Announcing: Conversational Belly Dance!

Conversational Belly Dance Illustration


A cultural dance can be seen as a language, including a new vocabulary, with its own inflections and conventions. In our last FUN Class session, we looked at dance moves as letters in an alphabet, writing in cursive script as opposed to printing in block letters. This time we look at individual moves as words in sentences.  

For many of us, our ability to improvise (to have off-the-cuff conversations with the music), is hampered when we can’t remember our dance vocabulary, and our minds are yelling at us the whole time as our palms get sweaty and we wish the ground would just open up and swallow us. Simply drilling words in rote sentences is not the answer—ou est la plume de ma tante, anyone? 

To really speak a language, we must engage in conversation! So this improvisational ease is our focus in…

Conversational Belly Dance
Engaging the music with comfort and confidence!

What we’ll do each week

1. Introduce one or two classic moves (aka words). Combine and recombine them them with other basic moves into small combinations (aka sentences ; ). 

These combinations and moves will change every week—however, we will add our previous moves into our rotation, so we will become comfortable with them in many different combinations. In learning science, this is known as creating a constellation—we add new stars every week and mix them around in the context of actual dancing to varied actual music. 

2. Facilitate daily practice using models. Since conversational language gets better with practice, we will to find time each day to at least listen to music from provided playlists, and at best dance from just one song to to up to 20 minutes a day, incorporating our words of the week into our existing vocabulary however many days a week we choose. We will also help you troubleshoot your workflow to make the act of opening the practice session as simple and seamless as possible. 

3. Offer accountability for this practice. We’ll provide daily check-ins via app or text. Let us know you’ve practiced, and we’ll respond! Participants are free to choose accountability buddies from Alia, the class, or outside of it. 

4. Provide playlists of suitable practice music. We’ll include a fallback song or two—something you can have ready on your phone to turn on at a moment’s notice to get your daily practice happening. 

Conversational Belly dance promises to be a fun way to gain confidence in your ability to dance without having to think of moves, even as you increase your vocabulary and and your ease in connecting words into sentences on the fly. 

Conversational Belly Dance runs Tuesdays at 4pm EST for five weeks, from April 25 to May 23, 2023. See this in your time zone. Each class is recorded (instructor view only). Each recording is available during the run of the class.

I hope to see you there!
With all my love,

Alia's Inspiring FUN Class Offering: Comfort and Joy
Our next FUN Class Deep Dive

Offering: Comfort and Joy

Because it so often seems wrong to dance and feel good when so many are suffering, I invite you to join me in a gift to this world.

Thanksgiving Special! Join and bring a friend!

In this class, we will offer up the comfort and joy of our dance to those suffering in Israel and Palestine, or wherever you may wish to send it. (As a Buddhist, I routinely offer any merit from giving or other perfections to the benefit of all sentient beings).

Each class will begin with grounding exercises to help relieve agitation and unite our hearts. We will move from follow-me exercises into free dance with the intention of connection to the Divine and sharing that joy.

Comfort and Joy is NOT

Comfort and Joy IS

Please join us. There are options to fit every budget.

Comfort and Joy starts Tuesday Nov 21 at 4pm ET and runs through Tuesday, Dec 19. Each class will be recorded, each recording available during the run of the class, plus a little extra.

Register here:

Pay in Full $70
Pay Weekly $14.50/week for 5 weeks
Sliding Scale $10.00/week for 5 weeks
Pay What You Will. Open to All.
BIPOC, LGBTQ+, MENAHT and any marginalized groups are invited use this option

PS Speaking of accountability!

Watch out for our NEW ACE Mastermind series! Our kickoff event is a FREE group Target Practice, as we set our sights on getting some things done and HOW we’re going to do them.

AND! Upcoming Local VT/NH Events

In other news, things are opening up and folks are doing things in person again–including me 0.o. For example,

I have an office!

It’s in St. Johnsbury, VT for in-person SE sessions (yes, I even have an air purifier!). I’ll be talking more about the benefits of SE for artists and dancers in the coming weeks.

I’m teaching a live class!

It’s suitable for all levels, a fun social class for relaxation and enlivening! The class is Thursdays from 6-7pm in St. Johnsbury, VT. We’ll do a a free sample class on April 20th, and start a 6-week session on April 27. More information is here. Please do share the page with anyone you think might be interested.

