How to go far, fast.

the key to groups

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with a group.” This is supposedly a South African proverb; I don’t know that it actually is. Or that it is always true. But I do know that combining group work with personal work is a fast way to go far.

This is how I have always created my courses–a mix of group accountability and camaraderie combined with individual focus and experimentation. I have found this combination to be satisfying and effective,, both in the classes I have taken as well as those I have taught.

I know, everyone despised group work in school.

Largely because it is for a grade, so everyone hates the slacker who drags them down almost as much as the perfectionist who drives them forward (at one time, I had my college students categorize themselves as Early Birds, Slow and Steady, or Caffiends, and grouped them accordingly–which worked surprisingly well).

One thing I noticed, though–the more fun the task, the more agreeable the groups were. The more motivated people are, the better everything goes.

Fun and motivation are key.

the key to groups

I have been in many, many groups (you probably have, too), from boards to business to classes. I have found that a good group motivates me to show up, and that I learn as much from the processes of the others as I do from my own (sometimes more). Groups work best when we have our own things to do between meetings, and we come back together to debrief and choose our next focus.

As someone who has often danced in a vacuum, with no teachers near at hand, before the internet, I am familiar with going alone. It’s not my strong suit, even though I do it all the time. Why?

I’m an introvert.

Generally, I avoid people. I abhor groups. They make me tired. I don’t like to be seen. BUT!

I get a lot farther with others to help me prioritize, act as a sounding board, or generally be on the path with me. Sometimes it’s just one person, sometimes it’s several. But when we are all motivated and the task is rewarding the process becomes enjoyable.

This is how I structure my classes.

A long time ago I read that some students responded more in written conversations and others to in-person conversation. I immediately tested this in my college classrooms, and was delighted to find silent students become chatty and helpful in forum threads. Since then, I have used a mix of video meetings with private forums for my classes–and it works.

Here are some comments from a recent class…

I think the group encouragement helped us all come “out” and share videos, etc… without feeling we would be judged. I felt everyone’s beauty from the inside out. I got to know them because we interacted everyday online. The love I felt from knowing them and seeing their dance was so sweet for me to watch. I am going to feel lost when the course is over.  I also feel like I have made friends.  I felt like I could do no wrong, explore and try new things every step of the way. 

–CR

In this course Alia always encouraged being “you” and how “you” feel. All the assignments were open to “our” interpretations to build “our” dances. Alia gave guidance and examples, not “do this” “like this.” And everyone including me shared their own experiences, ideas, twists, struggles, questions, learned from each other, inspired each other, supported each other. There was no right or wrong. There was no who is better than others or “this is good because it looks like the example.” There really wasn’t. 
–HT

The group made all the difference.  Things that I was privately feeling or insecurities I had would be expressed by someone else in the group.  This gave me the confidence to speak up, ask questions and not be afraid of what others thought.  The group was very supportive and their questions and comments were very helpful.  I did not feel alone. ..I got so many great ideas from others in the forum.  I remember saying to myself on numerous occasions, “I want to try that!”  We were all free to share and explore together.
–KG 

“Awaken people to their own beauty and power. Enable them to express their unique individuality through art.”

This is my mission. This is why I teach classes, write books and articles, and dance the way I do. This is why I am embarked upon the trauma resolution path, to help others transcend the ice of old fear so they can create the art of their dreams.

It is from this place that I present our fall calendar.

I have built these courses over time. I have built them to heal the divides I see in our dance scene. I have built them for you. Thank you for reading, for thinking, for being part of all this, for being you. You are my heart and soul. Let’s go far–together.

Love,
Alia

Fall 2019 Upcoming Events

Raq-On Live Classes, mid Aug-mid Sept

I’m excited to be teaching some of Amity’s classes between mid August to mid Sept. There are a few spots left in the intermediate to advanced class on Monday nights–join live in the studio or Skype in.

