Alia Thabit Traditional and Avant-Garde Belly Dance

Effortless Improvisation

Effortless Improvisation

Improv is a skill you can learn!

Afraid of improvisation?

 (What if your dance is boring–or you freeze?)

It’s scary to be out there all by yourself, with no ideas at all. What if the audience gets bored? What if they hate you? What if you start to cry?! It’s so much easier to stick with choreography. Yet you know that improvisation is the way to go–but how the heck do you get there?

Want to improvise with joy and ease? 

Wouldn’t it feel great to dance spontaneously in the moment? To let go? To truly feel the music! What a thrill, a delight to dance filled with the music and connected to the audience. No thinking, just pure intuitive response, pure connection, pure joy.

Improvisation is a central skill for belly dance. Yet few people teach it, relying instead on stylized choreographies and canned combinations. It’s time to get back to the real heart of the dance.

Wait, can improvisation be taught? Isn’t it something you’re born with? How do you even begin to learn? Much less teach?

Improvisation is a skill, and you can learn it. This class shows you how.

Dancers find relaxation and confidence with Alia’s methods. Teachers can use these methods to help their classes enter the glorious chaos of improvisation. Both new and experienced improvisors gain fresh confidence and clarity.


So can you!


Effortless Improv: a 6-week online improvisation crash course

Effortless Improvisation

Effortless Improv explores improvisation including Dancing to Live Music.
You can learn to improvise. You can learn to feel the music. It’s a skill, and you can learn it.
Designed for those who want to learn improvisation and for those who want to teach it.

Sign me up!

Wait, tell me more. 

What You Get

  • A solid system for teaching and learning improv
  • Weekly assignments
  • Professional educator specializing in online courses
  • Personal attention and feedback
  • Hosted on a private forum

And that’s just for starters.

But, but, but..!

It’s too scary–I never know what to do.

  • This class opens up your inner wisdom and intuition

I’m only a beginner!

  • What better time to start?

I teach beginners!

  • So do I. They learn fast!

Connecting to the music without editing or judging is a major stumbling block. How will this help?

  • This class is not like any others. It is body-centered and jumpstarts your intuitive wisdom.
  • That editing-judging thing is exactly what the course is designed to bypass.
  • We will use cutting edge methods to develop new habits and skills.
  • Trust the process and the process will reward you.

What if my dance is boring?

  • When you embody the music, your dance will blossom–you can do less, yet draw all eyes towards you.


How does this class work?

Course Starts October 12, 2015

  • Our class is on a password protected, private forum–it is a safe space, just for us.
  • Everyone will be placed in small groups to make it cozier.
  • You can visit all the other groups, and they can visit you.

Daily Assignments

  • We’ll have assignments Monday to Friday (M-F).
  • They will usually take about 20 minutes.

Accountability and Support

  • M-F, come to the forum and post what you did.
  • It’s online, so you can post any time
  • You may also ask questions, report obstacles, successes, or whatever.
  • I will read and comment upon each day’s post.

Camaraderie and Learning

  • If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with a group.
  • Each day, check your group’s threads and post encouragement.
  • Reading other’s threads increases learning.
  • Commenting helps everyone feel loved and supported.

For Teachers

  • There will be a teacher’s forum for using this material in a classroom setting.
  • This forum is open to everyone on the course. All teacher’s were once (and usually continue to be) students.

Extra Juice

  • Weekly conference calls for learning and discussion.
  • Calls will be recorded. Recordings will be posted.
  • Online meet and greet prior to first class.

About how much time is needed each day for the assignments?

  • 20 minutes of practice (M-F) plus 30-second interludes throughout the day.
  • 10-20 minutes to post your process each day (M-F) and to cheer on people in your group (you can bring that down as needed).

What’s special about this course?

  • Alia is a professional educator. She’s taught grade levels from Headstart to High School for 11 years, at the college level for 20 years, online courses since 2007, and  taught dance for over 20 years.
  • Learning methods based on talent acquisition research. Build myelin through repetition of specific skills. Do one thing a hundred times rather than a hundred things one time.
  • Daily small assignments (+/-20 minutes/day, M-F). We learn more, faster by focused application of skills with periods of rest in between.

What do you get? 

