3 Ways to Thrive (and create your Glorious Self)

Mind the Gap

Recently, I’ve written about improving self-talk, celebrating tiny moments of success, resolving trauma, strengthening willpower, and many more. I’ve talked about how Behavior Creates Emotion, and devoted the FUN Class series to exploring behavior as a way to bring emotional resonance into our dance. And now 3 more ways to thrive.

These are just some of the methods we will use in Create Your Glorious Self to develop our personae and activate our agency. I love them because they are based in science–each of them has been studied many many times and found to be practical, repeatable methods–and because they work. Try them and see! These are methods you can start using right now. You can change how you react to challenges–and become more chill, relaxed, and present.

As you change yourself, your circumstances change as well. We are all engaged in patterns of behavior. Some of which are very old and may no longer serve us–but they are so ingrained as to be automatic. The good news is that patterns are a sort of fractal–when you change one element, the whole pattern gets interrupted, and there is a sudden opening for change and growth. So…

3 Ways to Thrive

1. Choose Your Own Adventure

It’s a pattern. My kid snipes at me. Annoyed, I snipe back. Huh. Not so helpful. What would serve me better than this conditioned response of joining the snipe-fest? And how would I put that into play?

The same goes for all of us. What is the pattern, the behavior loop in which we are trapped? What happens first? What next? Where is the gap into which we can insert an exit? Once the pattern is interrupted, there is an opportunity for everyone’s behavior to change. First, we choose how we want to be, who we want to be in any specific interaction. It could be dance, home, work, play–anywhere something is happening that we want to change. Where is one such place for you? How would you prefer to respond?

2. Mind the Gap

Between a “stimulus” (eg, our kid breaks a plate, or we see the audience all staring at us, or our boss ignores us again, or whatever), and our “response” (eg, scream at the kid, start panicking, shrink into a hurt-ball or whatever), there is a tiny little gap. A space. A breath. Literally. This is the place to pause, breathe, and choose. It’s small, so it usually flits past before we even notice. But it’s there. We can often find it in retrospect. Track back from the moment everything fell apart–there will have been a stimulus and a response. And that tiny little gap.

The first step is to become aware of it. To notice it. Once we see it coming it, we can use it. However we have decided to be different, this tiny gap is the place where our new tire has a chance to meet a new road. Where we offramp out of the old, and into the new.

Rather than speeding forward, however, the trick is to s l o w t h i n g s d o w n . . .

3. Take the Red Pill

Once we are in the gap, we can move way more slowly than everything around us. We can breathe. Observe. Make a choice about how to respond.

Slowing down our breath is a prime strategy here. Not only does it increase willpower (which we need right now), it also increases our presence and our options. It pays to practice in less dire circumstances, too.

So here is the Red Pill: Inhale slowly for 5-6 seconds. Exhale slowly for 5-6 seconds. Let the breath be so gentle it forms a circle, with no real beginning or end. Do this five times. Do it often throughout the day so it becomes second nature. If you want to get fancy, you can gently hold the breath at the end of each inhale and exhale for another couple of seconds. Celebrate after each breath session. Woohoo! This is a win!

Then, when you hit the gap in your challenging situations, breathe. Honestly, just pausing will break the pattern. Shifting into a present, ready state will break the pattern. So we are already ahead of the game just by doing this one thing.

I invite you to try the breath now. Take note of how you feel before you start, and after you finish. What is different afterwards? Please let me know! Comment here on the blog or email me.

Change Takes Effort

If you want change, you have to do things differently. That’s just how it is. Me, personally, I am an efficient person. I love wasting time for my own ends, but I like my workflow to be smooooth. Everything I’ve been sharing about habit formation, willpower enhancement and so on, all these things help. I’ve integrated all of it into Create Your Glorious Self, built it all in, designed the support and accountability that I’ve found over the years to e the most useful and satisfying for so many dancers. I’ve been teaching online classes for a long time, and teaching professionally for decades. I know what I’m doing.

CYGS will help you. What you get out of it will reflect what you put into it. It will also reflect what I’ve put into it–and that’s a LOT ; ). The tools I’ve been collecting for Create Your Glorious Self thrill me beyond measure. I so look forward to sharing the whole process with you! CYGS is all about designing your Glorious Self and having the support and accountability to bring them into your life.

If you would like to show up differently–more open, more assertive, more confident, smarter, kinder, better–as a dancer, creator, worker, parent, lover, or human being in general, have a look at this program. It’s outstanding.

Love,
Alia

News and Updates!

Greetings!

Lots of little odds and ends today. I hope all is well, wherever you live.

I made some cute dance and chat videos for the FUN Class, and made them into an itty bitty playlist!
Here they are!


Speaking of which, Luscious is still open and it’s delicious! We had no class this week, so you have time to dance along with the first class recording and join live on Tuesday for Class #2! Register here.


Katie Sahar’s Social Shimmy Challenge just started on on Instagram–come follow my posts or make your own!


