How does LUSCIOUS feel?

how does luscious feel?

I did my first ever Instagram Live yesterday. I had to look up how to do it ; ). The day went kinda south, so I girded myself with the improviser’s axiom, “Don’t Prepare; Just Show Up.” I had this idea of lusciousness, and that’s it.

So here is that IG Live. Skip in about 35 seconds to the actual start (lol, learning curves ; ).

Alia’s First IG Live!

LOTS of tips on feeling/moving Luscious!


Which brings me to…

Luscious

Hub the cat kind of needs a fez. He reminds me here of all those dear guys in Egyptian movies, caught up in the music, gazing affectionately at the dancer.

This is what I’m feeling, anyway. I’m liking where we’ve been going, and I kind of want to stay with that for a while. The last one was BOLD and we did soak on the bold side of things (Sekhmet, anyone?). I like how it was a little bit challenging, gender-bending, pushing our comfort zones a bit. Gave us a taste of a different way to be. 

I’d like Luscious to be transgressive in a different way.

I’ve had a lot of shame around sexuality to unpack on my journey. It took time and patience. We steep in the mixed messages of our social programming. Must not be sexy! NO! Must be sexy–for the other. Must not like sex! Ew, dirty! Must like sex or at least pretend to–for the other. Must not look sexy! Will get in trouble. BAD. Must look sexy! For the other…

And for us as dancers, it’s even more complicated–our costumes, the public side-eye, the even more mixed messages from the countries of origin. It’s tough to pick apart our own feelings, wants, and desires from the layers of shame and blame. 

Folk of the culture maintain that this is a woman’s dance. Everyone dances this dance, yet it’s a woman’s dance. Interesting. Gender binaries aside, to me, this means egg energy as opposed to sperm energy. The sperm goes out. It rushes. It has a goal. Swift, like an arrow! Get out there! Make those calls! Go get ’em! Rah!

The egg…. attracts. It’s magnetic. It’s engaged within and of itself. It doesn’t have to go anywhere, do anything. It doesn’t even have to put on eyeliner. It’s that juicy and… luscious. 

What if we don’t have a female body, or don’t identify as female?

Who cares? 
Sperm energy is generally valorized in Western culture–we’re allll expected to run around like little do-bees, busy busy productive extraverts. All the genders are expected to act like sperm, so why shouldn’t we all act like eggs, too? It might be a bit outside of our comfort zone–true learning is uncomfortable. And learning new skills increases our capacity for learning skills. So that pays off. And we could all benefit from seeing ourselves as luscious–self-love, affection, cherishing, magnetic, fragrant, mmmm…. 

And we could all use an hour on the sofa with with a nice little dish of bonbons. Right? And getting to enjoy those bonbons, as a choice, nibbling them slowly, for the creamy pleasure of it …

Lusciousness, Dala3, playful sensual/sexual confidence, ​is a core component of the cultural dance. It is NOT about the other. It IS about ourselves and our own self-love, affection, cherishing. Soooo…

Announcing!
Alia’s Inspiring FUN Class,

Luscious

What we’ll do
  • Explore and embody lusciousness
  • Translate simple combinations into lusciousness
  • Bring our luscious movement quality to a range of musical styles, tempos, and genres
  • Make space for self-love, affection, cherishing
  • Practice grounded, present, agency

Luscious runs Tuesday at 4pm EDT from August 9 through Sept 13 (no class Sept 6). Each class is recorded (instructor view only). Each recording is available during the session.

Will you please join us? It’s going to be… luscious ; )
Register here https://aliathabit.com/shop/#live/

Love,
Alia



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.)

Anyway…

Listen.

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.

Love,
Alia

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 to dip your pinkie toe…

BOLD

We’re all spinning a lot of plates right now. It takes all our energy just to keep our lives, our loved ones’ lives, together. Like the Red Queen, we have to run as fast as we can just to stay in the same place. Pandemics of virus, violence, injustice, poverty, natural disaster. Many of us (most?) are on our last nerve. Stuck maintaining our status quo. The stakes may feel too high to mess with what’s working. The idea of taking a risk feels a little… risky.

This is why we have dance. Dance classes (ideally), create a safe social space for playful exploration. Zoom classes may not be as social, but they do increase the safety factor. We are in our own homes. We can shut the door. We can turn off our camera. We can even turn off the lights.

And we can play.
With the group–or privately, where no one else can see us.

