How to Strut Your Stuff (and why it might be scary)

When animals in the wild escape from dangerous situations, they literally shake off the flood of defense chemicals still in the system, exhale explosively, and often celebrate! Which is sometimes called … pronking. Um, what?

“Pronking comes from the Afrikaans verb pronk-, which means show off or strut…” It is related to the English word prance. Since we’re all still alive if we’re reading this, we all have reason to celebrate.

I’ve been inviting my SE clients to strut, as part of feeling success. It has been amazingly challenging! We are so often waiting for the other shoe to drop. We are so often afraid that letting down our guard will lead to ruin. That feeling good about something is dangerous. That feeling good about ourselves is dangerous!

And yet…

Belly dance is all about strutting our stuff. It’s about feeling good, feeling confident, reveling in agency and owning the room. 

Strut! Photo By Yathin sk – I photographed this springbok in Etosha National Park, CC BY-SA 3.0,

So how do we get there?

Connection the feet and the ground is vital. Fear lifts us up and away. Grounding can bring us back.

This is one of the themes we’ll explore in the upcoming class, Philosophy of Belly Dance. Last week, we talked about Feet First—grounding in gravity, bringing our movement up from the earth. In Strut Your Stuff, we’ll expand that to explore agency and attitude—using our grounded connection to power presence and confidence!

Each week we explore deeply cultural elements of the dance. Other elements include Energetic Activation, Breathing Music, and more. 

Philosophy of Belly Dance starts Tuesday, April 23 at 4pm est. 

Come on down and Strut Your Stuff! 

It’s going to be extra special!

Looking forward to dancing with you!

All my love,

How to Reprogram Your Self Talk (and why it’s worth the effort)

Behavior Creates Emotion

Yep, I’m reading another book. What to Say When You Talk to Yourself, by Shad Helmststter, PhD is alll about the power of self talk, both positive and negative. I’m not sure what I think of it, yet (I’m a little more than halfway through). But it has made me think, and you might also find this interesting.

As dancers, what we say to ourselves can make allll the difference between our shows feeling great vs feeling like a hideous disaster.

Background–I used to be very, very unkind to myself. I said things to myself that I would never say to another person. I hated myself and told myself so at every opportunity. (It wasn’t until I found Somatic Experiencing® (SE) that those cruel voices resolved, and stayed that way.) And I am not alone in this!

Perfectionist fault-finding and vicious self-talk is wayyyy common. Something like 50% of folks report feeling like imposters. So, of course I had to read this book (plus self talk is a piece of the puzzle I’m putting together for Create Your Glorious Self…) Anyway…

Create Your Glorious Self

The advice is to first listen to your own self talk.

What are you saying? Is it self-compassionate? “There there honey, we’re doing okay. We’ll get through this!” Or self-empowering? “Wow, you did it! that’s awesome! Woo-hoo!” Or even, “Oops! Hmm. Okay, let’s try that differently next time.

Or is it more along the lines of, you stupid cow, what were you thinking?! Or, I suck at this! Or, this is the worst day of my life!

The toxic rain of negative voices can be so constant we don’t even notice it anymore. But that’s what trips us up when we want to shine. That litany of, I suck, I can’t do this, they are looking at me, they hate me, that’ll never work, who am I to ____, I don’t know what I’m doing… is self-programming, and it is also self-fulfilling. When we think this way, we feel powerless, so we act powerless., so we feel powerless, and on and on, in a miserable feedback loop.

(Side note–I’ve had some serious dental infections in the last few years, and one thing I noticed was a rise of anxious, weepy self talk along the lines of “I don’t know what I’m doing…” So sometimes there are other roots (haha), to the problem.)



What are you saying? How often do you say it? What happened just before the cascade of negative? Sometimes there is a trigger. Sometimes it’s just an all day party ; ). How do you see yourself? When you look in the mirror, what do you say to yourself? Do you have your own back? Or are you busy stabbing it?

Maybe you are lucky and you feel good about yourself! WOO!!! You can sit back right now and have a bonbon! Well done.

If not, take action.

How to Reprogram Your Self Talk

Helmstetter advises us to reverse the things we say to ourselves, in the moment that we hear them. I suck at this, becomes, “I am competent and I can do this!” They hate me, becomes “They don’t know me yet, so here I am!” Today is disaster, I just don’t have it in me, becomes “Today is a great day! I have plenty of energy, today especially!”