Create Your Glorious Self (CYGS) Registration is now open!

  • This is the most remarkable class I have ever envisioned. The transformative effect is going to be splendid. It’s designed to work for pretty much any venue in your life. If you find you are unhappy with your performance–in dance, work, or daily life–CYGS is for you.
  • It’s 10 weeks, with bi-weekly meetings, personal attention every day, and tons of great, science-based material to help you level up your life. The first weeks will be all about designing your persona and learning to bring your chosen attributes into your body. The next section we practice our attributes daily so we become comfortable them and the then we take our new selves out into the world!
  • CYGS starts August 28. I’ll be posting some extra goodies and video between now and then, so please keep an eye out. It is so exciting! I hope you will join us!

Blast from the past, Jess Reed (aka Nadira Jamal), just released her Belly Dance Geek Clubhouse interviews on YouTube! Here is one she did with me on Opening Yourself to the Audience–and there are many more excellent interviews available.


My dear colleague (and brilliant dancer), Walladah Valadah is starting a newsletter. She’s looking to hear from folks about what kind of content they’s like to see. “The newsletter will be issued once per month and it will be free. It is meant to be a concise source of knowledge and information, not only about my approach to dance but also through occasionally hosting other dancers’ contributions too. The topics in the survey are themes I am considering to include, if not in every newsletter issue, at least on some regular or consistent basis. Therefore, please feel free to choose your preferences so that I make sure that the newsletter covers existing needs of the community. Thank you very much in advance.” Have a peek at her survey here

With love,
Alia
And here’s a playlist for a great, great album from the 70s!

When Lusciousness Feels Hopeless…

Maybe we are just so stressed out, so overwhelmed with what needs to be done, that we just don’t have it in us. We’re getting from day to day; isn’t that enough?!

 Maybe we have survived sexual assault and any connection to sensuality feels unsafe. Guilt and shame whisper that our sexuality caused the attack….

Maybe we are alone, and have no one with whom to share our lusciousness. Maybe we have been alone a long time or just recently. Maybe we have lost someone dear to us. Why bother trying to feel luscious? We will still be alone… 

There are so many ways we may feel helpless in the face of events we did not choose, that have been forced upon us by circumstance. So many reasons we may feel safer turning our back upon any lusciousness….

Baby steps…

Trauma is an inability to be in the here and now. We get hijacked by there-and-then. When we feel activated, we want to respect that. Our body is doing its best to keep us safe. It’s pointless to demand that it stop. It’s going to need some help with that. 

The antidote is first to focus on the here and now. Notice our surroundings. Is anything bad or dangerous right here in the room with us? Yes? Get out. No? Okay. We could maybe settle, just a little bit in this precious moment. 

That alone is huge. 

Just looking curiously around our own space, noticing what is right here, right now. Look around our space. Feel our other senses. What we can hear. Feel. Taste. Touch. Scent. Rest in the here and now. Notice your breath (are you breathing?). Just notice. Observe. See what happens next., Maybe it will change on its own. Become a little slower. Or you may notice a sudden big exhale, maybe even some trembling. Or a yawn, belch, fart, gurgle in the tummy. All signs of settling. 

Course correction

Over time, as we increase our capacity for settling, our Observer may come online. This is that calm inner voice that notes what’s going on in an unbiased, thoughtful way. 

We may begin to notice when we are more or less settled, more or less present, or even when we are spinning in the trauma vortex. Just noticing is huge. And as we begin to notice, we may begin to make choices. The choice to be more present is a useful first step. As above, we notice our space, and slowly, gently, check  in with each of our senses. 

As we become more able to be present, even for small moments, we may begin to expand our use of interoception. This is our perception of what’s going on inside of us. We often push such awareness aside, as we navigate the dangerous waters of everyday life. As we begin to settle, we begin to increase our capacity to look inside our bodies, to acknowledge what’s going on in there, to be curious about it, to bring our Observer to bear. 

Over time (and it helps a lot to have professional help on this journey), we can get curious about what’s going on inside our bodies when we get triggered. And as we notice what’s going on in there, we can wonder, What happens next? 

Setting aside the pain, just for the moment 

As we begin to dip a pinkie toe into settling, we often experience a sudden upswing of activation. The body, used to being on alert, distrusts this settling and leaps back to activation. Our fear, despair, anger, or grief may re-emerge just as we begin to feel differently. At first, this may hijack us (again, personal sessions with a qualified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner are of great help on this journey, to hold space, to notice the shifts, and to guide us through them). 

In such cases, as our capacity increases, we become more able to acknowledge the activation and respectfully set it aside—just for the moment. So that our nervous system can learn that it is okay to cycle off. That not every moment is life and death. So that we can make space for pleasant sensations, for pleasure, for lusciousness, for joy. 

The value of joy

After such a long time in high alert, the concept of joy may seem a bit frivolous. Even the notion of looking at the good, resting in what’s working, noticing our resources may seem pretty damn pointless, especially when we have been stuck in perfectionism, fault-finding, and a generally negative disdainful ethos. 

