A Prezzie for You!

Happy Holidays, now and all year long, whatever and whenever you celebrate!

I am fond of Christmas and the Solstice, so this is when I make our yearly holiday gift.

This year’s give came out of the Offering: Comfort and Joy series, which became the thing that most comforted me over the past months. 2024 is likely to be a long road. We will need all the help we can get–and give. I hope that this practice comforts you as well.

Here is the link ​holiday-gift-2023/​

As it happens, I am also fond of Christmas carols. Here is a spotify link to my current favorite album of Christmas classics, First Noel by the marvelous Lebanese-French trumpeter, Ibrahim Maalouf.​ You may also hear his (very different) song Maeva in Wonderland closing the Comfort and Joy practice.

Thank you for being in my life!

With all my love and best wishes for health, wealth, and happiness,

Happy Holidays 2022! (Prezzie inside ; )

What a long strange year it’s been!

So many of us have experienced challenging circumstances, often entirely beyond our control. World events become more bizarre and alarming every time we turn around, rife with rage and fear. And in the midst of all this are also growth, excitement, and joy. Life, in all its wonderful and strange variety.

To that end, I’ve been thinking about my holiday gift to you.

I’d like to make a video for you–about dancing from the heart of the heart.

I believe that the more we can place ourselves in a space of warmth and joy, the more warmth and joy we feel, and the more we spread these feelings into the world. Every ripple in the pond spreads outward. Here’s a little video excerpt from the recent series Presence that explains what I mean.

I’d like to make this video with some folks to try out the strategies right there in real time. If you’d like to be part of this recording, and you’re okay being on camera for it (in gallery mode at least), please reply to this email. We’ll record it 4-5pm on Saturday, January 7, 2023.

Delivery will be the following Thursday in the newsletter. So, yeah, the gift will be a little late; I hope we can all live with that ; )

Here’s to worldwide wisdom, growth, and joy 2023!

PS if you are also a little late with a gift to a dancer friend, you are welcome to join Bobby Style 3: Transitions through Jan 1 and get a +1! Just send me your receipt along with your friend’s name and email, and I’ll send them a nifty digital card from you! Then you can both take the class the together, two for one!

What are the three Prongs of Practice?

A vintage Love Note from 2013 (plus a bit from a previous Love Note in that series for clarity). 

Michael Pollan said, “Great art is born when Apollonian form and Dionysian ecstasy are held in balance, when our dreams of order and abandon come together.”

Apollo is the Greek god of music, poetry, plague, oracles, sun, medicine, light and knowledge. Dionysos is the god of wine, merry making, theatre, and ecstasy. Apollo is mind, Dionysus is body. We need both, in balance. 

The order and knowledge of Apollo provide a container for the chaos and wildness of Dionysos. Apollo is the moves, and our attention to technique. He is stage presence, floor patterns, and structure. Dionysos is the glory of abandon, passion, intuition, and emotion. Technique alone is sterile. Abandon alone is self-indulgent. 

Passion within the container of technique generates brilliant, compelling art.

So how do we get there? 


The Three Prongs of Practice

(Thanks to Dunya for outlining this so succinctly)

When we dance, we have three main areas of practice.

1. Maintenance of the instrument. This is going to class, practicing technique, etc. We keep ourselves in shape, keep our instrument–that is, our body–running smoothly. We need to have the chops to do whatever our body might want–we need that technique to serve our expression. The more demanding our genre, the more attention this requires, and it pays to keep it up, which for many of us is difficult, since we may not have a nearby class. I think many of us use our 20 minutes for maintenance, though this is not its true purpose. 

This is Apollo.

2. Rehearsal for performance. Not all of us perform, but many of us do, or want to. Plus just dancing for joy, for ourselves in our own space can be a performance (as opposed to practice). So when we perform, we need to practice specifically our performance elements. If it is choreography, obviously we practice that. If it is improv, we might listen to and explore our music, plan our use of the stage, block out certain sections, or develop our character’s backstory and movement quality.

This is Apollo.

3. Development of self as an artistic person. This is where the 90 Days 20 minute sessions of free improv comes in. Most training only gives us the previous two elements. We are taught to practice technique and prepare for performance, and that’s it. There is little to no provision for filling the well, for giving the body a free space to explore, discover, and revel, to move in unstructured freedom. We don’t practice technique so much as discover it anew; we allow ourselves to respond to the music without filters or judgement; we open ourselves to impulse and glory.

This is Dionysos.

 We need them all. We just get a lot more opportunity to play with Apollo. 

So this is for balance.

How is your balance? Email me or post below.

With all my love,

Here’s some very different music, which might be entirely suited to dance, but was so on point I had to go with it ; )

As Above, So Below (or, You Are What You Eat)

This isn’t about homeopathy or food. I apologize if I have just disappointed you. 