I have been playing with this, and sometimes I have to laugh at the ludicrous irony of these upbeat re-framings. So I have also been engaging in “interrogative” self talk, which means questioning my own inner statements. “Is this really the worst day ever?!” Um, well, no. “Do you really not know what you’re doing?” Well, actually, I am pretty competent. That’s been pretty interesting, too. If the affirming piece is tough for you, the interrogative option might be a nice bridge.

On the other hand, I recognize the value of the process, and I do find a lift follows the shift. Saying things out load makes a difference too, as does writing them down and reading them, and reading them aloud. However we get these new things into our heads, they get into our heads.

Next Steps

We can move on from reversal to general good news about ourselves on a regular basis, saying kind words to ourselves, out loud–and saying kind words about ourselves to others! Speaking of the mirror, I love the bathroom mirror to check in with myself, to smile and cheerfully greet myself and say some nice things. I’m in there several times a day, so that’s several times a day I can check in and smile at myself.

Behavior Creates Emotion
Plus there are practical applications….

Say you want to quit something–smoking (or playing solitaire on your phone, or whatever). Helmstetter advises saying something along the lines of, “I never smoke.” or “I no longer enjoy smoking, and I have quit” He suggests we say these things to ourselves, and out loud, and to others–even as we light up and inhale.

Just continue to say the words, as we continue to smoke. We became conditioned to smoking, and we will become conditioned to the idea that we do not smoke. It will take some time, maybe a few weeks or so. One day we will be lighting up, and our now-reprogrammed subconscious mind will say, then what are you doing with that ciggie?! Yuck!

The trick is remembering to do that. Helmstetter explains how much more valuable it is to generate positive self talk ourselves–but he has built an empire on pre-recorded self talk for every conceivable issue. Which is funny, but everyone’s got to make a living, I guess.

Anyway, I’m planning to play with this in the coming week <cough solitaire cough>. I invite you to join me at whatever level. Listening, reversing, questioning, or straight up affirming your wonderfulness.

Know that you are wonderful! You are beautiful and loving, and worthy of love.
I invite you to say so to yourself, every day ❤️

And here’s some music (a sound bath, anyway ; ) for self loving self talk.


PS Create Your Glorious Self is coming together beautifully! I’ll be doing some cool events leading up to it, so please stay tuned! (Registration opens at noon EDT on August 7, 2022. There are only 15 seats…)

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:

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.


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:

With all my love!

On Being a Fluffy Bunny

predator or prey?

A thought came to me the other day.

I’m tired of being the bunny.

I’ve been noticing ways in which I stay small. Keep my income down. Keep my voice down. Swallow my irritation. Deflect compliments. Endure.

I’m tired of being the bunny. Of hiding. Deferring to everyone else. Coming last in my own life.

In the Spark* class a while back, we played with expressing our inner predator. It made us uncomfortable. Because red in tooth and claw and all  that. Eat or be eaten. Nasty, brutish, and short.

Which raises the question…

Predator or Prey? Eat or be Eaten?

Are we not beyond that? Are we not better than that?

Or is it a matter of definition?

We tend to conflate predator with malicious intent. Viciousness.

Power corrupts, right? Absolutely.

And we all know women are relentlessly socialized to be the bunny. To stay small and not draw attention, because… I don’t have to spell this out. While males are socialized to be the wolf. Go get it.

Eating others does not appeal to me. I’m not a confrontational person. If I had to kill my own meat, I’d probably be a vegetarian.

But neither does being eaten.

Does power always mean power over? Can we come into our own power, hold our own space, become our own ally?

What if we just reject this false binary?

Why is it an either/or? Would you rather be smart or beautiful? BOTH, thank you. We’re humans. We have both kinds of teeth. We’re not bound one way or the other. There is a spectrum. We can choose.

Instead of eat or be eaten, what about…


Instead of fear or savagery, what about




I prefer cooperative, confident, competent poise.

I believe that our dance does, too.

With its focus on agency, expression and improvisation? You bet it does.

And if it’s been stereotyped into sexy, cutesy, winsome bunnies?

Enough of that.

The other day, someone said,
Warriors protect the sacred.

I can get behind that.

In Spark*, we shifted to inner warrior. It sat much more gracefully.

I’m looking forward to stepping into my personal power, my inner warrior in the coming year.

Our dance, our creative expression, our power and beauty, our true selves, our collective joy–these are sacred to me.