I have a friend who has always been relentlessly negative, and is now currently suffering such a frightening time that it seems ridiculous to suggest that they might find it more endurable by noticing what is pleasant. Yet it is true. We humans are not built to exist in a state of constant suffering, anxiety, fear, anger, etc. Our bodies evolved to respond to immediate threats, and then to settle. 

The more we develop our capacity to orient towards what is pleasant, settling, even joyful, the better our nervous system works, the more capacity we have to endure the challenges life brings brings us, and the better we are able to recover from them. 

Act the way you want to feel

Even the most momentary vacation from high alert makes a difference. I Luscious, we will take some time each week for that vacation, in the privacy of our own homes. You are welcome to turn off your camera, if you prefer. You are welcome to just lie on the floor and listen. However is best for you to show up with your own self-kindness is good. 

LUSCIOUS starts today!

Luscious runs Tuesday at 4pm EDT from August 9 through Sept 20 (no class August 16 or Sept 6). Each class is recorded (instructor view only). Each recording is available during the session.

Will you please join us? Dip your pinkie toe? It’s going to be… luscious ; )
Register here https://aliathabit.com/shop/#live/

I look forward to dancing with you.

Love,

Alia

How does LUSCIOUS feel?

how does luscious feel?

I did my first ever Instagram Live yesterday. I had to look up how to do it ; ). The day went kinda south, so I girded myself with the improviser’s axiom, “Don’t Prepare; Just Show Up.” I had this idea of lusciousness, and that’s it.

So here is that IG Live. Skip in about 35 seconds to the actual start (lol, learning curves ; ).

Alia’s First IG Live!

LOTS of tips on feeling/moving Luscious!


Which brings me to…

Luscious

Hub the cat kind of needs a fez. He reminds me here of all those dear guys in Egyptian movies, caught up in the music, gazing affectionately at the dancer.

This is what I’m feeling, anyway. I’m liking where we’ve been going, and I kind of want to stay with that for a while. The last one was BOLD and we did soak on the bold side of things (Sekhmet, anyone?). I like how it was a little bit challenging, gender-bending, pushing our comfort zones a bit. Gave us a taste of a different way to be. 

I’d like Luscious to be transgressive in a different way.

I’ve had a lot of shame around sexuality to unpack on my journey. It took time and patience. We steep in the mixed messages of our social programming. Must not be sexy! NO! Must be sexy–for the other. Must not like sex! Ew, dirty! Must like sex or at least pretend to–for the other. Must not look sexy! Will get in trouble. BAD. Must look sexy! For the other…

And for us as dancers, it’s even more complicated–our costumes, the public side-eye, the even more mixed messages from the countries of origin. It’s tough to pick apart our own feelings, wants, and desires from the layers of shame and blame. 

Folk of the culture maintain that this is a woman’s dance. Everyone dances this dance, yet it’s a woman’s dance. Interesting. Gender binaries aside, to me, this means egg energy as opposed to sperm energy. The sperm goes out. It rushes. It has a goal. Swift, like an arrow! Get out there! Make those calls! Go get ’em! Rah!

The egg…. attracts. It’s magnetic. It’s engaged within and of itself. It doesn’t have to go anywhere, do anything. It doesn’t even have to put on eyeliner. It’s that juicy and… luscious. 

What if we don’t have a female body, or don’t identify as female?

Who cares? 
Sperm energy is generally valorized in Western culture–we’re allll expected to run around like little do-bees, busy busy productive extraverts. All the genders are expected to act like sperm, so why shouldn’t we all act like eggs, too? It might be a bit outside of our comfort zone–true learning is uncomfortable. And learning new skills increases our capacity for learning skills. So that pays off. And we could all benefit from seeing ourselves as luscious–self-love, affection, cherishing, magnetic, fragrant, mmmm…. 

And we could all use an hour on the sofa with with a nice little dish of bonbons. Right? And getting to enjoy those bonbons, as a choice, nibbling them slowly, for the creamy pleasure of it …

Lusciousness, Dala3, playful sensual/sexual confidence, ​is a core component of the cultural dance. It is NOT about the other. It IS about ourselves and our own self-love, affection, cherishing. Soooo…

Announcing!
Alia’s Inspiring FUN Class,

Luscious

What we’ll do
  • Explore and embody lusciousness
  • Translate simple combinations into lusciousness
  • Bring our luscious movement quality to a range of musical styles, tempos, and genres
  • Make space for self-love, affection, cherishing
  • Practice grounded, present, agency

Luscious runs Tuesday at 4pm EDT from August 9 through Sept 13 (no class Sept 6). Each class is recorded (instructor view only). Each recording is available during the session.