“Individual growth while focusing not just on technique and drills, but different styles, props, history, and performance methods. You must be willing to take constructive criticism from your instructor work as a team player with your peers. Please note, in order to join this class, you must get instructor permission.” If interested, please contact me.

FUN Classes

FUN classes are live online (video) classes designed for FUN. They are primarily follow-me, improv classes with some combinations, technique, and an extended Dancemeditation section for stress release and joy.

Each class is recorded. The recording is available for one week only, then replaced by the next recording. We use zoom for the classes and teachable.com to host the streamable recordings. Registration opens in August.

Creative Expressions Mastermind

I am very excited about this new venture.
This Mastermind is for small groups (+/- five people) who meet online bi-weekly for two months (five total meetings of about two hours per meeting). Each member chooses their own creative goals while the group provides accountability, cheerleading, and coaching. 

Each person gets twenty minutes per meeting to talk about what they’ve done, what they want to do, and troubleshoot or discuss. Alia will provide coaching, and they will choose their new goals or next steps for the coming month.

What might you focus on? It could be any kind of creative goal, dance, improvisation, a prop, or anything you want to learn or get better at, painting, costume making, writing, marketing, establishing boundaries, whatever you want to work on.

This Mastermind will run through September and October. Meeting times will be decided by the group. Meetings will be recorded and available via teachable.com.

There are only ten spaces available for the mastermind. If you are interested, contact me. Formal registration opens in August. However, if you are sure this is for you, you may partake of our special Trust the Chef pricing (there’s even a payment plan).

How to Teach Improvisation

Save the Date: August 4th at 2PM
This is a webinar I’m teaching for the Belly Dance Business Academy. More info and signup coming soon.

Effortless Improv: a 6-week online improvisation crash course

This is one of my favorite classes. It is wild and crazy and oh, does it work! Get ready for transformation. Ten spots are available right now at a special early price (only 25 spots for the whole class). Info/Register

Focus on the Feeling
How to Get and Give Great Critique for Oriental Dance

Who among us has not been told something cutting about our dance? Sure, maybe it’s true, but really–cutting? All of us want to improve; none of us need to be shredded in the process. Yet the only other option seems to be saying how good something was–when it wasn’t? Can’t we be honest, yet kind?

YES, WE CAN.

Focus on the Feeling helps us identify our strengths, prioritize our growth, build up our skills, and enjoy doing it–we even get to enjoy our own videos! Find out more here. FoF will run for 6 weeks, from Sunday, October 13 — Friday, November 22, 2019. Registration opens in September.

Thank you!

I look forward to hearing from you <3

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

Why Good Enough really is good enough–and so are you

Inktober 3. Collect

I’ve been reading a lot of novels in the last few weeks, since I discovered OverDrive, which lets me take ebooks out from the library and read them on my phone. I am ridiculously happy reading on my phone, which, as a book person, I never thought would happen. I’ve been binge-reading Ursula Le Guin, Richard Kadry, and Neil Gaiman. It’s been such a pleasure to read beautifully written books!

The other day I read a passage in Gaiman’s book, American Gods that just floored me. Sighing, I thought, “I will never be this good, no matter how long I write.” Oddly, this didn’t depress me–I get such a lift from great work. More oddly, the rejoinder that came right to mind was, “No, but if I put the effort in, I can certainly be good enough.”

It’s funny to think that, isn’t it? “Good enough” is kind of second best. It was was a catch-phrase a friend and I enjoyed over the summer. “I’ll never be as amazing as you,” one of us would sigh. And the other would kindly respond, “Well, if you work reallly hard, someday you might just be good enough.” And then we would laugh our heads off.

Good Enough has a lot going for it. 

When I had to make a lot of repairs to my house so my insurance wouldn’t get cancelled, we worked like dogs–but as the hour of the inspection approached, I realized we would never be finished in time. I almost just gave up. Then I thought, well, it won’t be done–but maybe it will be good enough to succeed anyway. And it was. So many times this has happened. It’s not perfect. But it does what it needs to do. It’s enough. And that’s good. And next time it will be better.