Coming soon: Live Tuning In sessions.
Probably in Lyndonville, VT. More on that in the next few weeks.

Noteworthy Online Events

Click the links for more information

Classes with the legendary Amani of Lebanon, April 29 and 30, 2023, sponsored by Tammy Stanzione

Nawarra of Morocco, on the state of folklore dances in our industry with Walladah Valladah

Lecture by Tamalyn Dallal on the the Arabic diaspora in South America, sponsored by Mahin

How quantum physics illuminates personal style

Strange Attractor myriad infinites

Quantum physics is weird. There is a degree to which we ought to be able to walk into a store and find exactly what we want every time (and on sale!), because, in quantum land, the likelihood of it being there is about as high as the likelihood that it won’t. There’s a level of trust, of confidence, in the appearance of the exact right thing. It’s kind of like the confidence and trust we bring to dancing with live music.

Imagine you are watching a dancer. You have no idea what the hell she is doing, but everything is moving in complete accord with the music, and that music is live. There are half a dozen instruments, multiple accents, and a wild assortment of inputs, yet she is totally in sync. How do we arrive at this level of embodied expression?

We start out by copying–that’s how we learn.

Copying different artists and styles gives us the tools, models, and permission to be different. Through learning from a range of sources, we increase the variety of spaces in which we give ourselves permission to be. Each time we reset the pattern, we increase our understanding of and relationship to the dance.

All the movement models we experience form a cloud of possibilities for the “how” of any step, any move. Micro-movement has that quantum element of infinite variation. So does the multiplicity of interpretation, the way in which we construct each move. Through this quantum density, this strange attractor of a shape, we find our own path.

Strange Atrractor

This is why it’s important to study with many teachers. And not just any teachers. Follow the visionaries! When we learn/copy from a variety of expressive masters, through our exposure to varied models we gain an ever more expansive range of possibility. Our range of motion increases, literally—and of thought, imagination, expression.

Over time, our eyes open. Every dance we see, every teacher whose class we take contributes to this.  Seek out the best teachers, see great artists, as this is how we develop our range of possibility.

But we can’t copy forever.

As we grow, we find new ways of being in the world. We find out how our bodies want to express the move, the music, the feeling. We branch out on our own. We give ourselves permission to do this. We let go of following. We lead.

Our own style comes from giving ourselves permission to find our own way. The confidence we gain from seeing, learning the variety of ways is the key. I believe our style is already inside us, waiting. The effort and study help us find it, accept it, refine it.

Our path develops in relation to the myriad paths we have followed. It may lie within or without the experienced range of possibility—through the effort of building the range, we see how there could be an outside, and that we might go there. We allow our body to choose whatever move comes forward. We trust that it will be there. 

We begin by copying. We learn to trust…

Welcome to the bright world of possibility.



Here’s some Merçan Dede…

Samuel Davies: Twice, Then Quit: How to Train for Resistance to Change

Your Brain on Joy

In honor of next year’s 90 Days, our upcoming newsletters will feature Love Notes from previous 90 Days. They are examples of the sort of wide-ranging musing that powers the Love Notes–and the daily music suggestions that accompany them ; ). And all this thoughtfulness gets explored and reinforced in the private Bonus Pack of Joy group. It is a unique personal journey to your real self, and your true dance. More about that soon!

Here is one of my favorite Love Notes.

Day 16 from 2018. This is your brain on joy

There was this story of folks who imagined themselves playing darts, and their dart game improved. Then there was a lot of flak about what a fake load of crap that was. But the truth is out. It works.

The  brain can’t tell the difference between the real and the imaginary.

There is AMPLE evidence to show that imagining something is almost as good as doing it.

Here are some of the results of one such study.

“Volunteers were asked to play a simple sequence of piano notes each day for five consecutive days. Their brains were scanned each day in the region connected to the finger muscles. Another set of volunteers were asked to imagine playing the notes instead, also having their brains scanned each day.

“The top two rows in the image show the changes in the brain in those who played the notes. The middle two rows show the changes in those who simply imagined playing the notes. Compare this with the bottom two rows showing the brain regions of the control group, who didn’t play nor imagine playing, piano.”  —David R. Hamilton PhD

Pretty amazing, right?

