AUBURN — Once seen as an exotic cultural artifact from a little-known part of the world, belly dancing has in recent years become increasingly popular in western countries, both as an art form and as a fitness activity.

Belly dance instructor Imari and a few of her Sahara Desert Dancers will present a brief introduction to belly dancing at noon Thursday, May 5, at Auburn Public Library. With nearly two decades of professional experience as a dancer and instructor, Imari has taught thousands of women in South Central Maine and Western New Hampshire how to belly dance. Her dance troupe, the Sahara Desert Dancers, performs frequently throughout the area.

The term “belly dancing” actually refers to a number of popular folk dance styles from the Middle East that were originated by female Gypsies. Despite regional variations, these styles all feature ornate costumes and occasional use of props, and they all isolate various muscle groups (in the hips, back, shoulders, chest and stomach) in their basic techniques.

Because belly dancing generates movement mainly by using the body’s core muscles rather than its external ones, it increases strength, flexibility and fitness with minimal impact, making it a suitable activity for women of all ages.

This free Brown Bag Lunch Program will take place in the Library’s Androscoggin Community Room. Attendees are welcome to bring a bagged lunch if they like, or to order out at The Library Cafe; the library will supply drinks and homemade cookies for dessert.

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