Why Distractions are a Good Thing (and why dance makes a great distraction). 

We think we know what’s real and what’s not. But do we? 
 

The brain can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality. 

That’s why we can be frightened, even traumatized, by scary movies or video violence, why we weep at a heartwarming film (I cried my eyes out at Field of Dreams, big heaving sobs). This is all why we are so easily drawn into what the SE folks call the Trauma Vortex, all the roiling chaos connected to the various events that left us helpless and frozen, angry, or worse. 

But there is another vortex associated with trauma, and it is completely different, in its content and affect. It’s called the Counter Vortex. Like it’s name, it contains everything that counters the trauma—all our Resources, the strengths, skills, and other positives that got us through the traumatic event. And we did get through—because we’re alive to read this. 

We survived because of our our resources. 

But often those resources go uncounted, unacknowledged, unspoken, unseen. Part of wallowing in the good is about recognizing those resources and putting them to work. The Counter-Vortex includes all the dissociation and fluffy pink clouds—or the running like hell and murderous rage—or whatever else it took to survive the moment. Resources connect us to  organization—not of our closet space, but internally, the organization of a healthy nervous system. 

Trauma disrupts the nervous system, disorganizing it. Focusing on resources, on the here and now, on the good, helps us return to regulation (and if you want to think of old trauma like poop that has to come out for us to be regulated, you just rock on with your bad self ; ). 

The great part of regulating the nervous system and discharging trauma is that our capacity for regulation and recovery increases, every time we do so. It is like the way developing a Growth Mindset and struggling to learn challenging skills increases intelligence. Sign me up, right?  

So, what’s a good way to focus on resource? Making ART!

“Studies show that the arts help children regulate their emotions, a critical skill for well-adjusted children and adults. 

Infants who participated in a six-month active music group with singing and dancing had better emotional regulation behaviors than did infants in a passive music group, where music was played in the background while infants did other activities.”

Oh, who’s doing that? We are!

“In another study, children were asked to think of a past negative event. Some of those children then were instructed to draw a house to distract themselves; the other children were instructed either to draw the negative event or to copy another drawing. The children who drew to distract were better able to improve their mood compared to the other children.” https://www.arts.gov/news/2015/arts-and-early-childhood-development-focus-new-nea-research

A distraction is something that takes your mind off that damn red dot. And an equally important concept is that it’s OKAY to take your mind off the dot. We are often so caught up in suffering that we feel it is our duty to do so. Eff that. Our loved ones want us to be well. And our enemies? Living well is the best revenge. 

So?

Next time you feel down, I invite you go draw a house (or do some dance, or play some music, or, hell, just imagine you are ; )

Love,

Alia

PS today is the last day for the Create Dance Art bonuses (and the How to Make a Dance without Steps webinar). You still have a few hours to check them out. Here’s the link: https://bellydancesoul.webinarninja.com/live-webinars/78875/register/

Music! Here’s a playlist from Mahmoud Chouky, a wonderful young Moroccan musician currently living in New Orleans.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxKThGaF4nE&list=RDEMwf1hCQmZ-Sfjv-7d3UXRBg

How to have the most beautiful dance (yes, really)

Recently in my practice, I enjoyed playing with The Most Beautiful Move. As the music unspooled, I let random moves appear, marveling over each one as The Most Beautiful I Have Ever Done. Continuing to follow the music, I let more moves come, and each of them was the Most Beautiful. It occurred to me, as I dusted a cloud of shimmering love over each move, that I could step up to The Most Beautiful Dance I Have Ever Done. I wondered what that would be like…

Well.

Everything changed.

My posture changed—it became more lifted. My face changed. It became more more relaxed, engaged—dare I say benevolent? My chin came up, not high, but straight. It’s funny, that a normal, relaxed head position that brings the chin and face to level, should feel haughty. This is how beaten down we/I have become over the years. Just taking up our own space, allowing our bodies to uncompress and uncrimp, should seem haughty.

There was a study I heard about, decades ago, that measured how much women and men spoke in a conversation. Generally, the men spoke more. Oh, surprise ; ). But when a woman spoke as much as a man (an equal amount), everyone—men and women—perceived that the woman overshadowed the conversation, that she spoke far more than her fair share of time. I have no idea how sturdy or flawed this study was, but that sounds about right. And it is instructive.