What does this mean for us?

It means we can visualize our choreography or a challenging transition as a means of practice (and we will focus on transitions in the next FUN Class ; ). But it also means we can lie on the floor and visualize dancing when we are not able to dance physically. Listening to the music and letting our bodies respond, even when we do not “move” is remarkably powerful. Small impulses slip into our muscles, activating them, connecting them.

But it also means more than this.

What we think is powerful.

The stories we tell ourselves, the words we say to ourselves, they have bigger results than we may know. 

We say things to ourselves, and we mean them—even when they are, well, sorta mean. I know, people laugh at affirmations. “It’s just a lie,” is the most common complaint. But I would submit that the self-hating acid drip in which we daily bathe is at least as much of a lie, and far more toxic.

What if we told ourselves better stories?

What if we visualized our own success? In detail. And stuck to that.

One of the things I do is what I call Mapping. I pay attention to my body in certain emotional states. The joy of connection in dance. Feeling successful. Happiness. Things like that. I map my body’s posture and physical sensations while I experience these positive feelings. So I can recreate that state later on. So when I am going to perform, I place myself in a body map created from a generous expression  of joy.

And, Lo, I let that feeling infuse my body. I “Just Say No” to toxic whispers of doubt. This didn’t come easily. It took practice and perseverance to notice these feelings and learn to create them. But it was worth the effort.

I do a lot of little things. At night before I go to sleep, I relax my jaw. I make sure none of my teeth are touching. I relax my eyes, my mouth, my face. Habitually holding tension in various body areas doesn’t go away by itself. We have to take action. And we are in good company. 

Olympic athletes visualize their success.

They visualize their whole event—their technique, strategy, competitors, the whole thing. They see it in their heads, their most perfect performance—and it’s serious business. They mean it.

If it’s good enough for Olympic athletes, it’s good enough for us.


Next time you have a moment of joy, I invite you to notice what you feel, physically, in your body. What sensations do you notice? What is the shape of that joy? How does your body hold itself when it is happy? What is on your face?  Map that. Go there.

Practice feeling joy.

Smiling brings joy. Smiling at ourselves in the mirror, a real smile, makes a difference. Let’s make that difference.

Improv brings joy too. Here’s a tiny little improv video. Let your brain think your body is doing it ; ) 

Our next FUN Class, Bobby Style 3: Transitions will explore Bobby’s strategy of teaching transitions between moves as moves in and of themselves. Come dance with us and level up your transitions!
I invite you to check it out ; )

And now for something completely different! Astor Piazzola, a playlist. Tangueros have told me you can’t really dance tango to this music as it’s so complex, so feel free to let your imagination soar (or your body move as it wishes 😉 and have super-dramatic blast!

Presence: How Do You See Yourself? (and how would you like to see yourself?)

You are already good enough

A friend recounted to me in exhausted detail everything on her (immense) to-do list, along with her frustration and overwhelm at its contemplation. She had recently moved into a new house, and the workload was indeed massive. However she had already transformed it from a wreck into a lovely home. Mostly alone. During Covid. Scrubbing grime-blackened floors on her knees. I mean… if it were me, I’d still be living in squalor. Her accomplishments were astounding! So I listed them. Take the time to celebrate what you’ve done, I said. “Oh,” she replied, surprised. “I didn’t know you could do that.”

Few of us do.

We discount our successes. We only see how we’ve missed the mark, made mistakes, or failed miserably. We focus on our flaws. We speak bitterly to ourselves.

It’s not our fault. We are socialized to do this. The vast majority of folks on this list are women, sensitive men, or somewhere in between; in a patriarchal society, we are seen as inferior, as less than, and made to see ourselves as such. We always need a new cream, or dress, or diet, or whatever garbage to improve ourselves. To be good enough.

We are already good enough!

My dear colleague Walladah Valadah made a meme to showcase this. I feel so honored!!

Sure, we can improve ourselves. All our lives.

Plenty of people who feel they are quite perfect can also improve themselves. We will never be truly perfect–we can’t. We don’t want to be. Perfection is death. Life is about becoming.

