How to Make the World Better-by dancing

Can recipes make you more creative?

When I was a kid, any time my Mom and I wanted to cook something new, we hauled out all our favorite cookbooks and found as many versions of the recipe as we could (there was no internet back then <gasp!>, so yeah, cookbooks). 

We read them all, chose those we liked, and noted what was consistent between them. Then we mixed and matched everything else to come up with our own, custom recipe. 

Damn, we made some great food. 

That early mix-n-match experience made me a confident cook. And it colored my outlook on pretty much everything. With a little prep, I could make whatever I did my own. 

This is also how I have approached belly dance.

It has made me open to a wide variety of influences. The foundation has come from the cookbooks–er, the tried-and-true dance experts from whom I have learned over time–what do they say that is consistent, and what is personal style? 

The first time I went to Egypt in 2004, I attended the Ahlan wa Sahalan festival. One of the things that pleased me there was realizing that I interpreted the music much the same way the Egyptian dancers did. I understood their choices. It was a nice validation. Over the course of writing my book, I took pains to analyze what made the dance Eastern and to clarify the differences between Eastern and Western artistic priorities.

In many ways, I was fortunate that I did NOT have a Western dance background. I had no dance instruction to speak of before I came to belly dance–with the exception of Twist lessons with Chubby Checker on television waaay back in the day. I’m pretty sure Chubby’s freestyle approach didn’t hurt, either ; ).

As I wrote Midnight, I also realized we have a problem here in the West. We have built a model of belly dance classes (whereas folks of the culture learned from family and friends). So we have students who want to show their work. They want a product, something the can take home and show off. So we make dances for them. And it’s only gotten worse. In the competition circuit, dances are choreographed down to the last wink and smile. They are the exact same, every single time. But there is a problem.

At its heart, our dance is improvised.

How do we reconcile East and West?

In the book, I made a list of what I found to be the essential elements of the dance. Here it is.
(You can read the entire first chapter, which includes this list, here: https://payhip.com/b/a1Qp).

  • The foundation movement vocabulary, hip drops, shimmies, undulations, etc.
  • Micromovement, the modulation of a movement’s size, shape, direction, speed, and force to better fit the dancer’s mood and the music
  • Improvisation to improvised (preferably live, preferably Eastern) music or loose choreography/structured improvisation that can be changed or modified to each situation
  • Expression of the dancer’s physical and emotional feeling in the moment, including playfulness and fun
  • Embodiment of the principles and values of Oriental music (more on this later in the chapter)
  • The Eastern music with which this dance has evolved. You can have all of the above with other music, but the music and dance go together, and they make special magic together.

The more of these principles we include in the mix, the closer we get to the soul of the dance. So where does choreography figure in? Belly dance at its heart is an improvised solo dance form. But even solo dances are now rigidly choreographed, every wink and nod the same every time. To me, there is a Trifecta of Oriental dance mastery. Here it is.

The Feeling in the Moment, Same but Different, and Bring the Joy.

My long-term goal is an improvisational dance company. But my short-term goal has been, how to bring these principles into set dances? Because choreography is here to stay. So what do we do with it?

I have always been drawn to theatrical dance–most of the dances I made had meaning in them. Though meaning in Oriental dance comes with the feeling from the music in the moment, Egyptian film choreographers, already practicing with Western models, lavished theatrical dances on the films they made. So I considered this a suitable precedent. Choreography is Western meaning in art is Western, but how could I use these few Western elements, yet stay true to the soul of the dance?

I developed a systematic approach to dancemaking that took into account all the above issues. I wanted dances that were wonderful to dance and wonderful to view.

I began building improvisational frameworks that had something to say–while staying true to the dance’s core principles. I could choose stage patterns and a backstory without tying myself to exact steps (and I could throw them away if I pleased). The results were amazing. So I decided to share them. You are invited to a Webinar!