Women in general are expected to shut up and let men talk. Let men do. Let men be the center of attention. Our dance reverses that. Despite every effort to subvert it into something done at the behest of men.

Our dance gives dancers agency, beauty, and joy.

So why do we still duck our heads and feel ashamed of our dance? In the West, at least, so many of us have been encouraged to never feel good enough. To hide our accomplishments. To believe that loving ourselves, believing in ourselves, expressing ourselves, is vain, arrogant, selfish. Our dance becomes an apology for taking up space. Or we are afraid to share our dance, thinking that we will be somehow shamed. Because we have been shamed so many times.

You know the adage, “dance like no one is watching”? I understand it’s supposed to make us feel free. But maybe it’s time to dance like someone is watching. Someone who loves us.

Ourselves.

It is time we love ourselves. Believe in ourselves. Express ourselves. It is time we bring joy into our dance.

So.

I invite you to dance The Most Beautiful Dance You Have Ever Done.

Indeed, I invite you to dance this every time you dance.

Understand–for this is vital—it is the feeling, the commitment, the conviction, that is important.

What you do doesn’t matter. How you do it, the intention, the love, the cherishing with which you do it–that is the important part. That is the beautiful part. To allow ourselves to feel beautiful, loving, joyous—and through us for our guests to feel the same—this is the gift of our dance.

Embodiment: Musicality for Oriental Dance helps dancers understand the music so they can relax and enjoy themselves. It’s just one of the many great classes available at two for 1+ over on the Sharegasm. You’ll find them all at https://aliathabit.com/holiday18

Love,
Alia

PS Here’s the music I used—Hashet from O. Faruk Tekbilek’s Mystical Garden. It’s almost 9 minutes. Feel free to play it twice. Then rest. That’s what I did ❤️
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SW4vJgaLvQ

What Dina Said II

Is belly dance like coffee? What does Dina think?

Back when I was a kid, you wanted coffee, that’s what you got. There wasn’t much choice. The only decaf was Sanka, and instant coffee was pretty much undrinkable. Now you go into a nice café, or even a small grocery store, and the assortment is dizzying. Coffee from Sumatra, Brazil, Columbia, East Timor, Bali, even Hawaii. There’s Fair Trade, Shade-Grown, Organic, light, dark, and medium roast—a stunning level of diversity.

Just like belly dance, right? Egyptian, American, Russian, Tribal, Fusion and on and on.

Right?

Well…

Dina said NO. 

This was at the Belly Dance Blossom Festival in May 2018. Dina Talaat (yes, the Dina) was a panel of one, taking questions from the audience.

Photo by Ken Dobb

We asked about the state of belly dance. “Is bad,” she said. “Every country takes belly dance for her own. Spanish belly dance, Russian belly dance. Is bad.”

“Is there Russian samba?” she asked. “No. Samba is samba. Why isn’t belly dance belly dance?”

“Samba is samba. Why isn’t belly dance belly dance?”

I had never really thought about this in such a way, but it makes sense. I’ve spent my time internalizing the big picture elements of belly dance—celebrating the feeling in the moment, incorporating the infinite variation of micromovement, and bringing joy. Everything else is window dressing– regional accent or personal style.

In addition, Dina’s point reminded of what Mo Geddawi had said at the same festival the previous year, when asked about a suitable name for belly dance. Egyptian dance, he said promptly. It comes from Egypt. Historically, when other Arab-speaking countries dance this dance, he explained, they call it raqs Masri—Masri being Arabic for Egyptian.

Dina (and Dr. Mo) want Egypt to get credit for this monumental addition to world culture. Even if Egypt herself is not willing to take the credit, even if, as she maintains, that raqs sharqi will never be the national dance of Egypt (Dina dismissed that hope with one word—Dream). Still, it’s from Egypt and that’s that. I can relate to that. So then we asked her, 

What is the number one foreign dancers mistake?

Dina said it’s that they don’t follow belly dancing. It’s not a style to mix, for example, Russian style. She said “Dancers go to Dubai and see hair dance, or erotic steps and mix that with belly dance. They call it belly dance. It’s not. Golden age dancers never used their hair like this. I’m different–but I do the same steps [as the golden age dancers]. To be different, you have to BE different, be you,” but the steps are the same. The dance is the dance.

