learn more about 'Bellydance Basics in the Park' here, including what you may want to bring and where to meet.

Check out the video above for uh...inspiration from the pros. ;)

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