Will you please join us? It’s going to be… luscious ; )
Register here https://aliathabit.com/shop/#live/

Love,
Alia



How to dip your pinkie toe…

BOLD

We’re all spinning a lot of plates right now. It takes all our energy just to keep our lives, our loved ones’ lives, together. Like the Red Queen, we have to run as fast as we can just to stay in the same place. Pandemics of virus, violence, injustice, poverty, natural disaster. Many of us (most?) are on our last nerve. Stuck maintaining our status quo. The stakes may feel too high to mess with what’s working. The idea of taking a risk feels a little… risky.

This is why we have dance. Dance classes (ideally), create a safe social space for playful exploration. Zoom classes may not be as social, but they do increase the safety factor. We are in our own homes. We can shut the door. We can turn off our camera. We can even turn off the lights.

And we can play.
With the group–or privately, where no one else can see us.

BOLD is alll about play.

It is a space to play dress-up–with our identities.

Combining cutting-edge behavioral design with innovative movement cues, BOLD provides a weekly interlude with a sparkly-new chest of dress-up opportunities.

Maybe we can’t throw ourselves into a new life. But maybe one tiny little part of us–maybe just the tip of our pinkie toe–might like to dip into something a little more… Exciting. Fun. Even… BOLD.

In our own home, in the privacy of our own space, we can let our hair down. Try on a new style. For our soul. We can enjoy feeling luxurious, strong, fluid, sensuous… happy.

When we act As If, we feel it.

Behavior creates emotion.

It’s easy to try this at home. Smile at yourself in the mirror. As if you were someone you love ; ).

Give a flirty little wink. Interact with yourself with enjoyment. Keep it up for a minute or so. Then see how you feel. Map that feeling in your body so you can come back to it whenever you want. Come back often!

Dip your pinkie toe…

BOLD is the appetizer buffet for Create Your Glorious Self (CYGS). In CYGS, we get to design our Glorious self and bring it into being–for dance, work, or any other Venue in which we may wish to behave differently.

In BOLD, we explore trying on attitudes and archetypal qualities within the context of dance. We play with varied qualities and movement cues each week, so we get to sample a lot of options. And each new way of being increases not just our available toolbox, but also our capacity for change, and our level of personal power.

Oriental dance music is alll about these wisps of feeling, emotional timbres, sometimes only for a breath, as a quarter tone brings in some subtle shift. As we increase our capacity to express subtle states with our bodies, our dance becomes more grounded, intentional, and–mesmerizing.

BOLD

BOLD starts Tuesday June 14. All sessions are recorded (instructor view only), and available for the duration of the course. Registration and more information is here: AliaThabit.com/Fun-Class

Come dip your pinkie toe in BOLD!
Let’s dance and have fun.

Love,
Alia

How to be BOLD (or any other way you want)

Oooh, a picture is here!

I’ve been doing some arts work in Headstarts, schools, and now daycares for my local arts org (yay, Catamount!). The model for this upcoming mini-residency is that I will come do my thing (I have a slate of pre-school activities), while the daycare teachers observe. The following visit, we will do the thing together, and the next one, the daycare teachers will do the the thing themselves while I observe.

This is a great model, except that I’ve been doing my thing for decades, and the teachers can’t do what I do after watching once (usually while herding cats—er, kids, the whole time). So I use my stuff as a template for theirs. They can’t do belly dance, but they can have movement that uses upbeat, rhythmic, then smooth and flowing music. I have a regular cool down they can do, and they can tell a story of their own.

That’s how templates work.

There is a palette or sequence of categories into which you can slot different yet similar options. Like the classic wedding template: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Anything in each category will do.

However, in my template, there is ONE thing I want to keep the same: My cool down. So I give that specific element to the teachers. Why this cool down? All the anti-trauma, nervous system regulation I’m building into it.

I’ve noticed over the course of this work that even pre-school kids are pretty freaked out these days. Freaked out kids often grow up into freaked out teens, adults and so forth. Nervous systems do ideally regulate themselves, but our modern lives of constant, chronic stress can screw up that feature. So it’s no wonder even 4-year-old kids are barely able to keep it together and others have simply given up.

I can’t fix their lives. But I can give them some respite. And, ideally, I can teach the daycare teachers how to build that respite into their daily routine, so kids can get that little daily taste of settling. Over time, maybe they will internalize this series of actions to use on their own. Each drop in the pool ripples outward.

Reducing stress, resolving trauma, these things bring the potential for joy back into our lives. Joy is one of the (many!) reasons I love belly dance.

Belly dance is anti-trauma

Everything about the cultural dance soothes and nurtures the nervous system. Every time we dance, it’s like a lovely shower for the soul. Sure, we have managed to shove a bunch of anxiety, rigidity, and perfectionism onto it, but…!

At its heart is joy.

All my work is to bring joy back into our hearts. It has become my central mission.

All of the fear, rage, and self-loathing we have accumulated gets in the way of our joy. Focusing on nit-picky details doesn’t help. Yelling at ourselves, blaming ourselves, rigidly controlling our bodies, doesn’t help.