“To learn belly dance for real is difficult,” she said, “but you have to do it, because you love this art and you have to do it real… Easy to dance and get money. To love this art, is not about money. It’s about the future of your art, where it’s going.”

What should beginners do?

Beginners should “learn technique first—torso (the hips and upper body), then take hands. Hands important, showing the step or moving the step. Don’t touch choreography before two years.” 

Dina’s ideas about teaching and learning really resonated for me. How many beginner classes start out with choreography? Most of them, right?

Mine don’t. When I teach beginners, we learn technique and improv and transitions. My Community College students can dance in 15 weeks. Yes, this dance takes your whole life, but they dance with more grace and confidence than lots of folks I see who’ve been dancing for years.

What is our responsibility as pro dancers?

“The new generation,” she said, “to teach them the truth of belly dance. This is Egyptian, this is the rules, 1 2 3 4, Oriental belly dance–and this–this is other thing. If you mix, it’s fusion. Call it fusion.”

And what do we call all our merging of belly dance with ballet, hip hop, kathak, and god knows what? What do we call that?

“Fusion,” she said. “Is a good word. Fusion.”

Okay. But where does this leave Turkish belly dance? 

Also Greek, Lebanese, and any other Near Eastern regional style?

Turkish dancer Birgul Beray from https://goo.gl/images/ZGPQqE

When Dr. Mo suggested Egyptian dance as a name, Yasmina Ramzy said, no, we can’t have that because we have Turkish etc.

Turkish stye is a fusion. But I believe it is also authentic. Here are three reasons off the top of my head.

  1. Turkish music is somewhat different–clarinet, influences, etc–so some of the dance differences are from representing the music, plus it’s regional accent, see below.
  2. The dancers there have a regional “accent” related to the local folklore and culture. I think that’s authentic, as everyone has that, no matter where they dance.
  3. The inclusion of Romani steps (and music). Here is where it’s mixing and now it’s fusion. And it is–though it is a venerable established thing. To me, it’s still belly dance.

Why? Leila Farid once told me that in Cairo, audiences expect a dancer to mix in some of the folklore from her native village. This is what the Romani dancers have done. So that’s authentic.

How is it different from us dancing the cancan to Peter Gunn in bellydance costumes? To me, that’s too many things that don’t go together. That’s clearly fusion (not to mention some hints of appropriation, depending on who what when where why).

Now, Dina or Dr. Mo might not agree with me.

They may well think that Turkish style is an abomination. The Ottomans did, after all, control Egypt for almost 300 years, and they are roundly disliked for it (which is why you don’t see much 9/8 in Egyptian music). And Egypt and Turkey have blamed each other for belly dance, neither willing to accept the blame (or credit) for being the originator of the dance.

But the Romani people are not Turkish. They are a separate ethnic group, an oppressed people who take on the styles of their oppressors to make a living from them. So they get special dispensation.

What’s the answer? Yes, you can certainly say it’s fusion, however it’s
A. Very old, and
B. the unique creation of an entire ethnic group. So I think we can still say Turkish style, just like we always have ; ).

And there you are.

Dina’s points make sense to me, especially having explored the differences between Eastern and Western values though writing Midnight at the Crossroads. Belly dance is a uniquely magical, healing, creative, expressive dance form–it deserves to be valued for itself.

Wikipedia says, “The native (undomesticated) origin of coffee is thought to have been Ethiopia, with several mythical accounts but no solid evidence. The earliest substantiated evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree is from the early 15th century, in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen,[1] spreading soon to Mecca and Cairo.”

So coffee is another thing, like belly dance, that comes to us from Africa. Clearly, there are some similarities. But everyone seems to be happy to let coffee become nativised in country after country. The thing with coffee, though, is that it’s still coffee, no matter where it’s grown. The species doesn’t change. It has regional differences due to terroir, but it’s the same plant. It’s the same stuff. 

Belly dance hasn’t always fared so well. When we see our dance through Western eyes instead of an Eastern perspective, we start to lose its most important attributes–feeling, improvisation, and joy. And then belly dance becomes something very different–stylized, externally focused, competitive, and performative. Yet, in its home environment it is internal, joyous, social, healing, and free. So in this way, it is unlike coffee. 