How to make a Dance without Steps

Yup. No need to agonize over setting steps. More fun to make, more fun to dance. Takes about an hour. Really.

How does this make the world a better place?

When we see joyous art, we feel that joy within ourselves. When we create joyous art, we free our ourselves–and our guests–from cares and pain. Even if only for a little while, everyone gets a vacation from everyday stress. It is a valid calling, to heal ourselves and the world.

Let’s do that. Here’s how.

Live WebClass

Wednesday, January 23, 2019
7-8 PM EST
Register here: https://bellydancesoul.webinarninja.com/live-webinars/78875/register
YES, there will be a recording.

See you then!

Love,
Alia

The Bellydance Bundle is Live

It’s time. 
The Bellydance Bundle is live.

Over $1300 worth of belly dance resources. Over 25 contributors. Over 85% off. The bellydance bundle is available for for one week only.

All the courses have been revealed.

It’s a wonderful collection! I’m VERY excited about Embodiment, the six-week musicality for belly dance class I made for the Bundle. It’s great for dancers and it’s great for teachers–you can use these methods in your own classes. Embodiment has a value of $95 all by itself–half the cost of the entire Bundle.
http://aliathabit.com/bundle

You can see all the yummy goodness on the bundle website. I hope that you will consider buying the Bundle. It is an excellent resource, with top-notch contributors. 

I invite you to buy from me ; )
http://aliathabit.com/bundle

Thank you!

Love,
Alia 

PS yes, you will get a lot of emails for the Bundle. Pick your preferred provider, open an Incognito window in your browser, and use their link. I invite you to use mine ; )
http://aliathabit.com/bundle

http://aliathabit.com/bundle

The BellyDance Bundle is Back!

Dear friends,

27 contributors. $1000 worth of belly dance madness. Over 80% off!

This innovative package of wonderful dance classes, tutorials, and so forth, got a lot of attention last year with good reason. It is well-designed and a great value.

This year Bundle purchases will be giving back directly to the dance community and will also be supporting the SEEDS program run by Myra Krien with each sale! At least $5 of every sale will go to helping dancers in need, and to help support young women through the ATS dance community.

I love the Bundle because Tiffany does such a great job. I’m happy to be part of it. It helps me reach new folks and helps me make some money while I do it.

How does the Bundle work?

We contributors donate our courses to the Bundle. Each of us is also a partner is the program. We provide the Bundle to you, and we get a commission on each sale we make. This is the way we get paid.

You’ll probably get Bundle offers from several dancers you know and love. We apologize for the repeats, but it will only be for a short time. And you can choose whose link you use.

My contribution to the Bundle

This year, I’m making a whole new course for the Bundle. Here’s a sneak peek:

Belly dance is all about expressing the music–but how do you do that when it doesn’t even make sense? Wouldn’t you love to feel confident and sure of yourself—and your dance?

You can!

Announcing

Embodiment: Musicality for Oriental Dance

A six-week self-paced course by Alia Thabit

In this course, students will learn musical structure; explore rhythm, melody, and phrasing; and practice improvisational templates so they can bask in joyous expression.

Week 1: Demystifying the Music

Week 2. Understanding Rhythmic Structure

Week 3. Dancing on the Melody

Week 4. Interpretation and Texture

Week 5. Using Combo Templates

Week 6. How to Float–and Land

Each week includes conceptual breakdowns, musical assignments and a dance études, along with video examples, handouts, and song suggestions.
Value: $95

Included FREE with the Belly Dance Bundle!

Pretty cool, huh?

Links go live September 1. That’s when the site gets updated.

Here are my links for the NEW Bundle offers and some nice free gifts!

The Belly Dance Bundle:
Check out all the cool stuff in this year’s Bundle:
https://aliathabit.com/bundle

Prezzies!
These well-designed Guides do ask for your email address.
Free Guide: Figuring Out What To Practice (updated)
https://aliathabit.com/Bundle-Practice-Guide

Free Guide: 21 Day Practice: 
https://aliathabit.com/Bundle-21Day-Guide
I invite you to visit and share these links.

