On Sunday you can get your groove on while exploring the art of belly dancing at the New Canaan Historical Society.

Dancer and choreographer Tava will demonstrate many of the introductory movements, including snake arms, hip accents, shimmies and isolations.

The class will take place from 2 to 3 p.m. in the Lindstrom Room.

Belly dancing is believed to have had a long history in the Middle East, but reliable evidence about its origins is scarce, and accounts of its history are often highly speculative. Several Greek and Roman sources, including Juvenal and Martial, describe dancers from Asia Minor and Spain using undulating movements, playing castanets, and sinking to the floor with “quivering thighs,”

descriptions certainly suggestive of the movements that we today associate with belly dance.

Later, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries, European travelers in the Middle East, such as Edward Lane and Flaubert, wrote extensively of the dancers they saw, including the Awalim and Ghawazee, of Egypt. In the Ottoman Empire belly dance was performed by both boys and women in the Sultan’s palace.

The term “belly dance” is a translation of the French term “danse du ventre,” which was applied to the dance in the Victorian era, and referred to Egyptian and oriental female dances.

In Arabic, the dance is known as Raqs Sharqi (eastern dance) or as Raqs Baladi in Egyptian Arabic (country dance or folk dance).

Belly dance is primarily torso-driven, with an emphasis on articulations of the hips. Unlike many Western dance forms, the focus of the dance is on isolations of the torso muscles, rather than on movements of the limbs through space.

Although some of these isolations appear similar to the isolations used in jazz ballet, they are sometimes driven differently and have a different feeling or emphasis.

In common with most folk dances, there is no universal naming scheme for belly dance movements. Some dancers and dance schools have developed their own naming schemes, but none of these is universally recognized.

The cost for the Historical Society class is $10. Call 203-966-1776 for reservations, or email ddearth@nchistory.org. A free performance by Tava follows the class from 3:15 to 4 p.m.