Both coffee and belly dance are are delicious and addictive. But if I drink too much coffee, I get a headache and my armpits stink. Too much Western culture does this, too. Belly dance never does that to me. So there’s that ; )

Over the years, I’ve developed classes that teach technique, improvisation, musicality, and composition from a clear Eastern perspective. Some of them are coming up (details are below), but whatever classes you take, or styles you dance, these are things to think about.
So let me know what you think ; )

Love,

Alia

PS I’m on Instagram!

@BellyDanceSoul, or instagram.com/BellyDanceSoul Come say hi!

And I’m enjoying the Bellydance Bundle’s #21DaysOfBellyDance Instagram Challenge. I did Day 1 so far. Check it out: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bnpc6WZgWNV/

My ridiculously cute Un-Drill video airs today on Instagram! It’s part of the Bellydance Bundle’s #21DaysofBellyDance. See it at https://www.instagram.com/p/BnrC4VqnexX/

Follow along—and get your free 21-Day Practice Guide right here: https://aliathabit.com/Bundle-21Day-Guide

Fall Calender

Sept 23-Nov 3
Effortless Improv, a Six-week Online Improvisation Crash Course
Want to improvise with joy and ease? You can! Effortless is a forum-based course with daily exercises and accountability. More at   aliathabit.com/effortless

Oct 1
The Belly Dance Bundle Returns!
Over $1000 worth of belly dance madness. 27 contributors. Over 80% off! I’m making a class on Musicality. See more at https://aliathabit.com/bundle

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. This is so fresh it doesn’t even have a sales page. Trust the Chef Premium Earlybird Pricing (until Oct 8): $69 (full price $99). Link goes straight to Paypal. Please copy and paste if the link is not clickable. 
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). Only until Sept 18. Link goes straight to Paypal. Please copy and paste if the link is not clickable. 
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=J6TXSY3DF6WXN

D78: Ou est la danse de ma tante?

“Ou est la plume de ma tante” is French for “Where is my aunt’s pen?”. It’s a classic sentence from old language-learning books.

It’s great to learn a new language. There are many challenges—the right accent, the inflections, everything you need to sound like a native speaker.

But if you only memorize sentences from the lesson book, even if you speak them beautifully, your communication will be limited. The purpose of language is communication—saying something. Having a conversation.

Dance is also a language—we have a vocabulary of movement. Sadly, our dance instruction is often limited to combinations and choreography—repeating the sentences in the lesson book. And worse, much of those choreos and combos have a nice cadence, but no meaning. They are attractive, but empty. Where is the communication? Where are the conversations?

This is our task. Build meaning into our dances. Have conversations with the music, with the musicians, with the audience. We do this through listening to the music, feeling what it tells us, and replying, moment by moment, with our bodies.

The world needs love. Through dance, we can say to the world every day, I love you.

Today’s music: Grateful Dead encore (and a fantastic resource of free music)  http://archive.org/details/gd1977-04-23.mtx.seamons.97596.sbeok.flac16

***
This one is Day 78 from the 90 Day Dance Challenge of 2012. This year’s 90 Days starts March 11th. In honor of this, I’m sending you a Love Note every day from now to the 11th, each one from a previous 90 Days.

Still time to join us. Will you please take a look? I’d love for you to join us. aliathabit.com/90days

Holding you close in my heart,
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

How to empower authenticity in performance

Last week, the toilet in my house backed up. It wasn’t the toilet, exactly, but some obstruction between it and the septic tank. Which hadn’t been pumped in over twenty-five years. Which is generally a Bad Thing, but it has worked perfectly all this time. The simple solution was to open the tank and snake backwards from there to break up the obstruction (and pump it, because, why not).

There was only one problem.

I only had the vaguest idea where that dang tank was (it had been decades since I last saw it). On top of that (so to speak), two feet of fresh, heavy, wet snow covered everything. We managed, but it took three guys several hours of intense effort to do the job. It would have been a lot easier if we’d known where to look.

Finding our authenticity is a lot like this.

We know we have an authentic self down there somewhere, but danged if we know where (or how) to find it. Why is that?

I wonder if it is connected to how the dance is currently taught.

Most of us are taught through choreography. We focus on how we look rather than how the dance feels in our bodies. We learn stylized versions of each move and copy the teacher as we fit them together in chains of movement. Chains is an apt metaphor here, because when we are constantly doing what we are told, what does that make us? Yeah. Not cool.

So what’s the alternative?