With love,
Alia

How to be Ineffably Cool (+ Fall Calendar)

One of the great dance films is Dr. Magda Saleh’s documentary, Egypt Dances. Dr. Saleh was Egypt’s first prima ballerina; she made the film in the 70s as part of her doctoral studies. It is splendid, a cross section of local dance all over Egypt. One of my favorite sections is when she interviews this shamadan dancer I cannot remember her name). Dr. Saleh said that she tried on the shamadan and her head couldn’t stay upright—the thing weighed a good 40 pounds.

This dancer told Dr. Saleh that back in the day, all the dancers were very large—so large that they could not dance standing up. Instead, they danced seated. And she gives a demonstration.

Yeah, it’s cool.

So how about dancing seated today? Sit in a comfy chair, put on some nice rolly music and kick back. See what happens.

Love,
Alia

Here’s some fun debke music for your seated boogie!

Egypt Dances is at the Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library. When you are in NYC, you can go there and watch it. It is worth the trip. And the rest of library isn’t half bad, either. They also have Bobby Farrah’s company performance, I think at Riverside church, and many more cool things. More about the film here: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/30153e10-f879-0130-94b7-3c075448cc4b

And more about shamadan dancing here:  https://www.casbahdance.org/raks-al-shemadan-candelabrum-dance/

And more about Dr. Saleh, who is pretty cool herself: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/13/arts/dance/egypt-ballet-magda-saleh.html

AND even more about our Fall Calendar…

We’ve got a few things going on this fall–

Wednesdays, Sept 19-Dec 5. 5:30-8:30 PM
Middle Eastern Dance and Culture, a 3-credit college class at Community College in Newport VT.
Info is here: https://andromeda.ccv.vsc.edu/Learn/Grid/SectionDetail.cfm?SEC_NAME=DAN-2210-VN01&grid=Fall.

Monthly Live Classes at Raq-On Dance Studio VT/NH
Monthly Streamed Classes via Zoom
Dates/Prices TBA

Sept 23-Nov 3
Effortless Improv, a Six-week Online Improvisation Crash Course
A forum-based course with daily exercises and accountability. More at aliathabit.com/effortless
Premium Earlybird Pricing (until Sept 17): $158.73 (full price $186)
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=Q2XV486HPF4E8

Oct 1
The Belly Dance Bundle Returns!
I’ll be making a class on Musicality for Belly Dance. More soon!

Oct 12-14
Vending Midnight at the Crossroads at Rakkasah East
Come see me dance, too–Sunday at 1:48pm

Nov 4-Dec 8
Glorious: A Five-Week Course about the Five-Part Routine
Each week we will: Highlight one part of the routine. Dance through an entire routine (different every time). Each class will be recorded. Each recording will be available for one week. There will also be a Q&A video/phone conference each week. Students will learn structure, moods, and technique, as well as practice improvising through the routine. Trust the Chef Premium Earlybird Pricing (until Sept 23): $69 (full price $99).
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=WGXCTY2AW22LW

Special Super Early Deal: Buy both Effortless and Glorious for $219 (full price $249).
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=J6TXSY3DF6WXN

The 90 Days is coming (and other updates)

I’ve been noticing how many things get to a point where it seems everything is falling apart–but then they don’t. It’s become such a thing that when I start to feel the chaos swirling, I remind myself that this happens every time, to just stay my course and things will come back together.

Of course, sometimes it all goes to hell, but most times this works. For example, the 90 Days. It took three rounds for me to notice that around a certain day, something happened–usually some criticism–that threw me off my game. The first time, I was destroyed. The second time wasn’t much better. The third time, I thought, wait a minute. I have been here before…

That’s when I went back and looked at the first two times. And realized the timing was almost to the day. I’m sure it will happen this time, too. But hopefully this time I will be able to see it as a natural phenomenon, and recover more quickly.