And with all that socialized attack upon our self-worth, it can be challenging for us as dancers to enjoy ourselves. To love ourselves. To relax, to savor, to relish. To be genuine, real, playful–Present. Especially in this specific art form, where these are our primary endeavor.

There are twin questions that, for me, come at the top of the list for dancers in our dance.

Is the dancer enjoying themself?
Does the dancer share their joy with their guests?

If we are working too hard, thinking too much, fearful, freeze, worry we are not good enough, etc, etc, then we aren’t enjoying ourselves. If we aren’t enjoying ourselves, we can’t share our joy.

So how do we change this?
What if we develop our Presence?

What is Presence?

According to Amy Cuddy, who wrote a whole book on the topic, Presence is “the state of being attuned to and able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, values, and potential.”

Able to comfortably express our true thoughts, feelings, values, and potential.

How often do you feel able to do that–comfortably? How often are you able to bring that into your dance?

I’ve spent decades unable to do that, in life or in dance. It’s taken a lot of personal work to change that, to be able to comfortably speak my mind, to know my worth, to feel equal to the world. Cuddy maintains that we can self-induce Presence. Which is what I have been studying over the last several months to design CYGS–and what I am bringing, in dance form, to the upcoming FUN Class, Presence.

I’ve written recently about using the mirror and acting as if. We’ve been doing these in CYGS for the last few weeks; all the participants report shifts and breakthroughs. These strategies work.

Today I bring you another simple, yet powerful, strategy, also from Amy Cuddy.

Write about your core values

What is important to you? What do you hold dear? What principles guide your life? They may be big or small. One of mine is to be warm and appreciative with “service” staff–waiters, cashiers, clerks, hotel housekeeps, and so forth.

What are yours? Make a list. Choose one or two that are most central to your identity. Write a tiny essay about it. Just a few paragraphs. Five minutes. What does it mean to you? Why are those values important to you? When in your life have they proved to be important?

This is called self-affirmation, and study after study has confirmed its effectiveness in helping folks saty grounded in challenging situations.

This is just one of the strategies we will use in Presence. We’ll use a different tool each week to help us bring comfort and joy into our dance–and our lives.

As it happens, Presence starts on Tuesday!

Presence: Joyous Connection in Oriental Dance

Our next FUN Class Deep Dive is alll about developing a joyful, confident, connection to ourselves, our dance, and anyone with whom we care to share it. We’ll use pinning, breakouts, and other strategies to increase our capacity for connection, openness, warmth, and joy.
What we’ll do

  • Explore and embody Presence
  • Enrich simple combinations with joyous connection
  • Bring our confident movement quality to a range of musical styles, tempos, and genres
  • Make space for openness, warmth, and love
  • Practice grounded, present, agency

Presence runs Tuesdays at 4pm ET from Oct 4 through Nov 1. Each class is recorded (instructor view only). Each recording is available during the session.

Will you join us? It’s going to be joyfully liberating!

Register here!

With love,

You might also like Walladah’s fascinating article on the use of the Ayoub rhythm in Cretan music!

And here’s some music for your Presence ; )

How to develop stage presence at home (and on video)

Alexander the Great conquered the known world. Everywhere there was fell to him. He did a good job, too, keeping the local culture culture intact. But his big love was conquering. When he got as far as there was to go, when there were no more countries to to invade, Alexander broke down and cried.

Alexander the Great
Mosaic of Alexander and his horse, Bucephalus (c. first century AD), ancient Roman floor mosaic from the House of the Faunin Pompeii showing Alexander fighting king Darius III of Persia in the Battle of Issus (

Sometimes it seems we can only go so far by dancing for our pets, stuffed animals, and furniture. Where else is there to go? Many of us do not perform, or we have few chances. We need some real live interaction!

Well, here is an an idea.

Dance with the mirror.

Most of us have been trained to squint at ourselves critically. What if we enjoyed ourselves instead?

I started by just smiling at and reassuring myself in the bathroom mirror. Then I moved on to a little mirror in my living room. Then when I danced in that room, I found I danced to myself in that little mirror—just my face. I would dance and smile and twinkle, and it was so much nicer.

A while back, at an improv class of Leila Farid’s, people were asking about using mirrors to practice improv. This is generally a terrible idea, since we all squint and judge ourselves so much in the mirror, focusing upon what we look like and tweaking our visual.