If beating yourself up worked, you'd be rich, thin, and happy
The lovely Amity Alize!
“If beating yourself up worked, you’d be rich, thin, and happy”

Letting ourselves relax, move in self-loving ways, letting our bodies express what they have been holding on to in a gentle, titrated way, these things help us return to joy.

Hence the upcoming classes.

Coming in July:

Create Your Glorious Self!

Here’s a sneak peek at the page. More in the next few weeks ; )

Aka CYGS. I love the acronym, as baby swans are called cygnets. We may have felt like the ugly duckling for a while, but..!

In our hearts are glorious, confident creatures, bursting to unveil themselves, to stride out into the light of day, to come alive!

Doesn’t that feel grand? I’m so excited!

The course is built upon cutting-edge behavioral design strategies, along with intensive nervous system regulation, monthly check in meetings and practice sessions, PLUS daily accountability and progress reports–which we have made sooo quick and easy, they are–dare I say it? Kinda fun! The daily effort for this course is less than 20 minutes, maybe even less than 10.

It’s AMAZING!


AND while we await CYGS, here is…

BOLD!

Archetypes and Attitudes for Oriental Dance
BOLD!

BOLD dips its toes in the CYGS material, continuing our Fun Class focus on templates–in this case, templates of attitude and personality (along with movement options).

Want to be BOLD?
Act as if you are bold.

Wait, what does that even mean?!

Well, what does BOLD look like? How does someone who is bold act? How do they hold themselves, walk, talk? What expression is on their face?

If you were bold, how would you look? How would you hold yourself? What expression would you have on your face? Start there. Look in the mirror. Look at yourself–boldly! Look right into your own eyes, with a bold smile on your face and a glint in your eye. Let the feeling arise from the action. Take a minute or so to just feel that in your body, on your face. What changes?

Behavior creates emotion.

How would you walk? Shuffle along? Or would you STRIDE? Stride around boldly, hands on hips in the classic Wonder Woman Power Pose. Toss your head, boldly! Laugh boldly! Speak boldly! DANCE boldly!

Here’s some music for a bold dance! (or any way of being you would like to explore)

Bold not your jam? What is? Try that one on and see how you feel. We’ll explore LOTS of options in the class.

Here’s more about the BOLD Fun Class: https://aliathabit.com/shop/#live

And remember to CELEBRATE your test drives! Heck, celebrate everything ; )
Love,
Alia

How Creative Expression Lifts the Soul

Behavior Creates Emotion

In times of trouble, dismay, and despair, it becomes ever more important for us to regulate our nervous systems so we are not at the mercy of the news, which is grimmer and more tragic every day.

Creative expression helps.

My life is not all unrelenting joy–I’m guessing yours isn’t either. And the world situation is harrowing. Though it seems disloyal not to suffer alongside the grieving, keening world, and we don’t want to make champagne toasts over the wreckage, unrelenting high levels of stress are harmful to our bodies and minds.

We aren’t doing anyone (including ourselves) any favors by being overwhelmed by suffering. Remembering what is good is vitally important. Taking time to feel good, grounded, safe, is vitally important. Letting ourselves settle into the present moment. Noticing what is around us. Feeling gratitude for even the smallest goodness helps.

So please consider the following a little vacation, and the tools within some things that might help.

Crisis resources can be found here: https://traumahealing.org/scope/


Some of the videos I posted last week did not come through on the email. My apologies!

See the RakSultana dancers’ Alf Leila and Rachel Bond’s Emperor videos here.

Each of these dancers had to discover what they they felt from the music, what they wanted to say about that, and then how to say it with their bodies. This goes way beyond steps–way beyond pantomime. Modern science has demonstrated that Behavior Creates Emotion. So when we behave as if we feel a certain way, we create that feeling in ourselves.

Think about it.

We move and hold our bodies and faces in very specific ways when we are in our various emotional states. When we celebrate a victory, our movement and affect is entirely different from when we feel defeated. It seems like it’s the context (experiencing victory or defeat), that creates the state, but it also works it the other way around. When we act as if we are victorious, we create the feeling of victory within ourselves (and vice versa).

The first time I tried this out, I was walking out of the grocery store, feeling grumpy, sore, tired–you know, #@^&%$#! So I thought, well, what if you act as if you are cheerful? My pace picked up, my head came up, a bounce appeared in my step, and I was humming a tune by the time I got to my car.

Whoa!

I started playing with these ideas in the FUN Classes

And people responded!

That was fun!
I felt so relaxed!
It really is powerful to just work with qualities, taking my time, owning the space, and not having to actually “dance.”I feel more confident about performing
It reinforced the the value of trusting myself
Feeling my individual dancing spirit free to shine through!💗
Going more into your own pleasure and then bringing it out/sharing it with audience.

We will explore these models deeply in the next FUN Class, BOLD: Archetypes and Attitudes for Oriental Dance, and in our upcoming, brand-new 10-week coaching immersion, Create Your Glorious Self. More information about these in the next week or so (I am SO excited!).