Speaking of the 090 Days–and of noticing, here is the Day 20 Love Note of the 2015 90 Days (and then some upcoming events–and some changes ; )

Why the Dog Shit Moment signals change 

What’s that smell?
We’ve all been there. By that time, it’s too late. There is dog poop on our shoe, our carpet, everywhere. We scrub and curse, vowing to be more careful.

What, again?
More cursing, more scrubbing. But this time, maybe before we get home…

Nooo, DANG!
Just at the moment of impact, we realize. Too late, but only just.

Whoa! Just step back.
Now we are getting somewhere. Just before the foot goes down, we see it coming, and we have time to to stop, reverse gears, pull back, and step away.

That’s dog shit, and I’m not going there.
Change has truly come. We see it, note it, and steer clear.

Where is the dog shit in your life? 

Is it a person? An interaction? A relationship pattern? Where are you at in the continuum? Do you see it coming, or do you only notice the smell after you’ve stepped?

Change is coming.

You can do this.

Love,

Alia

Music: Rose Royce: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OB21STOdak

C & C Music Factory https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJz6rHYSGUc

Now back to our updates ; )

Recently I noticed  I had tracked some crap into my life. I scheduled three challenging things all together in one month. Almost on the same day. Here they are.

  • Amity and Alia’s Awesome Retreat
  • The worldwide release date for Midnight at the Crossroads: Has belly dance sold its soul?
  • 30 Midnights: a 30 Day Challenge based on Midnight at the Crossroads: Has belly dance sold its soul? 
  • The 90 Day Dance Challenge.

I think you can see what a terrible idea it is to do all of these at once. So I asked for help. Amity came to my rescue, telling me how to re-order the events. Here they are:

Amity and Alia’s Awesome Winter Retreat, Feb 10-11 in Lyme, NH.

This is going to be a wonderful event in a lovely place, and it’s all inclusive–meals, a room, even a chair massage! There are only 10 spaces left, and there’s a deal on the page so do take a look: aliathabit.com/awesome-winter-retreat

Midnight Worldwide Release, Feb 10

That’s when the print book goes live on BN.com, Amazon, and so forth. (Also BN has a very nice nice preorder price and a great price for the Nook version of the ebook).

The 30-Midnights book challenge, Monday, February 12, 2018 to Tuesday, March 13th. 

This 30 days thing is going to be pretty cool, different from the 90 days. It will give us time for a deep dive into the book and set the stage nicely for the 90 Days (thanks to Gudrun for this title <3).

This challenge is free for anyone who signs up for the 90 Days by Feb 10 (and for those who backed the book’s Kickstarter). This and an ebook of Midnight are a bonus for joining the 90 Days before Feb 10. Register for the 90 Days here: 90DayDanceParty.com

The 90 Days will begin Saturday March 17th and run to Thursday, June 14th.

This is our flagship course, and it’s a winner. It’s also ridiculously cheap for all you get–three months of daily attention and support, Love Notes, and a chance to bring your dance way beyond the next level. Check out the 90 Days here: 90DayDanceParty.com

Thank you for your trust in me. Thank you for supporting this work. It is my pleasure and honor to dance with you.

Love,
Alia

 

Why Belly Dance is like–the Matrix?! (and how to get your red pill)

In the iconic film, The Matrix, Neo is offered a choice: The blue pill or the red pill?

The blue pill lets you stay in the cave, living an illusion of life. The red pill–ah, that’s another story. The red pill means opening your eyes to hidden things. It changes your life. Awakens you. Frees you from illusion.

Belly dance is like this.

In belly dance, we have the well-known Westernized version of the dance–stylized, flashy choreographies with an emphasis on appearance and athleticism. There is drilling, a push to perform, and a perfectionist agenda. That’s the blue pill. The illusion. So what is the red pill?