I want to be ME: clear-eyed, real, true.

I don’t know what this will look like or how it will evolve.

I do know Somatic Experiencing® (SE) will be my friend in this, as that’s what’s gotten me to this point.

I’ve been waiting my whole life.
For my turn.

It’s my turn.

Maybe it’s yours, too?

Let’s do this.


Oh AND!!!

This Saturday, 12/11/21, 11am PST / 2pm EST / 7PM GMT
I’ll be chatting with Roxxanne Shelaby, creator of the marvelous Fez Documentary!
Will you please join us?
It’s streaming via Facebook Live at
Please do share!


Wonderland is here! 
Special bonus and Trust the Chef pricing ; )

35% off all our Teachable classes through Dec 31:
Check out our Teachable Ultimate Improv Bundle!

Three Ways to Become a More Confident Dancer

confident confidence!

We dancers take a lot of risks.

Performers, for example. Getting out in front of other people, interacting, being glorious, larger-than-life goddesses takes some chutzpah.

When we dance at parties or at home, it takes courage to open ourselves to the music, to move with authority, to feel our sensuality, even joy.

These are things we often can’t enjoy in our everyday lives. At work, for example, or walking down the street. Plus we have all our past influences, telling us to keep our heads down, don’t draw attention, the ghosts of icky unwanted touch, comments, gazes. It’s a tough world.

And then there are the little voices

You know the ones I mean. The snide ones, the toxic drip of perfectionism that says we are never good enough, our dance is never good enough, everything about us is beneath contempt.

When we feel confident, we embody our ideal self, head high, engaged, on a special plane of flow, awareness, and connection. Yes!

And when that confidence goes south? That sinking feeling. Those toxic inner voices. The brain-freeze, the tunnel vision, the panic. The jerky, stilted movement, the hip drop hell, as our brains refuse to supply any moves at all.

So we could use some opportunities to walk that walk of our most confident embodied self.

How do we increase our confidence?

Lots of things help. Some things that have helped me include Dancemeditation, Chinese Medicine, and Trauma Resolution

This is how we learn to let our bodies move as they wish, to move with confidence and authority, to hone our interoception, trust our bodies again, and connect physically with the music through breath. This is what we do in the 90 Days–20 minutes a day of unstructured improv. It is miraculous and easy. You can start today!

Dancemeditation comes from the Shattari Sufi lineage. More about that here. More about the 90 Days here. You can access our 90 Days Quickstart guide here.

Chinese Medicine & Homeopathy
Acupuncture, herbs, and homeopathy made a huge difference for me. I was fortunate to find excellent practitioners. That made a big difference. So did small changes in my diet, such as preferring warm, well-cooked food, and avoiding cold and damp foods. This stopped those little voices. Seriously. Of course if I ate cold food, they came back. Finally I discovered…

Trauma Resolution
Somatic Experiencing® (SE), has had the biggest, most lasting impact of anything I have ever done. So much so, that I took their three-year training, am in the middle of a yearlong post-advanced training, and volunteer as a teaching assistant for other folks’ trainings. It really is that magical. SE connects brilliantly with oriental dance, and it is the one thing that has banished those little voices and given me a level of relaxed, competent confidence that I simply did not have at any other time in my life. It is all that. More about SE is here.

When I ask dancers about their biggest problem, the overwhelming answer is FEAR. Dancers are terrified of getting it wrong, being boring, getting stuck on stage. Fear keeps us from committing to our movement, dancing with joy and authority, even from living our lives in deep and satisfying ways.

What is the antidote to fear? CONFIDENCE. Sooo, I am putting together a program to help.


Reclaim Your Confidence!

How to Embrace your True Self

It’s coming. A bunch of things are coming! Wonderland, Map Your Music, and some of the Fun Class recordings. We’ll also be talking more about the usefulness, simplicity, and generally pleasant ambiance of Somatic Experiencing.

I’m doing some website and shop updates while those things incubate. So look out for lots of cool stuff a little later this fall!

Right now, we have How to Write a Blog Post! Maybe you dance confidence is fine, but writing is a bit more of an ordeal. This 90-minute will be a fun, productive exploration for writers of all abilities.

AND we have the Bundle InstaGram Challenge! The BellyDance Bundle’s #21daysofbellydance is, well, 21 days of nifty exercises, practice prompts, and drills (plus an UnDrill from yours truly ;). This year’s podcasts episodes will be revealed as well. More on this in a bit, but for now, I invite you to check out the Challenge!