You can start right now!

How do you want to feel? ACT THAT WAY. Not pretend. For real. Immerse yourself in how that feels in your body, how your body and face show that state.

See what happens.

Alternatively, you can take how you feel now and show that in movement. Consider moving very slowly while breathing in time to the music. Slow movement gives stuck nervous systems an opportunity to reset.

Either way, let me know how it goes!

I feel so strongly about the power of this approach that I added it to Make a Dance in Five Days. The Templates and these somatic energy states fit so perfectly in with Day 4 that I updated all the information to reflect that. It felt really good. It feels really good to bring these simple tools to help us improvise more effortlessly–AND to improve our everyday lives! (Sneak Peek: Day 5 will soon expand into a complete month-long class all by itself!)

Speaking of which…

MD5 enrollment is open through Sunday, May 29.

Live coaching is available through June 5, so there is plenty of time to make your dance, with plenty of support–plus powerful new content!

Plus it’s fun to do creative things in good company ; )

Why not try it? If you decide it isn’t for you, ask for a refund. Easy peasy. 

More info is here: https://alia.teachable.com/p/make-a-dance-in-five-days.

With all my love!
Alia



Where do you Start when Making Dances?

How to Make a Dance in Five Days

Before we get going, I thought you’d like to know about a really great new venture. Shining Peacekeeper has been living in Egypt for the past several months, with an eye to helping Khairiyya Mazin, last of the famous Banaat Mazin Ghawazi dancers. Well, she has done it with BanatMazin.com.

This website is an online portal to Khairiyya’s classes music and more. Lessons can be arranged, live (virtual) music for events, and many many more things. Khairiyya is thrilled to have both an income and her legacy available to a wider world. Please do check it out, buy some stuff, and share. There is no social security in Egypt, especially not for dancers, especially not for Ghawazi. Thank you, Shining, for doing a great good in the world! BanatMazin.com


We’ve been talking about finishing work, but it can be just as hard to get started. For example, say you want to make a dance. What do you do first? There are so many things!

The music, the costume, the steps, the concepts–! What comes first?

It depends upon the project.

Usually we find a song we like, and we start there, listening to the music and choosing steps to go with it. The RakSultana dancers, for example, chose a song they liked. Their normal routine would have been to put steps and staging to it, but they had been paired with me as a choreographer for the BellyDance Blossom Festival. We explored what they felt from the music, what imagery came to them. A story emerged, and the dancers found characters and substories within the music, The staging suggested it self, as did much of the movement. The result was unique and surprising.


Sometimes it happens differently.

For example, the lovely Australian dancer Rachel Bond is a graduate of CDA (the program that preceded MD5). She was in a project where each participant was given a Major Arcana Tarot Card, and asked to make a dance that expressed that card. In that case, the concept came first.

Rachel got–The Emperor. The hard part was finding music–and a connection to the card. Once she found a song she liked, she went deeply into the music and herself to find the connections between the music and her own journey to authority.


For myself, the music usually comes first–because t moves me in some way, suggests something that I want to express. I make the dance around the content that the music suggests to me. For one pice, though–Medea–I was researching the myth to write a play. At the same time, I was listening to the Hany Mehenna’s epic vintage song Mash’aal on repeat, as I loved it and wanted to do something with it.

One day I was walking along, listening to Mash’aal, and it hit me–the entire myth of Medea fit perfectly into the song! It was like those ads when the peanut butter and chocolate crash into each other. The dance came quickly because the entire piece had meaning. I wish I had a video fo the piece to share, but there is none. Maybe one day I will revive it. But here is the original version of Mash’aal.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKkmMds6dDM

So there are many ways to start making a dance.

But sometimes you want a little help.

One way to get some help is through How to Make a Dance in Five Days (MD5). It starts this Sunday, May 22, and runs for two weeks, so you will have plenty of time and support to get your dance made.


I’ve been getting some questions about MD5, so I thought I would share them here.

Question: How many hours of study is there in How To Make A Dance In 5 Days?
A. It’s not that there is so much study, like hours of video. Each day, there is

  1. A process piece–for example, mapping out your chosen music, with several models for doing that, along with a demo, and
  2. A dance étude to help contextualize and practice the process piece–for the example above, you might dance the map that you create.
  3. Me, checking into the course to answer questions, advise, and troubleshoot.

There is an hour long audio recording for each day discussing that days process piece. There are also extra resources for each day. So there is some time there. These are optional, but helpful. There will also be a couple of open Office Hours each week, where you can hop on Zoom with me and ask questions directly.

The various process pieces take different times for different people, so its hard to quantify. I’d say consider allocating two hours per day (which you might not need), OR plan on using the whole 2 weeks and giving 2 days to each section. We also take a day off during the week, so there is time to get back on track.


Q. This isn’t a standard pre-videoed class? How is the class created?

This course is fully coached over a two week period. This means I am there every day to advise, assist, troubleshoot, and celebrate.  It has daily process pieces with resources, prerecorded conversations about the tasks, and practice elements. 