The belly dance red pill is the lesser-known Eastern version of the dance. It values feeling, playfulness, improvisation, and joy. It makes everyone beautiful. It heals pain, brings pleasure, and lights up  the world. No, we don’t get to stride through the lobby blasting high-tech weapons into jackbooted guards. But we don’t have Agent Smith out to get us, either.

And there is one other difference. The Matrix red pill led to a harsher, more dangerous reality. The belly dance red pill leads to a more loving, compassionate life.  We get to enjoy our dance more–and bring joy to others.

Um, no brainer, right?

 

Take the Red Pill, Neo

Take the red pill.

Here are a few red pills for your consideration…

Midnight at the Crossroads: Has belly dance sold its soul? is one giant red pill. It shows the differences between Eastern and Western mindsets, the surprising benefits to Eastern style, and practical strategies for embracing soul of the dance. Find out more at bellydancesoul.com.

The 90-Day Dance Party Challenge is three full months of red pill. It’s a daily dose of inspiration, improvisation, and illumination. It’s available right here: aliathabit.com/90Days/

And to kick it off, how about Alia and Amity’s Awesome Winter Weekend? Another red pill, it’s a two-day all-inclusive retreat, February 10-11, filled with dance, friends, food, and fun. Check it out at   aliathabit.com/awesome-winter-retreat

And the Whole Red Pill Enchilada?

Get the Retreat and the 90 Days and get a SUPER EARLY FREE BONUS: a signed print copy of midnight ($45 value) PLUS a month of Alia’s Kickass Creativity Coaching ($185 value). Red Pill your Life!

Kickass coaching includes

  • 1 hour introductory phone/skype VIP Intensive
  • Goal setting, support, and accountability
  • Weekly email exchange
  • 30-minute wrap-up phone/skype call
  • Any month in 2018

WOW!

The Whole Enchilada:

  • Amity and Alia’s Awesome Winter Retreat ($275)
  • Alia’s 90 Day Dance Challenge ($100)
  • A signed print copy of Midnight at the Crossroads: Has belly dance sold its soul? ($45)
  • A month of VIP Kickass Coaching ($185)

That’s $605 worth of awesomeness for only $375.

Click here:

But only for 10 people (or until the Retreat sells out, whichever comes first).

Just call me Morpheus ; )

Love,

Alia

Updates and good news!

I’m delighted to announce that there will be a 90 Day Dance Challenge beginning on Feb 11, 2018 and ending on World Belly Dance Day, May 12, 2018. Daily Love Notes, weekly videos, and a FB group for support and friends. Sign up info in the fall; we’ll have plenty of time to spread the word. Thank you for all your patience!

 

I’m looking into teaching a 6-8 week local class in STJ (or maybe Hardwick), for those of you who live around here. Thinking about Friday afternoons at 4, starting in late Sept and ending mid November. Also thinking about streaming a live class again, in a similar time period (but different day and time). Hit me up if you’re interested.

 

Finally, I’ll be part of a very cool event this October. It’s still in the planning stage, but it involves a LOT of cool stuff from a LOT of cool people–please take a minute to check it out: aliathabit.com/bundle

More soon!

All my love,
Alia

Review of Dunya’s Summer Movement Monastery

Coming at the end of a difficult year, the Summer Movement Monastery, shone like a precious jewel in my mind’s eye. It was my last chance at release and renewal. After the previous SMM, I hadn’t wanted to yell at anyone for a good month–this year I hoped for more.

Summer Movement Monastery (SMM) happens at Ravenrock.

That’s Dunya’s retreat on top a mesa in New Mexico. It’s nearest town in Las Vegas (not the one in Nevada). The air is dry. It rains for a while almost every day, often spectacular thunderstorms. But then the sun comes out again. It’s 7,000 feet up, wide open, flat, turfed with scrub and cactus punctuated by clumps of piñon pine and cedar.