I mentioned that I was developing a new relationship with my mirror, dancing with rather than staring at, and I danced a little bit, twinkling at my reflection, enjoying the moment.

The reaction was interesting. Everyone’s jaw dropped. Clearly, no one had done this before. So I mention it today. What if we all reclaimed our self-relationship? What if we all used the mirror to reinforce our self-love and enjoyment? I think that could be one hell of a revolutionary gesture.

This also works on video.

I first noticed this when I was making 90 Days practice videos. I see what the camera does on my computer screen. I keep an eye on the monitor to be sure that I am in the frame, and I smile and send love out through the camera to to all of my guests. But I realized I was doing more than that—I was dancing with myself. Instead of squinting and judging, I was twinkling and smiling and playing!

Well! That was a fun surprise. I find it is becoming a habit. And what a nice habit! Because I smile at myself, it comes through the camera as though I smile into it, so it has a double benefit of love to myself and love towards my guests.

I usually position the cam so it is at waist height, which I understand as the best angle for recording dance, as neither half of the body is lengthened or foreshortened. I do all the normal video things, check the light, mark the space I have, remove any clutter, and then I have a good time dancing with myself! I even like the way the videos have been coming out. So it is a win-win.

I have a video for you below, so you can see what I mean. I made this for the 90 Days; now you get to see it, too ; ). 

I invite you to try it for yourself!

Start with mirrors or video as you like—just smile and twinkle at yourself. Dance and have fun!

This is exactly what we will do in PRESENCE!

Our next FUN Class Deep Dive is alll about developing a joyful, confident, connection to ourselves, our dance, and anyone with whom we care to share it. We’ll use pinning, breakouts, and other strategies to increase our capacity for connection, openness, warmth, and joy.

Presence runs Tuesdays at 4pm ET from Sept 27 through Oct 26 2022. Each class is recorded (instructor view only). Each recording is available during the session.

More info and register here!

Will you join us? It’s going to be joyfully liberating!


Music: Maewood, by Abdel Halim Hafez!

Two Videos (and more!)

Delighted to present this interview on belly dance and trauma resolution, recorded at Neskaya in New Hampshire for the UK website, DanceWise!

In addition, here is a tiny, tiny dance video from class this week..

This was the final week of BOLD, which was a roaring success–dancers expressed specific attributes and found that they were more relaxed about what to do when they had someone to be.

Our next FUN class starts August 2. What would you love to do? What outcome would you like to have? Let me know. I’m planning now ; ).

If you haven’t yet read Midnight at the Crossroads: has belly dance sold its soul? you might enjoy the first chapter. It is an overview of the book as a whole. Sign up here (use the email this newsletter came to to avoid being signed up twice), and get a free download of the chapter.

I’ve also set up the free Mix and Match demo as an ongoing free class. If you missed it, it came out pretty nicely, and the first half includes a taste of the work we did in BOLD, and will do more deeply in Create Your Glorious Self. Access is for a week, and you can always re-enroll. Register here (again, use your newsletter email)

Finally, Joe Williams’ ongoing Delsarte workshops are back! The next one will be Expression of Arms and Hands. There is no recording–this is a live-only class. I treasure these classes. If you can swing the time, it will be worth your while. Sunday, July 24Th, From 10:00 am – 12:30 pm (Central Time) Register here.

Summer hugs and love!

Where do you Start when Making Dances?

How to Make a Dance in Five Days

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

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

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

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

It depends upon the project.

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

Sometimes it happens differently.

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

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

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

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

So there are many ways to start making a dance.

But sometimes you want a little help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With all my love,

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

Mix and Match: Templates for Effortless Dance Improvisation

Templates for coloring pictures

One of the biggest improv fears dancers have is what to do next?! We try memorizing–a stock of combinations, a few moves we can fall back on, our entire dance vocabulary—all so we can pick a move. In short, we try to think and remember while we dance. At the same time as we are trying to be fully in the moment, engage with the music, and, if performing, with the space and our guests. Yikes!

Yet the first rule of improv is DON’T THINK. 

So how do we resolve this dilemma?

One way is with templates.

Templates for coloring pictures
Blue, Lavender, and Gold are the template for this image.
What are templates?