I’ve been thinking about process recently. It got me to remembering a time I performed in a friend’s show. It was her choreography, and it was modern pop, not belly dance. There was one fast little turn with a jump at the beginning that ended in a pose. Man, I could not get that turn. And the show was getting closer and closer. So finally I buckled down and made myself learn it. Hop. Spin. Pose. I ended it sharp, looking right up at the people. 

So the show arrived and we did the dance and I did the little turn. Flawlessly. 


Aaand realized that was the only moment in the whole dance when I looked at the people. Because that was the only part where I practiced looking at the people. 


This was the moment that I began to understand. What we do in practice is what we do on stage. 

Many of us prefer to dance socially rather than performing, but even so—if we are going to dance with anyone, at all, including ourselves, or at a party, it’s not much fun if we look at the floor the whole time, or have our faces scrunched up in concentration. 

It’s supposed to be fun. 

I tell my classes, “Pretend you’re having fun!” because so often we are working too hard and forget. 

One of my favorite dance articles is Dr. Nagwa Adra’s Belly Dance: An Urban Folk Genre (it is really brilliant). In the culture, dance is a fun thing to do. It’s playful. 

This is a Noticing thing. Scrunching ourselves up and concentrating too hard is a habit. I have seen whole groups do their recitals looking at the floor.  Watched so many dancers frown all through their dance. I can relate, because I spent much of my life looking at the floor. And frowning and concentrating when I dance. 

I had to train myself instead to be happy and open my body. I still fold in sometimes when I get nervous (yes, I do get nervous. I am secretly a serious, bookish, introvert <gasp!>). 

So back to those tinyhabits algorithms: After I ____ (in this case, notice that I am frowning while I dance), I ____ open myself up in joy. I open up, slow down, and place my focus on enjoyment in the moment. And I celebrate!

And I can tell you, I have gotten a lot better at this—by practicing all by myself in my room. 

The more we become familiar with where we want to be, the more quickly we can notice when we’re not there, the more quickly we can interrupt that pattern. 

Yes, it is different when in a real place with real people, but, like that snappy little turn so many years ago, practice (making a habit of a behavior) really does help tip the balance when we have to do this In Real Life. 

What dance habits would you like to change? What will you replace them with? 

I invite you to put just one little change in place this week. See what happens ; ) And let me know how it goes!

And here’s some music. It’s only 15 mins but it’s pretty nice. Algeria: Targui music


Be Your Own Boss! (Bobby Style II starts Tues, Jan 11)

In the Week 5 Bobby Style class, we had a conversation about needing to know what the lyrics mean when you dance to a song. Specifically we were dancing to Farid al Atrach’s Ma alli wie oltello.

I know what I feel from the song, but I don’t remember what the lyrics mean. So I looked them up! And here they are.


Before you look at the lyrics, listen to the song. What does it say to you and where does it say this?

Here is a link to the song: https://youtu.be/T7hTMsYfU88

DON’T watch Samia. Just listen. Feel what you feel. Take notes.

TRUST YOURSELF to do this.

THEN the translation: http://www.shira.net/music/lyrics/me-alli-we-oltelu.htm

THEN watch Samia. What do you see in her dance? In her interactions with Farid? How does this complement or collide with YOUR impressions?

Remember, Samia is not the boss of you. She is playing a part in a movie. She is showing the energy of that specific character. You play your own parts in your own movie with every dance. This is about personal style.

For me, all the passion and yearning that I feel when I listen to the the song is also in the lyrics. In the class, we explored several different energetic states of being as we played multiple times with the same song–kittenish, sultry, etc. They are all in there. One way of using the lyrics is to ascribe these different energies to different sections or verses of the song. Or just let your body feel them as you feel them–TRUST.



PS Bobby Style II begins this week!

What folks say about Bobby Style

“A wonderful Aha moment for me was experiencing you teaching to complex profound music with simple steps. This approach seems so obvious to me now, but it didn’t occur to me before and it changes everything, in a good way! And I love your taste in music. And I love the Bobby format. Also, just dancing creativity in relaxation instead of “creative striving” is just what I need!” DN

Our next session will start Tuesday, January 11.

Bobby Style II–with Zils On!

We will use zils only in the first part of the class, with our across the floor combos (10-15 mins). We will continue to highlight classic steps–and add zils to them.

Participant zils will be muted during the class. Only instructor zils will be audible.

NOTE: this is NOT a class to learn zils. For that, see Ziltastic.

This IS a class to use zils the way Bobby taught them.

Zils are completely OPTIONAL. No zils or air zils are perfectly fine.

Lern more here:

I hope you can join us!


Black Friday 2021

Thank You! Black Friday 2021
Thank You! Black Friday 2021

Wonderland is here! Special bonuses and Trust the Chef pricing ; ) https://aliathabit.com/wonderland

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

ART on sale!
If you’ve enjoyed my cheerful drawings, maybe you’d like to see one more often ; )
Save 20-60% through Nov 30 with code CYBER5 at Redbubble.com

Thank you for being part of my life!