There are sometimes bears on the mesa (we’ve never seen one), and rattlesnakes (seen several, though not this year). The steep road is a series of impossible switchbacks, some of them on bare rock. The earth is red clay, which turns to sucking mud after a rainstorm. Most cell phones work, somewhat, somewhere. There is no electricity, though there is a solar charger. There is a privy in a tent. We sleep in tents. There is cold running water, by virtue of hand cranked pumps, cached from the many rainstorms.

None of this matters.

The view off the rim matters.

The bones of the earth, jutting up from the red clay. The stillness. The light. The brilliant lichen clothing ancient stones. After dinner, we often gather on the porch and relax, laugh, watch the sunset, the stars. The stars at night are brilliant. It is always chilly after dark. At breakfast, which is silent, the sun warms us. Each day is a gift.

Arriving this year felt sweet, so sweet. The land is gracious, spacious, soothing, welcoming. I felt more grounded at once. Stepping into the studio–a red corrugated metal barn on the outside, a warm, secure space on the inside–felt like coming home.

Practice matters.

Every day, two sessions, several hours long. But they fly. I am a clock watcher. Not at SMM. It is always over sooner than I think. There are so many things. Following, Slow Movement, breath practices, chanting, various layers of attention to various body parts. Always marvelous music. Always the others, the group, engaged, present, peers. People who embrace this practice tend to be easygoing, smart, and fun. It’s a pleasure.

Dunya matters.

I’ve written about her before. You know the 90 Days is based upon her work. The work stands on its own, but Dunya’s decades of experience and deep understanding permeate everything here. It is her eye that chose this location, her power that invests it. When we did a modest fast, she knew simply by looking at our eyes if we should go another day or step out of it. She knows what she’s doing. It’s impressive, over and over again, to see her do it. She’s fresh from helping both parents move on from this earth, double hip replacements. This is a big deal, this SMM. She brought her A-game, speaking each morning with hair-raising clarity.

Her first commandment for the retreat was rest.

She read us this quote from the poet David Whyte that encapsulated our mission:

To rest is to give up on the already exhausted will as the prime motivator of endeavor, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals.

To rest is to give up on worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we are there to put it right; to rest is to fall back literally or figuratively from outer targets and shift the goal not to an inner static bulls eye, an imagined state of perfect stillness, but to an inner state of natural exchange.

The template of natural exchange is the breath, the autonomic giving and receiving which is the basis and the measure of life itself. … When we give and take in this easy foundational way we are closest to the authentic self, and closest to that self when we are most rested.

To rest is not self indulgent, to rest is to prepare to give the best of ourselves, and perhaps, most importantly, arrive at a place where we are able to understand what we have already been given. —David Whyte

For the first week I thought no thoughts and did as little as possible. We all have tasks to do each day, kitchen, privy, or space cleaning. We rotate through these details, a day or a few days on each. I did my tasks, ate simple food, practiced with the group for five hours each day, and took walks on the land. The rest of the time, I lay in a sun-dappled hammock amidst buzzing hummingbirds and read a marvelous 600+ page historical novel (Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen). It was exactly what I needed.

By the second week, I began to feel human again.

Like a normal person, with ideas, who could be silly, in a good mood. My body felt more cooperative. Though the weather was cold, rainy sometimes, my tent was dry, and the sun was out most of the time. The peace I feel in this place is unmatched in any other. Just sitting and staring off into the valleys, watching the colors shift, the far-off thunderstorms, seeing the sun play across the mesa feels profoundly worth while.

The work itself is deceptively challenging, but rewarding. Opening oneself to one’s inner workings is a messy business. It can engender tension and heaviness–contraction. This is mitigated by the quiet and grandeur of the land. Having a safe space to encounter difficulty helps bridge the process. Some days I felt withdrawn, even cranky. Others I felt happy and human. But the whole period is a process of becoming whole, of uncovering one’s true self.

Key concepts this year: Rest, Relaxation, Receiving, Reciprocity.

More about these in another newsletter.