It’s hard to do all this in a week, plus many elements might be unfamiliar to people. Originally, this was the final piece of a 3-month dance composition course, so it’s pretty in-depth. MD5 goes beyond placing a bunch of steps in a row. Hence the two-week window. Folks can join anytime through the first week, and have specific individual, personalized support through the process. Also you will still have the class after 2 weeks, it will just be self-led at that point.

For anyone who wants to get their dance done, this is a great opportunity.

The system we use is quite robust–dancers who have already been through the program continue to use it, and I make all my dances this way.

If you’d like to make unique dances that suit you, that showcase your passion and joy, that your guests will love, this is the place for you.

Come check it out! There is even a sliding scale price.

https://alia.teachable.com/p/make-a-dance-in-five-days

With all my love,
Alia

Aaand here’s a whole lotta Tito Seif, just for you

Finishing School–Finishing’s Cool ; )

Elbi's watch says she's LATE!

Before we get going, here is something really great for belly dance: Middle Eastern bellydance. Variations, styles, nomenclature. Wednesday 18 May 2022 at 17:00 Cyprus time (10amEDT). CID is the dance arm of UNESCO. A MAJOR world heritage organization highlighting our dance! This is HUGE. I encourage all dance professionals to attend! Click here to learn more.

Now back to our regularly scheduled article ; )


The spring semester at the college where I work closes this week. Semesters have ends, and you are done whether you’re ready or not. Seasons, too. It’s spring here now (finally), and the plum trees are just leafing out. Summer will come and go, fall, winter–there are these natural rhythms in the world. As there are in human lives, and in our creative processes, starting things, and finishing them.

Or do we?

It depends…

Some writers, for example, crank out a novel a year, or even more. It took me four years to write Midnight. It took Michael Crichton 20 years to write Sphere (and 8 for Jurassic Park). Ralph Ellison took 40 years to write Juneteenth, and passed away before he finished. All of these are wins–I read recently that 97% of writers never finish their novel. Yikes!

Okay, so what does this have to do with dance?

Creative folks often struggle to finish their work. We start things, and they get hard, and we lose steam, and…. um…

Yeah. Nada. Zip, zero, zilch.

I was at a talkback with screenwriters a few years ago. Two things folks said really stuck with me. Michael Arndt, screenwriter of Little Miss Sunshine (which is hilarious), said. “Finish what you start.”

Easier said than done.

What does it take to finish work?

Deadlines help. Oh yeah. We can adrenaline up and crank something out when the chips are down and a grade, paycheck, show is on the line. For me, and maybe for you, it has to real–self-imposed deadlines, meh–I need some external accountability to kick me into high gear. For example, the 30-day time-frame of National Novel Writing Month helped me complete two novels!

As dancers, we often have deadlines for shows. We have to send in our song by X date (which means we have to pick a song, which is hard enough–never mind finishing a dance!).

Some of us just show up and dance–improvisation is a wonderful thing ; ). But others of us have an exacting and often fraught relationship with dancemaking, agonizing over every second of the music–this move or that one? And even improvisers may want some structure for their dance–a context, a story, a series of stage patterns–we’ll wing it, but we also like some structure.

And we don’t always have deadlines.

Sometimes we make things for ourselves–A book. A new class, a dance, dress, picture, desk, chair, stained-glass lampshade–whatever. And even when we do have a deadline (hello tax return day), who needs all that anxiety?

How do we reliably make things without the external pressure/adrenaline addiction of deadlines?

At that same panel discussion, a woman writer, whose name escapes me (sigh), said, “Writing equals ass plus chair.” She didn’t coin this (Stephan King did), but it was the first time I heard it. And this is how completion happens. Let’s broaden this a bit.

Creativity=ass+chair.

It takes Time and Focus to make creative work.

Time has to be set aside, made special, because Focus takes Time.

Recently I have been enjoying an “AM Bookend.” When I get up in the morning, I don’t open my phone. I don’t check my email. I don’t even read a book (!). In fact, I stash my phone the night before, so I will be less tempted. I get up, wash up, do my morning things, and eat breakfast looking out the window (instead of at my phone). I visualize my Glorious Self for the day’s tasks, and then I get to work.

No inputs until the day’s most important creative work is done.

The less sleep I’ve had (I have a PM bookend, too), the sooner I flag/crash/burn, so those early day moments are key.

My brother’s early morning is around 3pm. Like many folks, he works 9 to 5–that’s 9pm to 5am. When you get up isn’t the issue–the designated Focus Time is (and okay, yes, the body does seem to want to sleep at night and that’s better for it, but we make do with what we have).

So how does it work?

I make my to-do list the night before–and I don’t add things the next day (well, sometimes–but I avoid it). So each morning I don’t have to decide what to do–I have a plan. I just get straight to Number One. Today it was this article. Last night I chose what to write about. This morning, I knew what I wanted to do, so I drew the above picture. Then I started writing. And here we are.