Templates, in this context, are patterns of qualities. For example, one of the classic Oriental dance patterns is “Quick Quick Slow,” 

ANY move can be done quickly or slowly, from a walk to a hip drop to an undulation to an accent. Quick is relative to Slow. Slow is at least twice as long as quick (1, 2, 3-4). 

So far so good?

Template elements can be mixed and matched, sliced and diced….

For example, Quick Quick Slow could also be 

Slow Quick Quick. 

Or Quick quick quick quick Slllooowwwww….

or Slow, slow, quick quick quick

or Quick, slooowwwww. Quick, slooowwwww. 

And each time, Quick and Slow can be the same or different moves—whatever your body supplies in the moment. Quick could be shoulder accents and Slow could be a shoulder roll. Or a hip circle. A change in gaze direction. A traveling step. Or whatever comes out of your body. Because the only quality we’re looking at here is velocity. ANY move can fit the bill. 

It doesn’t even have to be a move! We can just express the qualities of quick and slow as we ooze around.

Within this simple structure, we have incredible freedom!

Templates are elastic and variable, just like our micro-movements, just like an Arabic orchestra will sometimes repeat a phrase or verse or passage of a song, or place them in a different order. As dancers, we have all the agency; we can do them as we please. 

We’ve been using Templates for the last month is Secret Stories. Gestural, directional, conceptual—the possibilities are amazing! What’s been really fun is establishing the template early in the class and then applying to various songs, various character elements, and all kinds of fun moving parts. 


What folks said about our free Mix and Match Class

“I just finished your recorded quick quick slow template class. It was Amazing! My body felt so good doing it! Thank you so much!”

“That exploration really opened up something new for me. That it really is powerful to just work with qualities, taking my time, owning the space, and not having to actually “dance”. I really enjoyed it. And when I watched you, Alia, I could totally see the power in it. It was compelling to watch”

“Feeling my individual dancing spirit free to shine through!💗 “

“Going more into your own pleasure and then bringing it out/sharing it with audience.”​

“I feel more confident about performing!”

“It reinforced the the value of trusting myself”

Our next FUN Class Deep Dive into Templates is happening! 

Each week, we’ll explore a different template. We’ll use it with different moves, different music, different attitudes. We’ll mix and match, and slice and dice until each template is a comfortable friend, so we can relax and enjoy improvisation. 

Mix and Match: Templates for Oriental Dance Improvisation

Tuesdays at 4pm EDT
Mix and Match runs 5 weeks, from April 26 through May 24. 
All sessions recorded (instructor view only). All recording available during the run of the series.

Alia's Inspiring FUN Class Offering: Comfort and Joy
Alia's Inspiring FUN Class Offering: Comfort and Joy
Our next FUN Class Deep Dive

Offering: Comfort and Joy

Because it so often seems wrong to dance and feel good when so many are suffering, I invite you to join me in a gift to this world.

Thanksgiving Special! Join and bring a friend!

In this class, we will offer up the comfort and joy of our dance to those suffering in Israel and Palestine, or wherever you may wish to send it. (As a Buddhist, I routinely offer any merit from giving or other perfections to the benefit of all sentient beings).

Each class will begin with grounding exercises to help relieve agitation and unite our hearts. We will move from follow-me exercises into free dance with the intention of connection to the Divine and sharing that joy.

Comfort and Joy is NOT

Comfort and Joy IS

Please join us. There are options to fit every budget.

Comfort and Joy starts Tuesday Nov 21 at 4pm ET and runs through Tuesday, Dec 19. Each class will be recorded, each recording available during the run of the class, plus a little extra.

Register here:

Pay in Full $70
Pay Weekly $14.50/week for 5 weeks
Sliding Scale $10.00/week for 5 weeks
Pay What You Will. Open to All.
BIPOC, LGBTQ+, MENAHT and any marginalized groups are invited use this option

With love,

How to Space IN (a secret skill for Oriental dance)

But first, a message from our sponsor ; )

Joe Williams at the Gates

Joe Williams’ Show and Tell workshop was truly exceptional. The concepts we explored have made a deep impression on my approach to movement. It is available to stream through April 7. This is huge–Joe does not usually allow his classes to be recorded. If you are interested in the streaming option, I invite you to have a look here: It is SO worth it! And alll the $ goes straight to Joe.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program ; )

Spacing IN…

I am pretty good at spacing out. It’s one of my main skills, lol. I was a figure model for art classes in my teens, and it was a perfect job for me–I didn’t have to do anything—just sit there—and there was always plenty flowing through my mind to keep me occupied (I also learned to accurately count seconds, another useful skill). 