I can’t remember how many SMMs I have attended. At least six. I keep coming back because there is nothing like it. Because I love how I feel, especially afterwards, so much more able to greet my life. So much more able to live in the moment. I always look better when I come home, and the benefits last a long time. I love the people, and I love the place. I’ll be there again this year. I hope you will check it out. Info is here: http://www.dancemeditation.org/movement-monastery/

Love,

Alia

PS If you’d like to sample something smaller, here’s Dunya’s events calendar: http://www.dancemeditation.org/events/

 

Happy Birthday, Bobby Farrah! (+Alia on Geek Clubhouse tonight)

 

Bobby Farrah1. Happy Birthday Bobby Farrah!

Many of you know that Ibrahim “Bobby” Farrah is one of my major influences. I attended his classes in NYC often several times a week for several years. One of the things I have become aware of over the course of writing the book was just how well his teaching methods prepared me for improvisation and performance to live music. Here is a short piece I wrote for his neice, Tarifa Salem, for his birthday last year.

Bobby Farrah

What Bobby had was firstly a deep understanding of the soul of this dance. He realized the dance is about expression of the dancer’s feeling from the music, that it is about embodiment and timing more than steps or combos. He encouraged personal expression and style in all of his classes. But he did so much more than this.

Bobby’s classes, especially in the early days, were models of learning science.

One of the hottest concepts in learning today is interleaving. This means that rather than sticking with one thing until you get it, you keep the brain always reaching. You do different things so the brain never knows what to expect. You cycle through things and make them different every time.

Bobby never repeated. You could go to his class three times in a week for two hours at a time (and I did). He never repeated. Every single time, he would do something completely different. There was a fairly consistent format of options—for example, a combination, traveling across the floor, following Bobby as he improvised—but it was never the same combo, the floor crossing was always different (and sometimes different for each person), and the impro—well, that, by its very nature, was different every time, even to the same music.

The result of all this multiplicity was that we learned.

We learned musicality, how to combine moves, how to transition between them, how to improvise, how to interpret music, how to compose, how to use a stage—without him ever having to say anything about it. And we learned how to present ourselves, even though we giggled to see Bobby swan across the floor, beaming at himself in the mirror. We learned. It was hard, but it was worth it.

Even in his later years of choreography, the dances were deceptively simple. They embodied this deep understanding. They didn’t beat the music to death. They made space for the dancer’s own special sauce. For her feeling. For the love she brought to the guests. For the expression and communication of her feeling.

You can tell a Bobby dancer by the way she uses the stage. He marked us all, in the best possible way. It took me years to realize what gift he had given us, what a world-class education I had received. It took watching a lot of dancers, many famous, and slowly realizing, Huh. I can do that. I get it. I see it.

Bobby taught me to own the dance.

He taught me that I had something to say. He taught me how to say it with dance. I am proud to carry on his legacy.

 

2. I’m delighted to be a guest tonight on Nadira Jamal’s Belly Dance Geek Clubhouse!

Every month, Nadira interviews a belly dance luminary about something cool, interesting, and useful. This time, it’s me.

We’ll be talking about how a performer’s emotional resonance enriches both herself and her guests.

Here’s Nadira’s description:

My guest, Alia Thabit, will talk about how the gift of sharing your feelings with your audience can enrich not only your performance, but their experience.

Imagine a world with less fear and detachment. A world with more joy and connection. 

As artists and performers, we have the ability to share our emotional responses to the music with the audience, inviting them into our experience. Amid the glamour, the flash, and the hip drops, we have the amazing power to spread joy and cultural understanding through our dance.

YOU’LL LEARN: 
– The power of dance as a personal practice
– The gift of connection in dance (for you and for the audience)
We’ll also have some discussion time, so you can ask Alia your questions.

LOGISTICS:  

This free call will take place TONIGHTMonday, February 27th at 8pm Eastern time.

