Belly dancing is an ancient art form with origins in the Middle East, Mediterranean and northeastern Africa, according to some experts. Although the dance has spread westward, and there are plenty of performances to be seen, belly dancing has never really been on my radar. So I couldn't pass up the chance to check out the ladies of Columbus-based Sacred Shimmy Tribal Bellydance at Upper Cup Coffee on a recent Friday.

Belly dancing is an ancient art form with origins in the Middle East, Mediterranean and northeastern Africa, according to some experts. Although the dance has spread westward, and there are plenty of performances to be seen, belly dancing has never really been on my radar. So I couldn't pass up the chance to check out the ladies of Columbus-based Sacred Shimmy Tribal Bellydance at Upper Cup Coffee on a recent Friday.

I got lucky, too, because it was the fifth and final "Tribal Brew Extravaganza," though Sacred Shimmy promises there are other interesting projects on the horizon. I arrived to a house packed with a crowd that was older than I anticipated for such a unique event. There were a couple young children, which was cool to see, but I'd estimate most were over 30.

I also expected to try an out-of-the ordinary drink to go along with the performance - my imagination gets the best of me sometimes - but the barista informed me my best bet would be the chai. Because of a bad past experience with the spiced milk tea, I went with my usual caramel latte.

From their beautiful, flowing skirts and scarves to their graceful and technical moves, the belly dancers were enchanting. They danced to live music, including drums and a string instrument known as a saz. They also embellished their performances with zills, or finger cymbals.

Standout dancers included Melissa Lopez (visit the Alive Facebook page for video of her performance) and Athena, who was so remarkable I was shocked to find out her whole performance was improvised. The Michigan native also informed me she has been dancing for 12 years and expressed her passion for the "body-positive" art.

There were also performances by the El Ritmo Flamenco Ensemble, consisting of three older women who demonstrated great enthusiasm in their execution of the Spanish-based dance. Joanna Schroeder also recited some clever poetry that garnered a lot of laughs from the audience.

Before the event was over, the floor was opened to the audience for drumming and dancing. Several people participated in the jam session. One little girl showed off some impressive moves of her own.

I learned a lot of the people were Sacred Shimmy students, and as a lifelong lover of dance, I'm seriously considering taking classes, which are divided into three levels of expertise. One student shared that her arms were sorer than her stomach muscles.

It was funny to see reactions from people who were not expecting to stumble upon a troupe of belly dancers on their trip to get coffee. I really like the idea of being surprised - in good ways - walking down even the most familiar streets of Columbus. It has happened to me quite a few times, and I look forward to more memorable moments in 2017.