It’s like this with the book too–which is so close to done, it’s scary. What if it’s not good enough? But it will be. It won’t be perfect. Nothing is. It won’t please everyone. Nothing does. I’m sure it could be better. Everything can. But it will be good enough.

We are so hobbled by the notion that if we can’t be the BEST we might as well stay home.

That anything less than perfection is failure. Every artist struggles to reconcile the image of what they wanted to create with the reality in front of them. Even Neil Gaiman finds a typo in every book he publishes, yet American Gods still won every award in sight and is being made into a TV show. I don’t have to win every award, nice as that would be. I just want to make work that satisfies me and that readers buy and enjoy.

It’s the same with dance.

You put in the effort, and you get better. But there will be mistakes, errors, disasters. That’s how you know you are learning. After a while, you have fewer, but each time you put yourself in the position of being a novice again, you go back to that awkward place of beginner-dom. but there is nothing better for us than to be thrown periodically back into that place. Real learning is a difficult, messy, uncomfy process. But that;s how we increase our intelligence and gain new skills. By putting ourselves outside of our own comfort zones, taking risks, and–failing.

It’s not the failing that’s important–well, it is.

Failing means that we tried to do something new and difficult. We put ourselves out there. We went for it. But there is more to it than simply falling on our faces. There is the getting back up again. There is the continuing. The keeping going. Persistence. Perseverance. That is what makes a difference. So many of us have had dreadful setbacks–but we continue on. Not everyone gets to do that. Some of us are unable to go on. Those of us who can have something for which to be deeply grateful.

I will never be Neil Gaiman.

Or Bill Watterston, who created Calvin and Hobbes. Or Elena Lentini, queen of our dance (and that one does sting). Here she is, thanks to Tarifa Salem (Bobby Farrah’s niece): https://youtu.be/regqBiXdLrc

But I can be me.

And I can be a pretty darn good version of me. Maybe not the Me I see shining in my mind’s eye–the Platonic Ideal of me. I’m just too damn tired for now. But I can keep going. I can keep learning. I can keep challenging myself. I’ll fail. But I’ll also succeed.

We spend so much energy bemoaning our failures and not nearly enough appreciating our strength, good fortune, success, and persistence. Let’s cut ourselves a little slack. Let’s be grateful that we are all here, together, and that we can dance.

Let’s try liking ourselves. 

I like you. You like me. Why not like ourselves?

Love,

Alia

 

PS I’ll be teaming up with Rosa Noreen and Nadira Jamal for another Compassionate Critique Salon. We will celebrate each dancer’s strengths as well as some suggestions for growth. Get some feedback for yourself or watch and learn. It all happens on November 15th.  http://www.bellydancegeek.com/compassionate-critique-salon/

Thank you all so much for the Compassionate Critique event! I appreciate your discerning eyes on my dance, especially I have had no outside critique in over 12 years. I have just been bumbling along on my own, doing my best to apply what I learn as I can. I also took copious notes on everyone else’s critiques too because, as it was pointed out, there is so much to learned from other people’s critiques.
All 3 of you were great at articulating what I see in dancers but can’t always explain. So it was also very useful to me as far as being able to give better critiques as a teacher. I also really appreciated the different perspectives that each of you brought to this salon.
Thanks again for offering it. I hope you will do it again.

 

PPS more upcoming events: 

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

 

Saturday, November 19 at 7:30 PM
Gina’s 12th Annual Belly Dance Showcase
“They Called us Gypsies” in Lebanon, NH
http://ginadances.com/events-page

 

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. 