One of the key aspects of our dance is Agency. We belly dancers don’t need no stinkin’ badges. We are not anyone else’s to direct. We have all the power–we make all our own decisions in the moment. This is pretty heady stuff. But when all we do is pre-set choreography (even our own), we don’t have much time to engage with the moment–we are too busy remembering and executing an exact set of steps. For many of us, this pushes us away from power, confidence, and the authenticity that comes with them.

When we do our own creative heavy lifting, however, we regain our agency. We have creative control in the moment, at every moment. We become skilled improvisers. But improvisation often scares dancers raised on choreography. And why is that?

Perfectionism.

Perfectionism is the bane of our existence. Yeah, yeah, we all want things to be good. Blah blah. Whatever. I’m not talking about quality control. I’m talking about the serious problem of dancers hating on themselves to the extent that they are afraid to take the tiniest risk for fear of Making a Mistake.

Amity Alize owning the moment.

First off, there is no true learning without mistakes.

It just doesn’t happen. No one can be Little Miss Perfect all the time, try as we might. Remember that thing about omelettes and broken eggs? Yeah. Can’t have one without the other. There’s a reason it’s called a Comfort Zone. Going outside it is uncomfortable.

Though you may feel frustrated at first, after a while, you get used to the feeling of learning and start to welcome it. And yes, you can do all this on your own, but it’s nice to have (or be) a teacher who empowers students’ artistic growth. But how to do do that?

Teachers empower authenticity by providing Opportunity, Scaffolding, and Practice of creative agency.

This means they make space for student creativity in performance. They provide opportunities and create a series of baby steps to walk the student through the process. And they do this over and over again, tweaking the process and providing practical, productive feedback along the way.

Practice doesn’t make perfect–it helps us recover more gracefully from mistakes. That graceful recovery, where we surf over all the weird, effed-up random stuff that happens in a show (or in life), while laughing with our guests? That’s where we want to be.

I’ll be teaching a one-hour video class on Empowering Authenticity for the Belly Dance Business Academy’s Online Teaching Summit, May 22-26, 2017.

The Summit will run 25 classes in 5 days with leading experts in the belly dance community. You can participate from your computer anywhere in the world. There will be 30 minute versions of each class available for free during the summit, but you can also purchase the entire package at a ridiculously cheap early bird price. Then you OWN ALL the classes and can watch at your leisure, AND you get bonus interviews and pdf extras from each teacher.

If you (or your teacher or your friends), might like this, please share with them this special, early-bird link:  http://bellydancebusinessacademy.teachable.com/p/teaching-summit-early-bird/?

Love and thanks,

Alia

 

 

Why Belly Dance is like Narnia (and how we get through the wardrobe)

Why Belly Dance is like Narnia (and how we get through the wardrobe)

The Narnia Chronicles, a classic fantasy series by CS Lewis, begins when a little girl named Lucy accidentally tumbles through an old wardrobe (a closet on legs) to discover the magical land of Narnia. Narnia is peopled by fauns, dwarves, and talking animals, including Aslan the Lion. Lucy is soon joined there by her brothers and sister.

Over the course of seven books, the children have adventures, discover the history of Narnia, defeat evil, and generally become confident, experienced inter dimensional travelers. In the final book, The Last Battle, the children, now kings and queens, along with all the inhabitants of Narnia, repeating the cry of “Further up and further in!” race up a hill, to Aslan’s Country, and the Real Narnia. While there are many fascinating critiques of the series as allegory, it bears up as a marvelous adventure–as does Oriental dance.

Here are six ways that belly dance bears a striking resemblance to The Narnia Chronicles.

1. On the outside, it’s just a wardrobe. Many (if not most) of us come to belly dance attracted to the outfits and the sensual moves. For some of us , that’s enough. And that’s just fine. But there is so much more to the dance….

 2. It’s bigger on the inside. Once you get past those outer trappings, you begin to discover that this little dance has a lot going for it. No matter how much you learn, there is always more to learn. No matter how good you get, you can always see how much better you can be. It is an art form in which the learning curve never flattens.

 3. It develops confidence. Performing with no 4th wall, we learn to enjoy the audience, embrace our personal style, and handle mishaps with grace and charm.

 4. We all become kings and queens. Belly dance is the ultimate in beauty. When we dance, we know we are golden. We radiate our majesty and create a bridge for the audience to a magical realm.