This is how I finished Midnight, too. I got up at 5am every day, before anyone else was up. I protected that time. I sat down and I worked.

I invite you to try it. It is popular among creative folks because it‘s effective.

The other most useful thing I’ve found is daily accountability. We’ll talk about that (and creative fallow periods) next week.

With all my love,
Alia

PS If you’ve got a dance to make, or just feel like making one for fun, I invite you to join How to Make a Dance in FIVE Days! Registration is now open! The class will be available from May 22 through June 4. I’ll be around through that time to support, advise, and cheerlead!

PPS if you’ve had issues completing work, and you’d like to resolve this, please email me. I have a project that might interest you.

Your Glorious Dance Self

Your glorious dance self

Back in the day when everyone had to have a dance name, I thought about making one for myself. I already have a perfectly good Arabic name (being SWANA), but part of the dance name thing was separating one’s dance identity from one’s every life. Safety being one of the concerns, also sounding more glamorous (and sounding more “ethnic,” now regarded as brownface, kinda racist, and best avoided*). However,

Safety and glamour are entirely legit–scads of performers have stage names, authors have pen names, and they can make a big difference in our sense of confidence as artists.

So I was wondering about a stage name for myself. I love my name, Alia–it means sublime, exalted–“the high clear place at the top,” my mom told me. But you know, the safety and everything. So I thought about borrowing my cousins’ name–AbuSamra. Talk about Glamour!

Alia AbuSamra!

But then I thought about keeping track of two names (I can barely keep track of the one I have). And I thought about divorcing my dance self from the rest of my life-accomplishments. And I though about how much more glam Alia AbuSamra would be than I am. I did not want to be jealous of myself, and I wanted to own all my facets, so I let it go.

Recently, I have been thinking about her again….

During Secret Stories, and now Mix n Match, we’ve been playing a lot with different qualities–of movement, but also of attitude–ways of being.

Confidence is a big issue for dancers.

Part of it is the way we’re often taught. We squint into the mirror and criticize ourselves–constantly. We tend to look at what’s wrong, and how we can fix it, generally by developing an ever-more rigid focus on technique. On top of this, we endure an unending deluge of media messaging telling us just how we do not make the cut–too fat, too skinny, not pretty, young, shapely, smart enough–need this cream, that blush, deodorant, shapewear, and so on, day after day after month after year.

It’s no wonder we doubt ourselves.

So how can we increase our confidence?

Part of the problem is that we bring our squinting, criticizing, fault-finding, terrified self to the party. Because that’s the only dance self we’ve ever had, that’s who shows up.

What if it were Alia AbuSamra who showed to dance? Or Aphrodite? Or Astarte, the Phoenician goddess of love, sex, war, and hunting? Or Elena Lentini, the goddess of Oriental dance? Or Taheyya Karioka?

It starts to get interesting, doesn’t it?

Richard Wiseman, author of The As If Principle, reviewed study after study, all of which show that behavior creates emotion. For example, when folks act as if they are cheerful, they start to feel cheerful. So if I started to act as if I were my mythical Alia AbuSamra, I would start to feel like her–to become her. I wouldn’t have to be jealous of her–she would be my secret! And I could BECOME her, as I practiced embodying her qualities.

When we act as if we are Taheyya–embodying our sense of her–we start to feel like her too. We start to embody that mindspace. We start to become it.

I’ve been diving into the research in this and other areas as we explore these qualities of being in the FUN classes. They’re like Secret Identities. We’re having a lot of fun with them–and not just for dance.

Superman has Clark Kent.

Selina Kyle has Catwoman.

Who might you have? Imagine who could show up in other areas of your life!

I’m thinking about a 3-4 month coaching/course to develop and field some Secret Identities.

I wonder if that might be interesting for you. A deep dive with monthly accountability, email updates, and lots of opportunity for exploration and test-driving, reporting back, tweaking–and reveling!

What would you like to see in a course like that? What would make it work for you?

As you ponder that, I invite you to try it out. Act as if you are your heart’s idol!

Please let me know how it goes.

Reply to this email, or comment on the Blog!

Love,
Alia

PS it’s Recital Season again!

Wouldn’t you love to show up to your recital with a mesmerizing dance you made yourself? Without all the frustration and tears?

You can!

Announcing

How to Make a Dance in FIVE Days!

From entrance to applause without setting a single step
Learn a time-tested, systematic approach to dance composition that you can use over and over again.

MD5 opens Sunday, May 22 through Saturday, June 4th. I’ll be monitoring the forum during that time to answer your questions and help troubleshoot any roadblocks that arise.

I invite you to have a look, and see if MD5 is a good fit for you:
alia.teachable.com/p/make-a-dance-in-five-days


*Of of course, if you have a vintage Eastern dance name, please go right ahead with it. Currently we can do better, but anyone who already has an established name, kinda gets grandmothered in ; )