  • Clear, repeatable process. This is a system you can use over and over again, for any music, any time.
  • How-to audio/video. Each week’s assignment broken down, explained, and demoed to help you through the process.
  • Weekly Q&A calls, recorded, with an option to ask questions in advance.
  • Access to all information, exercises, and call recordings—so you can follow the lessons at your convenience. Self-guided study is fully supported.

Is there a money-back guarantee? 

  • Yes! You get Alia’s Win-Win Guarantee: All your money back and the first week of class to decide. Cool, huh?

Featured Bonuses

  • Daily accountability (M-F)
  • A safe, positive, supportive group
  • Weekly group video calls (recorded)
  • Special, targeted support for learners and teachers


Special Premium Bonuses for those who want to go deeper.

Two 45-min personal consults with Alia–use for discussion, private class, coaching, etc ($125 value).

  • Your questions answered and personal feedback, on Skype so we can see each other and work together in real time (good up to 6 months from end of class.
  • This is a super opportunity for real coaching to help you further your creative goals.
  • We focus on your goals and help you find ways to achieve them.

Effortless gives you 6 weeks of daily support for less than the cost of a weekend workshop–plus no travel, no hotel, and no packing! And you get a great, international dance community delivered to your living room.

Want be notified when the next class starts? You can get on the Waiting List!

Yes, please notify me!



This course focuses on dancers AND teachers. This means that these strategies and techniques have been carefully constructed, developed into a system for you to use over and over. This is not feel-good folderol. It is both scientifically grounded and intuitively sound work in how humans develop new skills and let go of outside influences. And it is available here, now, to you. Don’t wait.


I want to dance effortlessly. I want to be able to just take off when the music plays and not have a second thought as to whether or not I’m interesting enough, what comes next, if I’m taking up enough space, traveling enough, etc etc etc.

I’d played with improv a little before. I would try to identify the style of music and try to match the moves to it (saidi, beladi, turkish, etc) I would try to keep in mind taking up the whole space, making eye contact with the audience, incorporating floor patterns, varying dance dynamics, conveying some sort of emotion.

About mid way, I realized that while all of the things I was trying to remember and incorporate are valid and worthwhile, I was becoming weighed down by the sheer magnitude of trying to recall and do so much. Improv was stressful and largely about making sure I wasn’t overcome by panic. Managing your level of terror is not the same as ENJOYING dance.

I have a lot to think about and a lot to practice before I feel comfortable claiming mastery over effortless improv, but I’ve caught glimpses of it. I have a map. I have confidence. The framework is there. I have to keep filling it in with….ME.

 The group was nice because you got to see other peoples’ perspectives. Sometimes the struggles were in common and that made me feel less alone. Sometimes the struggles were different and that was good because you could get or give some peer advice. Altogether it was great because you had a collection of people, from different places, all different ages, body types, dance styles, and all were supporting each other.

The forum setup was nice because it allowed people to contribute on their own time frames. I had wished my group had a few more regular contributors, but it kept things manageable and I often popped into other groups to see how everyone else was doing. The lounge also offered some stimulation conversation and exchange of ideas, so I enjoyed that.

I would describe this as an intermediate to advanced course. This course dives deep into finding personal style and preferences. It approaches the wide spread concept that improv is difficult, filled with moments of dread, panic, and fear of looking boring or just not knowing what to do next.

It is definitely a “soft skill” class, where “hard skills” are moves, combos,& choreos. This is about how to dance by finding confidence, how to convey emotion by MEANING it, how to string movements together because they FEEL right. The course is about the art behind the dance.

If the moves are a building block, and the choreos are how to build a structure, then this is how to build something people will talk about forever because they recognize the style, the art, the statement that is the structure.

The class requires you to put in a lot of yourself. It requires you to trust the teacher and yourself enough to try things you think don’t apply. It requires you to do, and then to really THINK about why things worked or why they didn’t.

Amazing! Alia is not a “follow the bouncing butt” kinda gal. Neither is it a “my way or the highway” atmosphere.

This is not to say what she has to say is easy. She asks you to really push the boundaries of your dance. She challenges you to do more, feel more, BE more (sometimes by doing less).

Alia can be intimidating in what she asks, however, she is strongly present and supportive throughout the process. Alia’s classes are not for people looking to be ‘cookie cutter” dancers, where everyone learns to move the same way at the same time. Her teaching style is about helping her students allow themselves to REALLY dance.