To see that in your own time zone, visit:
http://bit.ly/2lhC25x

There will be a recording and Nadira generously makes these available to everyone. Clubhouse membership, however, does give you some great perks: you can join the monthly conversation live, get notification of call recordings, and an invite to join the private Facebook group where you can interact with each month’s guest (and fellow dancers from all over the world). If you are already a member of the clubhouse, check your email for the details. If not, it’s free and easy to join.

 

Thanks and see you then!

Love,

Alia

 

How to critique for confidence (or, “What the hell is this B?”)

Outdated Beliefs
Outdated Beliefs

 

 

A gal I knew was raised to believe that she mustn’t handle flowers when she had her period, because the flowers would die. I’m not kidding. People used to believe this. I was shocked to meet someone for whom this had once been a truth. We met in the first belly dance class I ever took, so she had finally figured out there was something wrong with that picture (and it is an easy test, after all).

Sadly, many of us are raised with equally outdated beliefs and models

And we never even think to question them.

One of the more dysfunctional models with which I was raised was the dismissal of anything done well, and a focus on what was wrong. For example, growing up, I never heard, “Oh, honey, four As. Nice work!” Nope. All I got was, “What the hell is this B?” So this is how I talked to myself, too.

My self-critique was vicious. I couldn’t watch a video of my own dance without wanting to die. I never saw the good of what I did. I felt anxious and insecure.

I see that same focus on what’s wrong in many of my dance friends and students. We have been brainwashed into thinking that we have to be perfect or stay home. Women especially are tyrannized by the expectation of perfection. That’s just a myth designed to keep us powerless. When we focus our critique on what’s wrong, we rob ourselves of confidence and accomplishment. When we focus on what’s right, we win.

Switching to what’s right builds confidence

In child-rearing, the productive model is to tell the kids what to do. Instead of saying NO all the time, you can say YES. Instead of “Don’t touch that!” you redirect the kid to what is okay for them to play with. This was a big shift. When I started teaching writing at the college level, I educated myself about how to teach, how to do critique. Wow. I learned a LOT. It changed me as a teacher and as a human being.

Focus on student success

I have been a teacher at some level since the early 80s, working first for Headstart and later as a Speech Language Assistant in the public school system. I now teach English Composition at the college level (and have for over 20 years), so I have to do a lot of critique.

It was a hard job to change this in myself, but it mattered a lot. I was a LOT nicer to my students than to myself,  but I still told them what was wrong with their work instead of what was right. It didn’t work very well–for me or them.

The main thing I learned is to emphasize everything students did right. I even developed rubrics with all the tasks so I could find more things to compliment. And I went one step further. When we discussed what needed improvement, I framed it as an action step—what to do, instead of what they had done.

For a dance example, to a student with good presence but sloppy, floppy hands, I’d say, “I love your shining presence. I’d love to see you bring that energy into your hands. What if you try this?” And I’d demonstrate. This worked. It worked with the writers and the dancers. It worked for me, too.

Yes, there is a lot of crappy dance out there

Is shaming dancers for their mistakes going to make it any better? What if we try another way? When dancers enjoy the pleasure of the movement and the moment, when they give themselves to the the dance, they have confidence–and their technique often improves organically.

Nothing is perfect. Everything has room to develop. This life is is about becoming, not being. We learn, we grow, we change. Otherwise, we are dead. We copy to learn, we take classes, study others, and practice. But there comes a time when we must hop out on the branch, flap our wings, launch ourselves, and fly. Taking such risks benefits us in so many ways, some understood and others yet to come.

Will our first efforts suck? Of course they will! Growth and learning include failure and revision. That’s how we learn—through trial and error, persistence, feedback, and trying again. Embracing process, identifying and correcting errors, this is key to improvement. Shame is not.

Let’s all learn how to reinforce the good, critique wisely, and model Eastern dance principles.

For more on how to do this, please check out aliathabit.com/dancers/focus-on-the-feeling. Registration is open now. There are only 25 seats. The price rises on August 17th. Please take a look right away.