BOLD is alll about play.

It is a space to play dress-up–with our identities.

Combining cutting-edge behavioral design with innovative movement cues, BOLD provides a weekly interlude with a sparkly-new chest of dress-up opportunities.

Maybe we can’t throw ourselves into a new life. But maybe one tiny little part of us–maybe just the tip of our pinkie toe–might like to dip into something a little more… Exciting. Fun. Even… BOLD.

In our own home, in the privacy of our own space, we can let our hair down. Try on a new style. For our soul. We can enjoy feeling luxurious, strong, fluid, sensuous… happy.

When we act As If, we feel it.

Behavior creates emotion.

It’s easy to try this at home. Smile at yourself in the mirror. As if you were someone you love ; ).

Give a flirty little wink. Interact with yourself with enjoyment. Keep it up for a minute or so. Then see how you feel. Map that feeling in your body so you can come back to it whenever you want. Come back often!

Dip your pinkie toe…

BOLD is the appetizer buffet for Create Your Glorious Self (CYGS). In CYGS, we get to design our Glorious self and bring it into being–for dance, work, or any other Venue in which we may wish to behave differently.

In BOLD, we explore trying on attitudes and archetypal qualities within the context of dance. We play with varied qualities and movement cues each week, so we get to sample a lot of options. And each new way of being increases not just our available toolbox, but also our capacity for change, and our level of personal power.

Oriental dance music is alll about these wisps of feeling, emotional timbres, sometimes only for a breath, as a quarter tone brings in some subtle shift. As we increase our capacity to express subtle states with our bodies, our dance becomes more grounded, intentional, and–mesmerizing.

BOLD

BOLD starts Tuesday June 14. All sessions are recorded (instructor view only), and available for the duration of the course. Registration and more information is here: AliaThabit.com/Fun-Class

Come dip your pinkie toe in BOLD!
Let’s dance and have fun.

Love,
Alia

How to be BOLD (or any other way you want)

Oooh, a picture is here!

I’ve been doing some arts work in Headstarts, schools, and now daycares for my local arts org (yay, Catamount!). The model for this upcoming mini-residency is that I will come do my thing (I have a slate of pre-school activities), while the daycare teachers observe. The following visit, we will do the thing together, and the next one, the daycare teachers will do the the thing themselves while I observe.

This is a great model, except that I’ve been doing my thing for decades, and the teachers can’t do what I do after watching once (usually while herding cats—er, kids, the whole time). So I use my stuff as a template for theirs. They can’t do belly dance, but they can have movement that uses upbeat, rhythmic, then smooth and flowing music. I have a regular cool down they can do, and they can tell a story of their own.

That’s how templates work.

There is a palette or sequence of categories into which you can slot different yet similar options. Like the classic wedding template: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Anything in each category will do.

However, in my template, there is ONE thing I want to keep the same: My cool down. So I give that specific element to the teachers. Why this cool down? All the anti-trauma, nervous system regulation I’m building into it.

I’ve noticed over the course of this work that even pre-school kids are pretty freaked out these days. Freaked out kids often grow up into freaked out teens, adults and so forth. Nervous systems do ideally regulate themselves, but our modern lives of constant, chronic stress can screw up that feature. So it’s no wonder even 4-year-old kids are barely able to keep it together and others have simply given up.

I can’t fix their lives. But I can give them some respite. And, ideally, I can teach the daycare teachers how to build that respite into their daily routine, so kids can get that little daily taste of settling. Over time, maybe they will internalize this series of actions to use on their own. Each drop in the pool ripples outward.

Reducing stress, resolving trauma, these things bring the potential for joy back into our lives. Joy is one of the (many!) reasons I love belly dance.

Belly dance is anti-trauma

Everything about the cultural dance soothes and nurtures the nervous system. Every time we dance, it’s like a lovely shower for the soul. Sure, we have managed to shove a bunch of anxiety, rigidity, and perfectionism onto it, but…!

At its heart is joy.

All my work is to bring joy back into our hearts. It has become my central mission.

All of the fear, rage, and self-loathing we have accumulated gets in the way of our joy. Focusing on nit-picky details doesn’t help. Yelling at ourselves, blaming ourselves, rigidly controlling our bodies, doesn’t help.

If beating yourself up worked, you'd be rich, thin, and happy
The lovely Amity Alize!
“If beating yourself up worked, you’d be rich, thin, and happy”

Letting ourselves relax, move in self-loving ways, letting our bodies express what they have been holding on to in a gentle, titrated way, these things help us return to joy.