I suddenly understood that I could override my brain by telling a story. That if I made up this story, the movements would flow without me thinking about them, that I would move to one side of the stage or the other to tell the audience this or that, that the emotion I was trying to convey would be real, that I would connect with the audience, look at them (or look away), change tempo, pause, all of these things I would try to remember and end up NOT because it is a function of storytelling. WOW!

I loved: this is the most beautiful move I have ever seen” while doing a figure eight, after peeing. OK. how weird. And yet, it ensured that you stopped and did this several times a day. The smile that would just manifest itself, the slow full movement that would emerge, the mantra that blocked any nagging voices produced a euphoria in me. It was warm, relaxing, a tiny oasis in a day of stress, a moment to melt and enjoy. If you can do this in the restroom, you can do it on stage!

Brenda G,
New Hampshire


I grew up in a very intellectual family and until a few years ago hardly acknowledged the existence of my body. Because of this, I tend to dance “in my head” a lot. Last year, I immersed myself in theatre improv and found it very empowering. I realized combining dance and improv might help me reconnect to my body and actually dance with my body.

Improv was mostly something I did in improv class only. Although I understood that I could use the ideas from improv in the rest of my life, it didn’t quite happen, especially not in my dancing.

My thinking kept getting in the way of letting go. One other belly dance teacher noticed it, pointed it out to me, and was puzzled what to do. I knew that somehow I had to learn to let go – and didn’t know how or what really. “Stop thinking” doesn’t work for me…

The idea “there are no wrong moves” was what helped me shift out of my mind the most: I stopped thinking about how to do a move, whether I was doing it right (or not), and just let my body do its thing. The floor practice also helped because it blew my mind open to the possibility that there are all sorts of ways to dance – and none of them wrong, just different and thus intriguing.

I feel much more confident about my dancing even though I have “only” belly danced for 2 years and danced period for about 6 years! Actually, I don’t really feel like a “newbie” anymore now. And I know that when I am not having fun dancing it’s because I am trying to “do it right,” so I can remind myself “there are no wrong moves” and let go into the flow of the music. There is also a bit of sadness there, though, that the course is ending because I enjoyed the support I have gotten from Alia and fellow students. It’s amazing what even just a smiley face can do for encouragement.

The support from others made a tremendous difference.

Just knowing that what I share will be read helped to share more thoroughly. And I’ve learned a lot from others through what they shared, including a reminder to watch for “shoulds.”

We had several discussions that helped me learn more: Focusing on the throat is important for confidence (and cold foods can interfere). Sharing about being older and/or dealing with chronic diseases helped me understand that this isn’t something that has to stop me. And even the techie things we shared: I didn’t know that Lazarus could save my sanity by keeping form information 

As an introvert, I tend to have an easier time expressing myself in writing, so in addition to the difference the group made, the forum helped with that.

At the beginning of each week, Alia posted an assignment that included a tiny habit, an improv challenge, and a suggestion for an artist’s date. For example, a tiny habit might be to practice 3 figure 8s before leaving the bathroom. The improv challenge during the last week included dancing a taqsim. An artist’s date is roughly anything that we do especially for us with the intention of refueling our creative selves. Each week’s assignment had a theme that would run through all of these elements. The weekly assignments seemed to carefully build on each other as I felt increasingly more comfortable “just following the music,” which was especially obvious to me during the last week when we practiced taqsim.

Those of us who actively participated in the course would post each weekday our reactions, observations, and questions to these assignments. To me, that was a very important part of the course because this is where my motivation was refueled: Through the interaction with Alia and fellow students. This interaction was always so caring and supportive, it gave me a big incentive to do the work and show up on the forum to share what I learned and give feedback to others.

One of the most important qualities of a teacher for me is their ability to create a safe container for honest self-expression.  

(in addition to subject matter expertise, i.e., they know what they’re talking about, which Alia definitely has (just look at some of her dance videos…). Although the online format might facilitate this (as folks who have pointed to rudeness online seem to suggest), it is very clear to me that Alia hugely contributed to a safe container on the online forum. She modeled this by showing up gently with lots of care and love making suggestions for changes and, most importantly, reminding us that we are just fine no matter what our inner voices might be telling us. This modeling helped me to also show up like that – and I am certain contributed greatly to my deep learning in this class. I felt very held! 