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

 

 

 

 

Time, the final frontier (or, my summer vacation)

No TimeChristopher Columbus believed the world was round. He was determined to show that he could get to the East–by sailing West. Finding a water route to Asia was important because spices were incredibly valuable, so Queen Isabella gave him permission (and money) to find it. Columbus was right about the roundness, but wrong about the route. Instead, he famously found the New World, America. He proceeded to destroy its inhabitants, but that’s another story. My summer has been like Columbus’ journey, minus the boats, scurvy, etc. I thought I would get a lot a work done by visiting friends.

The visiting has been great, but the work part was a disaster.

I got even less work done than while caring for my Mom, and that is saying something. It’s made me think a lot about time; how I use it, abuse it, and give it away. It’s also made me think about boundaries–and how few I have in the face of other people’s comfort.

For example, I avoid eating a lot of things for a lot of reasons. Some I don’t care for, others don’t agree with me. But if anyone asks me what I don’t eat, I do not list those things. I say that I eat anything. Why? I don’t want to be that picky, annoying buzzkill constantly talking about their picky, annoying diet.

This means I sometimes get served things that I know will damage me, and often I eat them, to be agreeable, because I like the person serving them, or because I am too damn tired or hungry to care.

This is exactly what happens with my time, too.

When visiting, you exist to some degree at the whim of your host. You do what they want to do, because you are a guest. Now, that’s not always true, and my friends would happily let me do whatever I wanted, even if that meant we did not hang out. But I am visiting to see them. I mean, I bought a plane ticket. I could have stayed home and had all the time in the world (I am off Mom duty for the summer). But no.

I somehow naively imagined that my carefully-constructed work habit would continue unabated in the face of visits. That, in fact, I would have more time to work while visiting friends. Ha, ha, and ha.

Not only could I not work most of the time, I did I not work when I could have, and I tried to work when I shouldn’t have. Then, just to add to the confusion, I got the most work done when I thought it would be impossible. What’s really annoying is that if I had stayed home, I would have been too distracted by the other things that need to doing, and just as little would have been accomplished.

The problem is boundaries. How do we keep things in their places?

Do I have a suggestion? No. Honestly, I have been so exhausted that it’s a wonder I have accomplished anything at all for the last three years (and I have accomplished a lot). I am only now realizing this. I kept thinking all I need is time to myself and I will bounce right back. Sorry, no. Bounce is broken. It’s taken two months to begin to feel like doing anything.

Am I making excuses? Kind of, yes. I’ve been out of touch for the last two months. I apologize for the long spaces in between these newsletters. The registration for Focus on the Feeling should have opened a month ago. Pretty much everything dance has fallen off the table. (I have ben working on the book, though. Slowly but surely. That is good.)

But here’s the really important thing.

Well, two.

  1. Taking time off is vital. Make a decision and stick to it. My problem is not my work, it’s the anxiety about how much I work, the nagging feeling of not doing enough. That’s deadly. Think about an undulation. You have to relax the muscles between the contractions. If there is no release, it’s all contraction. And that hurts.
  2. Listen to your inner wisdom. I’m at my brother’s house atm, back to caring for my mom while he and his family have a break. Having had some time off from the boiling water, I can see some changes I need in my life. Focusing on those changes is a goal. It’s nice to have goals. Especially when they entail a brighter future.

If all goes well, I have maybe another month of “summer vacation.” Some of that is designated work time, some is designated play time. In the last 25 years, I have rarely given myself permission to just hang out, to not have an agenda, to not feel guilty about anything. I’m hereby giving myself that permission now. Columbus wishes he had it so good ; )

To kick off the work time, I’ve opened registration for Focus on the Feeling.

So many dancers experience useless feedback: empty, generic praise, or niggling, negative shame. We become so unhappy with our own dance we can’t even watch a video without wanting to die. It’s time for that to end.

Focus on the Feeling uses tried and true critique strategies to

  • Sort out what’s important (and what’s not)
  • Help dancers step back from their own work to view it with fresh eyes
  • Give constructive, useful feedback to other dancers
  • Be honest AND kind
  • Get good feedback for their own work

There are new methods each week, lots of hands-on practice in applying those methods, and instructor feedback on the process. If you never know what to say when someone asks you about their dance, if you hate your own dance, if you can’t get god help, or if you just want to have a better toolkit, this class is for you.

