Brisbane’s hips don’t lie.

Niche exercise trends are on the rise, and bellydancing is being pushed as an empowering, fun and social way to get fit.

That’s why the Queensland Bellydance Academy (QBA) is presenting Brisbane’s first Bellydancing Festival, which will get hips shaking from 29-31 July at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre.

The highlight of the festival will be Salam Ya Raqs! A Dance Voyage, a collection of women’s dances from the Middle East and beyond, featuring professional Middle Eastern dance artists from around Australia and Europe, including festival headliner Mercedes Nieto from Hungary.

Nieto, a popular dancer and teacher, will be making her first trip to Australia for the festival.

Festival organisers and QBA co-directors Nerissa Panagopolous and Ambyr Johnston say the self-funded event has been years in the making, and is driven by their passion for Middle Eastern music and dance.

“We were inspired to host a festival in Queensland as we’ve seen the growing interest not just in bellydance, but also the folkloric dance traditions from which bellydance originates,” Ambyr says.

“Dance has the power to create connections between people, and QBA is passionate about using dance to strengthen community.

Salam Ya Raqs! aims to celebrate the beauty of the Middle East by sharing the artistic traditions of its people.”

As well as Mercedes, Nerissa and Ambyr, Salam Ya Raqs! will feature dancers Nayima Hassan (Adelaide), Jrisi Jusakos (Sydney), Virginia Rizkallah (Melbourne), Rose Ottaviano (Western Australia) and Alice Knox (Brisbane).

Salam Ya Raqs! A Dance Voyage will play at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre’s Boulevard Auditorium on Sunday 31 July. Tickets are available now at