And here’s some music for that 20 mins of free improv!

How to Write a Blog Post

Don’t like writing? Wish you did?

Most teachers focus on spelling and grammar mistakes. Students get back papers full of red marks. It’s disheartening. Because of this legacy of shame, writing is difficult for many folks. Maybe for you, too?

student looking at paper with F

Imagine the fun of writing what you want to say–without the misery!

But how?

Cutting-edge writing instruction focuses on content rather than form. That means we work with what you want to say, and saying it in a way your audience can best hear it. Most errors dissolve when people find their voice and speak from their hearts. Using simple tools and strategies, you can write articles that get your point across and engage your readers.



How to Write a Blog Post!

This 90-minute live Zoom class walks participants through the process of choosing a topic, sketching a plan, and developing that plan into a short (500+ words), well-organized article, suitable for a blog, newsletter, even a sales page–with ease.

  • Blog posts are a great way to give information in your area of expertise, as well as sell upcoming classes and events–even both at once!
  • Blog posts make great newsletter content, and can be reposted to social media accounts. Posting the blog article (rather than the emailed newsletter) drives traffic back to your own site.

This class will NOT make a you a great writer in 90 minutes.

This class WILL give you the tools you need to write short articles. And the more you do it, the better you will get.

We will

  • Use a simple system to create posts on any topic, any time
  • Explore topic generation and choosing suitable topics
  • Look at tools to use voice-to-text for those who prefer to speak
  • Consider the options of video and audio blogs
  • Learn strategies to resolve writing anxiety

Each participant will write their own unique article!

Live class, Saturday, October 16 from 2:00-3:30 pm edt. See this in your time zone (add to calendar button in link)

Can’t make it? All good. There will be a recording.

Bring a paper and pen or pencil that you like, as well as any refreshments you might want while writing. We will take a tiny break halfway through.

This will be a fun, productive class. Please do join us!

[wp_eStore_fancy_display id=40 type=0 style=2 show_price=2]

This presentation is designed for creativity coaches. It will be useful to anyone who wants to communicate well with their audience; especially so for folks in creative or coaching endeavors.

Alia Thabit has taught writing at the college level for over 25 years.

“We do well for you because you care about us.”
“Even after I gave up going to all my other classes, I still came to this one.”
“You are the only writing teacher who ever said anything nice about my writing.”

College writing students’ comments

How to Dance on this Ball of Confusion?

dance, arise, resilience,

Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to get out of bed in the morning.

Worldwide conflagrations. Insane people doing insane things. Jaw-dropping lies being paraded around as truth. Pandemics. Violence. Hell. The suffering of the world has never been more raw and visceral.

It’s a lot.

Human beings are not built for long-term high alert

I am fortunate. I am not in the middle of a war zone at this precise moment. But I also know lots of people struggling with deeply challenging situations–and many others stuck in war zones inside their heads, all the time. Few of us are in actual firefights right now. But past and present struggles may be ever-present in our bodies. The alarm bells just keep on ringing.

Those alarm bells can get stuck in the ON position. Even when we are in a safe place, we may still be activated. Sometimes we shut down, dissociate. Sometimes we get angry, lashing out at others, or in, at ourselves. Sometimes we can barely function (raises hand). Everything from wired to wiped, and none of it is happy.

Lots of things can trigger this. The disastrous news cycle. Personal life challenges. Oppression. Family stuff. Lots of things can push us into 24/7 crisis mode. And that’s a problem. It’s immensely destructive to health and well being. Look at the ACES Study. Chronic stress is deadly.

Yet we feel guilty for looking away–from our own problems, or the world’s. We feel we must at least witness the horror. But witnessing horror is traumatic in and of itself. It’s a bitter, destructive feedback loop. I’ve been there. And I’ve seen what it does to people.

So what can we do?

This is what I have devoted myself to over the last decade. Turning off the alarm bells. These are the most effective things I have found.

dance, arise, resilience,
caption for image

Belly dance, a great venue for decompression. Improvised, embodied dance is especially so. Being in the present moment, in a flow state, letting go of everyday thoughts, fears, and irritations, is profoundly healing for the nervous system. In general, 20 minutes is a great time period. Breathing with the music, letting the body move as it wishes, invites a playful state of joy. This is why the bulk of my offerings involve improvisation, usually grounded in Dancemeditation. It’s such great medicine. Plus we get to dress up. And it’s FUN.