 5. We defeat evil. Fear, anger, and grief are some of humanity’s most crippling emotions. Through dance, we transcend these emotions. Dancing clears the emotional landscape by allowing us to release our cares and those of the audience. Everyone’s misery is lifted for a time, everyone gets to feel the restorative wonder of joy and delight. These shots of goodness help us all to get through the bad times.

 6. We become experienced inter dimensional travelers. Those of us who go through the wardrobe, who go further up and further in, discover a world of joy. Improvisation can bring us to the center of our souls, a place where time, self, and worldly concerns are suspended, where the joy of musical embodiment lifts us and the audience up and out of the every day. From this magical land, we return refreshed, refined, and glorious.

 7. We reach the true dance, the one that exists outside of costumes, ego, and competition. We learn to dwell in a land of timeless beauty we can reach any time we close our eyes and go into the zone.

How do we do this?

How do we get through the wardrobe and into the dance? Just as Lucy did, we close our eyes and feel our way through. As we learn to let the music in through our ears and allow our bodies to respond intuitively in the moment, we become ever closer to the secret center, the soul of our dance (we will get into this in detail in the book).

Over time, and with practice, our improvisation confidence and endurance will improve, and so will our pleasure in dance. We are more easily able to go into a zone on stage. Audiences love the freshness and intuitive nature of our dance. We are all whisked above daily cares and into a realm of love and joy.

Nice, huh?
Another world is possible.

To discover it, check out Midnight at the Crossroads, now available for preorder!

All my love,

Alia

How Hidden Dreams find you

It’s October, and that means Inktober has arrived! Inktober means an ink drawing every day for 30 days. I’m doing this (in digital ink so far). You can follow my progress in the album #Inktober #Inktober2016.

There are daily prompts to help you when you feel out of ideas. Today’s prompt is the word “hidden,” hence the title of this piece.

You can hide your dreams–from yourself and the world–but you can’t hide from them. This is my feeling about it. They will find you. They will poke you. They will demand to be seen, recognized, honored. And if you do not, they will clamor until you do. Making art is scary and painful. NOT making art is worse. So consider joining me in the Inktober challenge. You can certainly start now.

Right now. Draw a picture and send me a photo of it!

Here’s my picture for today.

Hidden (Dreams)

PS if you are an artist who belly dances, we have a FB group.  Ask me.

I find that my creative work tends to get short shrift. Somehow everything else gets a higher priority. But the creative stuff is the most rewarding, and it takes way less time than every other dang thing in my life including things I have put off successfully for years. It took a long time for me to realize this and I realize it over and over again as I let things drift.

The best way for me to manage this, I have found, is to simply Put Art First. That means that no matter how much other crap is overloading my plate (and there is plenty), the first part of my day is for creative work. And I get up extra early to do it, like 6am, sometimes earlier. I don’t dance. I need quiet that early in the morning.

I mostly write at this time. I don’t check email or FB or anything else. Just maybe make some coffee and toast and go to work. Once I get going, I tend to keep going. It’s getting going that is the challenge. Lots of times I go to work before the coffee and toast, and use that as a break. When I finish, I put on dance music.

This pattern feeds me. I wish I did it every day. I did for most of the last year, but it slid over the summer. Now I am getting back into it. Inktober is helping. National Novel Writing Month is coming soon, too!

What helps you? Post here or email me. 

Love,

Alia

 

Cool things you might like! 

Now: Inktober
http://mrjakeparker.com/inktober

 

Saturday, Oct 15th, 7-10pm EDT
Raq-On Community Dance Day Hafla @ the Hotel Coolidge. $15 in advance, $20 at the door
Phaedra of Boston is the featured dancer.
https://www.facebook.com/events/283738358649476/

 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 at 8pm Eastern Time
The Compassionate Critique Salon
Join Alia Thabit, Rosa Noreen and Nadira Jamal for an evening of kind, actionable dance critique.
http://www.bellydancegeek.com/compassionate-critique-salon/

 

November 1-31,
National Novel Writing Month
Write a 50K word novel in 30 days.
http://nanowrimo.org

 

Wednesday, November 23-30:
Sausan’s Raqs Al-Masriya,  Internet Choreography and Belly Dance Challenge
www.raqsalmasriya.com
Everyone makes a dance to the same piece of music (available on the site) and posts it online. Register with the Challenge to display your video with the others and let the open web view and Like favorite videos.