It’s an online dance improv course and it works. I didn’t expect to get much out of an online course on improvisation. Didn’t I have to do improv? Well, I did! Through the guidance of the assignments and the feedback in the forum, I was able to practice improv at home (and bathrooms). I am still at awe that this was possibly so beautifully!

I so enjoyed this course and value what and how Alia teaches. She teaches way more than dance by making dancing a medium for self-expression and transformation.

It is a course that has changed areas of my life, including feeling more confident about expressing myself through dance or otherwise.

I feel super grateful for this class, including the interactions with my fellow students here on the forum! It is amazing to me how much difference this class has made in my life – something I am still taking in and can’t fully articulate yet. It’s “just a feeling” at this point–Somewhat frustrating for someone like me who likes to put everything into words – and I am learning to let go of that urge and just enjoy instead!

Rachel B

What People Say

I wanted to reconnect to MY dance. 

Before this course, I had an interesting relationship with improv. On the one hand, I’d had a lot of instructors make it seem like this mysterious, magical, yet TOUGH thing that only the most seasoned and practiced of dancers “get.” At times it seemed like you had to somehow go through an ancient secret ritual to be fabulous at improv; other times it seemed like the only way to be able to do it was to spend hours drilling your technique so that when you got to that improv moment you were Prepared and Ready, like it was some sort of a battle.

And yet, I’d never really found an instructor who could walk me through quite how to do it. My personal improv experience (I learned during this course) was pretty extensive in some ways as I spent a lot of time dancing in restaurants and just letting the music that night take me along.

It never felt “legitimate” though, and I often felt lazy that I was just going with the music rather than having a very fancy choreography planned.

About halfway through, I definitely found myself being more gentle with my expectations for myself in terms of each practice.

This doesn’t mean that I suddenly started slacking or stopped practicing. Rather, I allowed myself the leniency of discovery.

Instead of practices being set up as “OK. I have a checklist. I shall practice moves X, Y, and Z…drill them…rehearse my choreo and call it quits”…I moved into a mindset where, while there was still a loose form, I was more open to experimentation and allowed myself to enjoy the practice and see what came from it.

I found myself having practices that were far more creative and enjoyable, too. 

Now? Well, first off, [I am] READY TO DANCE. Like, ALL the time.

Dance practice is no longer a chore (as in ok, ok, I GUESS I should dance as if it were some sort of guilt type thing). It’s also no longer scary.

That in itself was a HUGE gift – if that was all I got out of this class it’d be worth every penny because, after years of dancing professionally, my injury had me convinced I couldn’t dance anymore and that I wasn’t good anymore.

But what IS good anyway? In this course I learned that anything can be good and that it’s all good. I feel refreshed, recharged, and ready to take my dance out there again.

It might not be the same because my body is not at the same point, but that is perfectly ok because my body knows the movements and it will do beautiful, gorgeous work.

Knowing that I was supposed to check in every day gave me a goal. 

Having a forum we could access at any time was great because it meant that I could review the material at my leisure and, also, practice whenever I could squeeze time in.

Also the fact that we could post videos, links, graphics, etc. definitely opened up the potential for us to learn in a variety of different ways.

Alia is fantastic! But that doesn’t really tell you much.

Her base of knowledge is unparalleled. I am extremely impressed by her willingness to share – because she will tell you EVERYTHING she can to help you understand. She checked in with her students EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

I have no idea how many people were in this course, but somehow she managed to reach each of us. And it wasn’t just a fluff response – she read what we wrote, digested it, and I suspect even adjusted her own lesson plans to address some of the discoveries, triumphs, and obstacles we were facing.

Her dedication to this course was simply incredible and goes way beyond what I think any of us could have expected.

She is extremely supportive and nurturing, but will also give you a good sharp poke if needed.

I also want to note that she has such a breadth of knowledge to draw from – I was very impressed by all of the resources, references, videos, and links that she gave to us throughout the course.

And, she did all of this without ever seeing any of us in person. To be able to make that connection without spending any time with us face to face is truly noteworthy and speaks volumes to her ability as an educator. 

I have always had trouble with breathing. I’m not sure why but in addition to having issues with breathing while dancing (as in, I often hold my breath) I also don’t really breathe the movements or with the music.

Or well, that is to say, I USED to.