Creative expression, a doorway to another world. Improvised belly dance is a creative expression. So are many other things, from writing to drawing, to woodworking, to sculpture. All kinds of art-making have the potential to draw us out of our everyday grind. I’ve been enjoying drawing the colorful abstract designs (which grace this blog), since the outset of covid. I didn’t have the energy for meaning, so I just let whatever come out of my hand, and then colored it in. Any creative enterprise can help us into a zone where we can let go of stress and feel fulfilled.

Anyone can do any of these things on their own and get a lot of benefit. But it can be hard to dance or make art when we are really stressed out. I’ve certainly found that. Soooo hard to do the things that I knew would help me feel better. Sooo frustrating. I needed help. And then I found…

Somatic Experiencing® (SE), direct soul-healing. SE has been the most dramatic help in surviving the last 10 years, and recovering from the decades before. Having an SE coach helped me navigate enormous challenges. Helped me come back to feeling creative. Helped me in my quest to become my true self. Am I perfect? No. Am I a helluva lot better? YES. And it is from this perspective that I integrate all of the above to create programs that help other folks feel better, too.

Please secure your own oxygen mask before helping others.

Feeling better does NOT mean turning a blind eye to the injustice and horror of the world.

This DOES mean developing a healthy nervous system that recognizes when we are in genuine danger and when we are not. So we can survive. So we can live our lives. So we can have the bandwidth to actually do something helpful. So we can THRIVE.


Belly Dance, Creativity Coaching, and Somatic Experiencing. Three things that can make a difference as we navigate this ball of confusion.

With love,

PS Don’t want to go it alone?
SPARK* integrates all three elements to bring relief, re-engagement, and resilience. SPARK* starts Friday the 13th. More info is here:

How about a nice vacation?

We’re getting down to the wire here. In the USA, elections are in less than three weeks. Covid is spiking worldwide. The centuries-long other pandemic of systemic oppression is going strong, too, with a rise in fascism, racism, and xenophobia across the planet. Who wouldn’t like a vacation? Oh, wait. We can’t really travel…

Good thing we dance!

We’ve all gone to a belly dance class feeling crappy and come out feeling light-years better. And even though most of us don’t go in person now, there are so many online options! (Yes, there are issues around bandwidth, and so forth, so I always have recordings, and I edit those recordings to bring down their size.) Mostly we think of classes as things at which we work.

Let’s think of them as mini vacations!

We get to let go of the real world, feed our souls, and nurture our bodies, all at once.

Humans are not suited to suffer endlessly. No living creature is. Chronic stress isn’t just unpleasant; it has serious health effects. We can grit our teeth and get through it, but what will really help is stepping back from our pain, especially when we can do that in nurturing ways.

Like a belly dance vacation!

To really dig in to this, I’ve enriched all my classes with extra vacation goodness–especially now.

Our next Deep Dive, Open Heart Belly Dance,

We’l connect Dancemeditation, Somatic Experiencing, and Oriental dance into a rich, luscious roll in joy. It’s all follow-me and improvisation with centering and grounding, breath, expansion, and interoceptive body-awareness, a soothing balm for the soul. Lower your heart rate, soothe your senses, and dance better, too!

What we’ll do
*Nurture pleasure and self-compassion
* Bask in the moment of improvisation
* Allow our own body’s wisdom to bring the moves to us
This is NOT about perfection, drills, or copying
This IS about enriching personal style, musicality, improv ease, and joy in the moment​

Little talk, lots of unique exercises, modeling, and guided practice.​

Open Heart runs from Tuesday, October 20 through Tuesday, Nov 17m from 4-5PM EDT See this in your time zone (add to calendar button in link).

Of course, a lot of us are super broke now too, so Open Heart has Pandemic Pricing, including payment plans, sliding scale, and Pay What You Will.

Registration is now open!

With all my love,

PS Of course, many of us are saving up for The Belly Dance Bundle, because it’s such a deal.

That goes on sale next week. It’s in two tracks this year (or you can get both).
The Dance Track.
The Lecture Track.
There is a STUNNING amount of cool stuff in each track
I contributed a deep dive into Taqsim this year — Here is my podcast on Taqsim, and my Instagram Challenge UnDrill Taqsim video for your enjoyment (I’m Day 6). More on this next week!
Big hugs to everyone!