Hence the upcoming classes.

Coming in July:

Create Your Glorious Self!

Here’s a sneak peek at the page. More in the next few weeks ; )

Aka CYGS. I love the acronym, as baby swans are called cygnets. We may have felt like the ugly duckling for a while, but..!

In our hearts are glorious, confident creatures, bursting to unveil themselves, to stride out into the light of day, to come alive!

Doesn’t that feel grand? I’m so excited!

The course is built upon cutting-edge behavioral design strategies, along with intensive nervous system regulation, monthly check in meetings and practice sessions, PLUS daily accountability and progress reports–which we have made sooo quick and easy, they are–dare I say it? Kinda fun! The daily effort for this course is less than 20 minutes, maybe even less than 10.

It’s AMAZING!


AND while we await CYGS, here is…

BOLD!

Archetypes and Attitudes for Oriental Dance
BOLD!

BOLD dips its toes in the CYGS material, continuing our Fun Class focus on templates–in this case, templates of attitude and personality (along with movement options).

Want to be BOLD?
Act as if you are bold.

Wait, what does that even mean?!

Well, what does BOLD look like? How does someone who is bold act? How do they hold themselves, walk, talk? What expression is on their face?

If you were bold, how would you look? How would you hold yourself? What expression would you have on your face? Start there. Look in the mirror. Look at yourself–boldly! Look right into your own eyes, with a bold smile on your face and a glint in your eye. Let the feeling arise from the action. Take a minute or so to just feel that in your body, on your face. What changes?

Behavior creates emotion.

How would you walk? Shuffle along? Or would you STRIDE? Stride around boldly, hands on hips in the classic Wonder Woman Power Pose. Toss your head, boldly! Laugh boldly! Speak boldly! DANCE boldly!

Here’s some music for a bold dance! (or any way of being you would like to explore)

Bold not your jam? What is? Try that one on and see how you feel. We’ll explore LOTS of options in the class.

Here’s more about the BOLD Fun Class: https://aliathabit.com/shop/#live

And remember to CELEBRATE your test drives! Heck, celebrate everything ; )
Love,
Alia

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 BanatMazin.com.

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! BanatMazin.com


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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKkmMds6dDM

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.

https://alia.teachable.com/p/make-a-dance-in-five-days

With all my love,
Alia

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

Your Glorious Dance Self

Your glorious dance self

Back in the day when everyone had to have a dance name, I thought about making one for myself. I already have a perfectly good Arabic name (being SWANA), but part of the dance name thing was separating one’s dance identity from one’s every life. Safety being one of the concerns, also sounding more glamorous (and sounding more “ethnic,” now regarded as brownface, kinda racist, and best avoided*). However,

Safety and glamour are entirely legit–scads of performers have stage names, authors have pen names, and they can make a big difference in our sense of confidence as artists.

So I was wondering about a stage name for myself. I love my name, Alia–it means sublime, exalted–“the high clear place at the top,” my mom told me. But you know, the safety and everything. So I thought about borrowing my cousins’ name–AbuSamra. Talk about Glamour!

Alia AbuSamra!

But then I thought about keeping track of two names (I can barely keep track of the one I have). And I thought about divorcing my dance self from the rest of my life-accomplishments. And I though about how much more glam Alia AbuSamra would be than I am. I did not want to be jealous of myself, and I wanted to own all my facets, so I let it go.

Recently, I have been thinking about her again….

During Secret Stories, and now Mix n Match, we’ve been playing a lot with different qualities–of movement, but also of attitude–ways of being.

Confidence is a big issue for dancers.

Part of it is the way we’re often taught. We squint into the mirror and criticize ourselves–constantly. We tend to look at what’s wrong, and how we can fix it, generally by developing an ever-more rigid focus on technique. On top of this, we endure an unending deluge of media messaging telling us just how we do not make the cut–too fat, too skinny, not pretty, young, shapely, smart enough–need this cream, that blush, deodorant, shapewear, and so on, day after day after month after year.

It’s no wonder we doubt ourselves.

So how can we increase our confidence?

Part of the problem is that we bring our squinting, criticizing, fault-finding, terrified self to the party. Because that’s the only dance self we’ve ever had, that’s who shows up.