Registration is open now. There are only 25 seats. The price goes up on Wednesday, August 17th and again on Wednesday, Sept 10th. Please take a look right away.

Here’s the link: https://aliathabit.com/dancers/focus-on-the-feeling/

Thank you!

Love,
Alia

 

 

 

How to Join a Dance Troupe

Where’s you dance wall?

SoHigh2

The foundation of my house is mainly a pile of rocks. Because of the spaces between the rocks, it’s rather porous. I have suffered floods in the spring and heat loss in the winter, because those spaces let heat out just as easily as they let water in. On top of this, animals sometimes burrow into the ground near the foundation so they can have a cozy warm place to winter. They are very strategic to find this nice nesting place!

Most things that seem impermeable are surprisingly porous. There are spaces through which we can enter–but we, too, want to be strategic about it. We do our homework and get to know the lay of the land. This way, we can find space for ourselves.

Consider D. She has been dancing regularly for about a year, and she wants to join a troupe. She is older than most of the people in her class and wonders if that will be a problem.

She said, “I am at point A, right? I would love to join a troupe to perform at fairs, shows, outdoor venues, etc. I’m not interested in earning my living this way. But it’s something I’m passionate about. How do I get to Point B?” I have heard from other folks who want to join a troupe, or join a specific troupe, or get into a venue, or a host of other A to B scenarios. The principles are the same for any of these endeavors.

Decide on what you want. Vet the people in advance. Learn from the leader

Decide on what you want

  • Make a list of the qualities you want in a troupe (or venue, or whatever). Just brainstorm and write it all down. Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes to give limits.
  • After your brainstorm, refine your list to reflect what you want. Only write what you WANT. “No cattiness” is NOT what you WANT–it’s what you DON’T want. Instead, revise that to what you DO want, maybe “Fun, thoughtful people.”
    Does this make sense? It’s very important.
  • Start looking at troupes and meeting people. See how well they embody your list. To give yourself the courage to go chat up strangers, think of it as an anthropological experiment. Part of what you want to know is if they are welcoming. What better way to find out?

Vet the people in advance

  • Every troupe is different, and they all have very different dynamics. Some are welcoming. Some are snotty. Some dance well. Some don’t. And there is every possible shade of these colors all along the spectrum.
  • You want folks who feel good to be around. Checking out the vibe from the different groups gives you the a sense of what it would be like to interact with them on a regular basis.

Learn from the leader

  • Of course, you want to be up to the level of the troupe in order to get in. So taking the classes and observing the troupe will help you know how to focus your efforts.
  • Once you know whom you like, you can put some extra effort into taking the leader’s classes or workshops. If that is too difficult or far away, you might schedule some private lessons with her. Start small. Let the relationship develop. You can also practice with videos of their/her performances.
  • Again, you get to vet her and see if you like her up close and personal, but there is more.
  • You learn her style, and you begin to develop a relationship with her. If you do take classes or workshops, you might also meet and hang out with the troupe folks, and get to know them, too.

What if there is no amenable troupe around you? Finding one you like, even if it too far away to join, gives you a model and something to look for. New troupes form all the time–it is possible yours hasn’t started yet. Maybe you will even start one yourself! But it helps to know what you want.

Will this work for everything? No. But it works for a lot of things. If it doesn’t work, the odds are good there is a better situation for you somewhere else. Keep looking, keep refining what you want, and keep developing yourself as a kind, compassionate, accomplished human being. Bring your best self to the best table.

So far so good? 
Figure out what you want. Look for it. Meet people. Get involved.

Re the disjunction between ages of you and the other gals: The right people will not care about that. Maybe that will be one of the things on your list, that the group is of mixed ages, body types, etc.

I hope this helps!

Love,
Alia