How to “Orient” in Oriental Dance (and why it boosts confidence)

orienting eyes

When mammals enter a novel environment, they look around. They explore the space with their eyes. This is called Exploratory Orienting. It is all about curiosity, a relaxed, engaged process. Mammals do it many times in a day.

There is also another kind of orienting. Defensive Orienting, which happens in response to a perceived threat, is about fight or flight. Where is the exit? Where is the safest place? How do I get there? It is adrenaline and contraction. All your friends who want to sit in the Godfather/Shane seat, back to the wall, so they can see the whole room? Defensive Orienting.

orienting eyes

This is one of the cool things I learned in the three-year Somatic Experiencing® (SE) training. Through this, I realized that I generally engaged in Defensive Orienting when I entered a new space–like a party. I did not look around with curiosity. I found a secluded spot, and I stayed there, eyeing the room for threats. Defensive Orienting.

It has been very interesting to shift my awareness to Exploratory Orienting. I now begin all my groups with some orienting, letting the eyes look around the room, settling on whatever they enjoy. We explore our other senses as well–hearing (our fastest sense), smell, taste–and touch. Our bodies in the chair, the feeling of clothes on our bodies, the air on our skin–and we go inside as well–what is going on in there?

SE is about what is happening inside our bodies–as is Oriental dance.

In SE, we track sensations associated with challenging memories and triggering events, and we also build and grow sensory resources— feelings associated with success, joy, and pleasure.

In Oriental dance, the feeling is the most important thing–the emotional timbres that come and go in the music and also the physical pleasure of the dance movement it self. We get to relax, to enjoy the isometric pull of our muscles as our bodies respond to the music, revel in the juiciness of them.

So what does Orienting have to do with all this?

Well, I noticed that I was doing Defensive Orienting even when I danced.


Part of me was protecting myself from my guests. So I didn’t really look at them, and there was a defensive quality in my presence. This made it hard to be genuine, relaxed, and present.

This resonates with keeping the eyes more fixed, staring at screens–these behaviors reinforce one another. I’ve written before about how eye work improved my vision. It’s improved more than that.

So I changed my approach.

I began intentionally taking the time to orient. As I gazed around, I sat with the discomfort that arose and let it pass through me. I made the time to settle. And dance became easier. Friendlier. When the body feels settled so many more options come online.

And this is what our dance is really about–Personality. Presence. Communication. Joy. We really can have it all.

We can have it with our choreographed performance and also with our improvisation. Feeling settled and relaxed makes it so much easier to enjoy the music, to be present in the moment.

We can have this in our daily lives as well. My regular life has vastly improved. Yes, I have also done a lot of SE work–because even small bits have made big differences, I keep going. Even the first session caused marked differences.

I have been building Orienting in to all my classes. It’s a big feature of the improv Fun Classes, and Tuning In is pure SE.

I invite you to try it out–what might a more settled nervous system do for you–and your dance?

Both the below classes will soon be available on demand! Stay tuned to our newsletter to know when!

How to Improvise to Classic Songs

This is not your “classic” song class. We will not work on technique or pop-bead combinations. We will focus on the structural elements of classic songs, the phrases and measures, the sections and the organization, so we can understand and predict changes–and feel confident when dance to any song that comes our way. We’ll let ourselves feel and respond to the emotional timbres. We’ll allow our bodies to respond freely to the music, as we let our feeling express itself.

Each class is recorded (instructor view). The sound is beautiful! Each recording is available for one week, so you can review or catch up. Each week gets a playlist of songs to use for practice. We may explore some standbys along with less-known treasures.

Improv to Classic Songs is a FUN Class Deep Dive. It runs five Weeks, Sept 8 – Oct 6. Tuesdays at 4PM ET. Register for Classic Songs here.

If your daily life needs more attention, you might enjoy

Tuning In–Medicine for Modern Times

This little half hour packs a lot of power. Sometimes we do more soothing things, sometimes more active, sometimes both. But every exercise is all about re-regulating the nervous system to the body can settle, and life has room for more savor, ease, and joy. We use gentle movement, breath, and body-based strategies to bring calm in the here and now. These strategies can be used any time to help the body feel more relaxed and grounded. Each class is recorded (instructor view). Each recording is available for one week.

Tuning In runs five Weeks, September 18-Oct 23 (no class Oct 9). Fridays, 4-4:30 PM EDT. Register for Tuning In here.

I look forward to dancing with you!