What if it were Alia AbuSamra who showed to dance? Or Aphrodite? Or Astarte, the Phoenician goddess of love, sex, war, and hunting? Or Elena Lentini, the goddess of Oriental dance? Or Taheyya Karioka?

It starts to get interesting, doesn’t it?

Richard Wiseman, author of The As If Principle, reviewed study after study, all of which show that behavior creates emotion. For example, when folks act as if they are cheerful, they start to feel cheerful. So if I started to act as if I were my mythical Alia AbuSamra, I would start to feel like her–to become her. I wouldn’t have to be jealous of her–she would be my secret! And I could BECOME her, as I practiced embodying her qualities.

When we act as if we are Taheyya–embodying our sense of her–we start to feel like her too. We start to embody that mindspace. We start to become it.

I’ve been diving into the research in this and other areas as we explore these qualities of being in the FUN classes. They’re like Secret Identities. We’re having a lot of fun with them–and not just for dance.

Superman has Clark Kent.

Selina Kyle has Catwoman.

Who might you have? Imagine who could show up in other areas of your life!

I’m thinking about a 3-4 month coaching/course to develop and field some Secret Identities.

I wonder if that might be interesting for you. A deep dive with monthly accountability, email updates, and lots of opportunity for exploration and test-driving, reporting back, tweaking–and reveling!

What would you like to see in a course like that? What would make it work for you?

As you ponder that, I invite you to try it out. Act as if you are your heart’s idol!

Please let me know how it goes.

Reply to this email, or comment on the Blog!

Love,
Alia

PS it’s Recital Season again!

Wouldn’t you love to show up to your recital with a mesmerizing dance you made yourself? Without all the frustration and tears?

You can!

Announcing

How to Make a Dance in FIVE Days!

From entrance to applause without setting a single step
Learn a time-tested, systematic approach to dance composition that you can use over and over again.

MD5 opens Sunday, May 22 through Saturday, June 4th. I’ll be monitoring the forum during that time to answer your questions and help troubleshoot any roadblocks that arise.

I invite you to have a look, and see if MD5 is a good fit for you:
alia.teachable.com/p/make-a-dance-in-five-days


*Of of course, if you have a vintage Eastern dance name, please go right ahead with it. Currently we can do better, but anyone who already has an established name, kinda gets grandmothered in ; )

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: https://alia.gumroad.com/l/show-and-tell-joe-williams. 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 ; )

Love, 

Alia

Show and Tell

Joe Williams at the Gates

with Joe Williams
Delsarte Technique for Oriental Dance

Joe Williams, guest artist for Wonderland!

Please join Joe Williams, internationally acclaimed Delsarte expert, in this 2-hour live online workshop geared especially to Oriental dance.

Oriental dance is an expressive impressionist genre. As dancers, we show our guests what we feel from the music. Delsarte technique gives us subtle yet powerful tools to enhance expression. Highlighting specific body parts suggests meaning in subliminal ways. When we understand this physical language, there is a delicious feedback loop of knowing what we suggest, validating our expression through movement, and giving ourselves and our bodies permission to feel, to speak, and to exist with agency and joy.

  • In the first hour, we learn how to Show what we feel and highlight character through physical expression.
  • In the second hour, we Tell our stories as we compose short dance sequences based upon emotional expression using the Delsarte system.
  • Joe live coaches participants as we find our way in this unique mode of expression.

Please note, this workshop was recorded for the Wonderland class and for Joe’s archive. It is ONLY available to stream through April 1. Joe seldom allows recording of his classes. This is a rare, unique opportunity to learn from one of the only teachers of Delsarte as a physical system of expression.

Two-hour recording of LIVE Zoom workshop. Special price: $30.

Please note, this workshop is ONLY available for purchase through April 1.

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Note Gumroad policy: Upon purchase, you will have a 30-day window in which to watch the video. Please note that once you click “play,” you have 72 hours to watch before access expires.

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Wonderland starts Sunday!

Welcome to WONDERLAND

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,
Alia

The Power of Secret Stories

secret stories

Have you ever worn racy underwear? Gartered stockings, or a little lacy nothing? Or an audacious t-shirt, crazy socks, or even a special token, safe in your pocket? And then gone about your normal day, in your normal clothes? It’s kinda cool, right? The hidden knowledge whispers into you, subtly changing everything about how you stand, feel, and interact. It’s a secret, with meaning only you know. Yet it can color every moment with its warmth and clandestine thrill…

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