Through this course I’ve had some absolutely fantastic progress in breathing both with the music and the moves too. Fast paced music no longer grabs a hold of me and makes me feel out of breath and anxious.

And in general I found that learning to breath with the music truly helped me to hear it better too.

I was very impressed with how the tiny habits in particular had the potential to make a very big impact in such short of a time frame. I especially loved the connection to our dance, as I said above, but even more so how positive they were. So much of what we struggle with in dance is telling ourselves we can’t – the tiny habits really proved how quickly we can undo those habits of self-defeat. I loved the tininess of the course itself too. 20 minutes was, for the most part, pretty manageable to carve out. 

My toughest moment was allowing myself to let go of the way in which I was traditionally taught, and also, the way I was taught to teach other dancers. I’m still working on wrapping my head around all of that. As a long time believer in drills and such, I am excited to take what I have learned and find a nice balance between these different approaches.

Be kind to yourself. Whatever you can give to the experience, give it, but don’t beat yourself up if life gets in the way. Also DO make the intention of giving whatever you can, that makes it much easier to budget time and make time for the dancey goodness.

I learned how to breathe better, both with the movements and the music.

I learned some great pointers for my stage fright and dance anxiety (basically my feelings of “now you are broken and you won’t be able to dance well anymore”) – a lot of that has left me which is a wonderful blessing. I’ve also benefited from the “tiny habits” – the conversations I have with myself about my dance has returned to my pre-injury state of confidence and joy. 

Overall, I just want to say a BIG thank you to YOU Alia. I have no doubt that you have spent countless hours on this course, not just replying to us – which you did with such thoughtfulness – but also in planning, creating, and manifesting this opportunity. We have all been very blessed to go through this process and I sincerely thank you for it. Thank you for all that you do!

Misha Cain Nell


I wanted a more focused influence from Alia, whose perspective I love. To give some focus to my personal practice. To expand my approach to improv and enhance my improv skills.

Generally, and especially if the music was live,  I would listen to the music, let it in, feel it, and let it move me. If I was improving to recorded music that I knew and was practicing my improv to a specific piece of music, I might decide on on a mood or story or character or some combination of these that would help inspire me along the way. I would also just pick a move and let it organically evolve.

Things got emotionally difficult about half-way through. I got to look at and experience lots of my un-pretty emotions, beliefs, and Shoulds about dance.

 Now I feel much more clear, cleansed, and healed with regard to these emotions. Dancing for myself is more fun again. I feel lighter and more experimental/ exploratory when I’m dancing.

I enjoyed keeping my focus in my small group for time reasons. I also really appreciated the insights that other group members saw in my posts that I didn’t necessarily give much credence to. I enjoyed reading the posts of how everyone else’s day went and seeing their inspiration and progress. And I really appreciated the gentle suggestions and encouragement from Alia and my group members. You all help keep me on track, inspired, and focused in a healthier direction. Given all my emotional ick that came up, everyone’s support was crucial!

I would recommend this course because I feel more connected to my body and a deeper part of myself when I dance than I did before. I would recommend this course for dancers who are wanting to explore their own inner motivation for movement, and for dancers who are looking to experience their dance more fully from the inside out. And you will definitely feel more comfortable with improvisation!

It gave me a chance to build up new habits in a non-intimidating way. I could take baby steps and be very compassionate with myself as I did things imperfectly. Moving gradually also helped me observe my thoughts and feelings that came up as I did the assignments.

My toughest moment was noticing all my dance Shoulds coming up. I move through this by writing about it in the forum and receiving support from others and also by doing Byron Katie’s The Work on those Shoulds so that I gained new insight into how they affect me. It helped me feel like they had less power over me and that I had more say in choosing my thoughts about those situations than I had before.

I also did Alia’s Create Dance Art course last fall, and I totally loved it. I would definitely do other courses in the future.

Make time every day to do the course. You’ll get out of it what you put into it. And definitely interact in the forum to get even more out of the course.

I’m much better at breathing when I’m dancing now. I feel more connected to myself emotionally and more in my body when I’m dancing. I have more concepts to explore in my improvisation.

I am so grateful to have Alia’s guidance to help me work on the deeper, more esoteric aspects of dancing. It’s not so hard for me to work on technique or learning steps on my own, but this richer, less concrete stuff is so much harder to learn and embody without an excellent guide like Alia.

Annya Ishtara, NM