 

Friday and Sunday, December 2 + 4
Tarifa Salem (Bobby Farrah’s niece and protege), teaching in Danbury CT. 
http://riskallah.com/tarifasalem.html

 

August 4th, 5th, & 6th 2017:
Raq-On Strong: VT Festival featuring Leila Farid, Sahra Saeeda, and Tamalyn Dallal
(registration and payment plans now open).  https://www.facebook.com/events/1701852790031831/

And just in case you missed them…
Great Books, recently or nearly published. 

I’m currently enjoying
Create or Hate
by Dan Norris (and at this moment, it is free)  http://buff.ly/2dqPIaC

Erotica, Love and Humor in Arabia
Spicy Stories from The Book of Songs by al-Isfahani
Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani. Translated and Edited by George Dimitri Sawa (georgedimitrisawa.com). Spicy!  http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-1-4766-6365-4

Trance Dancing with the Jinn 
The Ancient Art of Contacting Spirits Through Ecstatic Dance By Yasmin Henkesh (sandsoftime.com). She is brilliant. This will be amazing.  http://www.llewellyn.com/product.php?ean=9780738737942

THE FIVE ELEMENTS based on the world’s oldest personality system by Dondi Dahlin, a belly dance super star! (http://www.dondidahlin.com)
http://www.powells.com/book/the-five-elements-9780399176296/62-0  After you pre-order, you can head over to www.LearnTheFiveElements.comand pick up three bonuses. All bonuses disappear October 1.

Thanks for looking!

 

 

What’s your wall?

Sometimes we hit a wall. 

SoHigh2

So high, can’t get over it. So low, can’t go under it. So wide, can’t get around it…

Where is your dance wall?
What stops you, gets in your way, or keeps you from dancing what you feel in the moment? What walls do your students or dancer friends face?

Here are a few things I, and other folks, have struggled with. 

Confidence
Never feeling good enough, creative enough, or anything enough.

Presence 
Getting stuck in one’s head, losing energy, falling out of the zone.

Introversion
Feeling constrained in performance or navigating social scenes.

Improvisation
The feeling in the moment ; )

Not Performing
Why is this such a crime?

Technique
How the heck do I… ?

Age/Looks
We don’t fit the mold, but have so much to express.

Personal Style
How do you find it? Does it take forever?

Finding Spirit in Dance
Is it really all hoodoo?

 

What’s your biggest wall?
How does it affect you?
What would help?

 

Write to me. Or post on the blog. I’ll write back.

Love,

Alia

PS I am once again endeavoring to create a little something new, this time in two weeks. This week is for figuring out what to make. Next week is for making it. It shall be done and ready to roll on May 1. I want it to be something that solves a problem for my dance friends–that’s you. Hence my question. More on Thursday!

How to Solve Problems with Improv Power (so you can dance more ; )

Just let it go…

improv-solves-problemsWhen we dance improv, we let go of our constant thinking and controlling. We let the body call the shots. It’s like meditation—we clear the mind of its constant scurrying, busy chatter. We focus on the breath, on the exhale. And we step back.

What we get is a state called diffuse thinking. In diffuse thinking, the brain makes much more random connections. Our unresolved questions are still floating around, but we are not actively digging at them. It’s like a dream time. Fragments and wisps arise and mingle. We don’t seem to be doing anything, but the brain is very powerful. It is always seeking organization and resolution. Behind the scenes, it is processing all these bits and fitting them into the missing puzzle pieces.

We may get only refreshment from our break—the mind needs and enjoys breaks in the routine far more often than we might think, as we are so used to pushing ourselves endlessly. Learning science shows that interleaving—going away from a subject of study and coming back to it later—is a far more powerful learning tool than pushing through (it is the actual going away and coming back that that is valuable—the letting go of and refocusing on the subject). But quite often, after our break, we find answers to our questions, new understandings for our ideas, and wholeness, where before we had only broken bits.

Rather than a controlled, systematic exploration, diffuse thinking makes a space for something unstructured to arise. Rather than digging consciously, we let the rain wash away the dirt. It’s so valuable a process that I regularly keep a notebook handy when I dance, as ideas sometimes come in floods.

Try it. 
Next time you have a knotty problem, let it go and dance instead.

Keep a notebook handy to record any insights you might have. Even if none come, you still get a vacation from your cares.

Let me know how it goes!

Love,

Alia