But spacing out is not so helpful for a dance practice focused on presence and embodiment. 

What we want is more like spacing IN. 

What might that be like?

Neil Gaiman is a marvelous writer. He’s won multiple Hugo and Nebula awards, and many of his books have been turned into films and television series (American Gods, Good Omens, Coraline). He’s also kind of an oddball, but who cares. His books are wonderful (my favorite is Neverwhere). 

Recently, I was reading about Gaiman’s creative process.

He writes his drafts in longhand with a fountain pen (I firmly believe that handwriting has magical powers). He often rents hotel rooms for month-long writing blitzes, or at least goes to a café for dedicated writing time (+1 for writing in cafés and alternative spaces! It’s hard to do anything at home. I had to get up at 5am every day to write my book). 

But more important is what he does during that dedicated writing time, when the writing doesn’t come. Or rather, what he doesn’t do—which is anything at all. If there are no words coming, Gaiman just sits there, staring at his paper until they do. 

No chatting. No web surfing. No doodles or playing cat’s cradle with string. No Twitter posts. No reading. No anything. He waits. He stares at that page. He makes a space for the words, for the writing. He defends that space by avoiding anything that isn’t writing. He spaces IN. 

Gaiman gets bored, waiting. 

Boredom is an interesting space. 

It leads to higher creativity. Things have a chance to surface when there is nothing else going on. 

Walter Mosely (another wonderful writer), compares writing a novel to “gathering smoke.” You have to stay on it, be there every day, or it will get cold and float away. 

We make space for dance with our 20 minutes. But even so, it’s very easy to space out—to let the body prance about while we debate what to have for dinner, or how early to get up tomorrow, or whatever the myriad barrage of random stuff that comes into our heads. 

The more we let the mindless chatter go, the more we are just there with the music and the breath, the more things appear. 

Many of us have found new ideas surface during our practice, have moves we forgot we knew turn up in our dance. We make the space and keep it open; as we learn to bypass mind’s nattering, those creative flashes become more frequent.  

This is a skill. It is hard at first, but it gets easier with practice. 

Music helps. It’s enlivening.

This week, I invite you to be bored.

Stay with the breath–rhythmic breath or long exhales. Twenty minutes is a great amount of time, because generally something will happen before it’s over ; )

Even if you lie on the floor with an empty mind listening to music (or not) for 20 minutes, well, things could be worse ; )

Music! It begins with Erik Satie’s Gnossiennes by the Cairo Steps and then keeps on going ; )



Wonderland starts Sunday!


I am so excited for Wonderland! And part of my excitement is that Delsarte movement expert Joe Williams will be our guest artist, with a 2-hour live interactive workshop on using Delsarte principles to subtly enhance meaning, emotion, and engagement in our dance! As you may remember, I included Joe’s workshops last year in my professional development post; I am beyond delighted to host him as a guest artist for Wonderland!

Wonderland includes so much material for making meaningful, compelling dances! It is great for creating structures to inform improvisational dances, or to give richness and depth to set choreographies. It can even be used on the fly, with music you’ve never heard before!

This is a major component of the CDA system that I use to make all my dances. CDA incorporates musical structure, narrative and symbolic content, stage pictures, and more to create fully realized dances for improvisation or choreography. Wonderland is the heart of this system.

The course runs 5 weeks, concurrently with Secret Stories, a FUN Class Deep Dive into theatrical expression. Secret Stories (a $65 value) starts Tuesday! It is included free in Wonderland as a bonus! (but you can also just sign up for Secret stories–it’s going to be WONDER-ful ; )

I’ve even included a private lesson with me for each student, to better develop your vision!

This is going to be such a great class! There are still spaces left, along with a modest sliding scale. Wonderland will be hosted on a private forum, just for participants. I hope you will join us!

With all my love,