You’re Invited to a Party!

Please join me for the BellyDance Bundle’s FREE live party!

When: tomorrow, Sunday, Oct 25 from 10:30 Eastern Daylight time (see in your timezone) until around 7:00pm EDT (see in your timezone).

Where: Streamed on the BellyDance Bundle Party page

How: Drop in and out throughout the day. It’s a super casual party and we’re just having fun and learning together!

What: Here’s a list of activities (subject to change)

10:30 – 11:00 – Intro, Challenge Participant Showcase & Prizes!

11:00 – 11:30 – Workout with Siobhan

11:30 – 12:00 – Class with Sahira

12:00 – 12:30 – Q & A on Beledi with Sabriye

12:30 – 1:00 – Prizes & Challenge Participant Showcase

1:00 – 1:30 – Melissa & Shining Golden Era Watch Party

1:30 – 2:00 – Q & A with Rosa Noreen

2:00 – 2:30 – Prizes, Challenge Participant Showcase

2:30 – 3:00 – Breathwork Exercise, Demo, and Q&A with Ranya Rene

3:00 – 3:30 – Sa’idi class with Aziza

3:30 – 4:00 – Q & A with the Bellydance Business Academy’s Terri & Sara

4:00 – 4:30 – Prizes & Challenge Participant Showcase

4:30 – 5:00 – Music & Movement with Alia Thabit–come have a belly dance vacation!

5:00 – 5:30 – Meet Aaliyah Jenny’s Cats. A Q&A on perfectionism and not taking yourself too seriously.

5:30 – 6:00 – TBD

6:00 – 7:00 – Contributor Performance Showcase, Final Prizes & Bundle Q & A

Why: For FUN!

I invite you to join me tomorrow on the BellyDance Bundle’s live party page! Love and hugs,


Taqsim and Improvisation–are they the same thing?

Um, yes. Technically, they are, as taqsim means instrumental improvisation. So they do go hand in hand. Of course, it is much easier to improvise to rhythmic music–most of our dance music has a 4/4 rhythm, and a fairly consistent pattern of verses and choruses. The classic orchestral music has more complex structures, but even there, there’s a lot of predictability, and the rhythm is always there to support us.

Not so much with taqsim.

Last week we talked about the central concept of expressing the music. Today let’s take a (very) quick look at the subtle concept of waiting for the music. In a taqsim, there are pauses (in Arabic, qafla; the plural is qaflat). Since we are expressing the music, and there is no music in the pause, what do we do? We wait. We let our movement fade away as the sound of the instrument fades, and we pick it up as the sound of the instrument returns.

Think about calligraphic lines. They vary from thick to thin, as the intensity of each note, and hence, our movement, varies from thick to thin. So the movement thins out as the sound fades. We don’t suddenly brake, we coast, gently and effortlessly. Maybe to a stop, if the pause is long, or maybe into our next movement if it is short. We don’t print, we write in script.

I’ve contributed Taqsim Tuesdays to the BellyDance Bundle this year — Here is my podcast on Taqsim, and my Instagram Challenge UnDrill Taqsim video for your enjoyment (I’m Day 6).


PS Dancing well on Taqsim also means improvising well. Effortless Improv is made for this.

Someone asked me some questions today about Effortless Improv, which begins in just a few day on Oct 11. Usually when one person asks, a few other folks would like to know, so here you go.
Is it on Facebook?
No. It is a mybb.com forum I’ve been running for several years. No facebook at all. 

Can I do this at my own pace?
At one’s own pace can mean you stretch it out to 6 months or so, or that you post at a convenient time for you. You could do it either way, but it’s not a course where you get all the info at once and sort through it on your own. The course itself is designed as a high-contact, guided process. 
It is asynchronous, but with maximum accountability, so that the process of growth and change can happen in a compressed amount of time. While there are live weekly zoom meetings, they are recorded, and folks post at their own convenience. 

The forum is updated weekly with each week’s assignment, and there are daily responses. The idea is to come to the forum each day and post what one did, plus read and comment upon the posts of their group members. Folks are put in small groups to make that more intimate and manageable. 

All the accountability part is optional–one can just do the assignments on their own, and only come in when there are questions and whatnot, but the groups are generally seen as a strength of the process. 

And one can certainly stockpile the information and dip into it as one wishes–the forum/assignments remain open to participants after the 6 weeks time closes. 

Registration for Effortless is open now–it closes on Monday, October 12.

I look forward to dancing with you!

The Secret to Dancing on Taqsim

But wait!

First some Belly Dance Bundle news!

  • There’s ONE MORE DAY to sign up for The awesome Zil Giveaway Multiple sets of zils, and an online class, all worth over $300!
  • Get your new FREE Guide: How to Get the Most from Online Classes (sooo relevant for these times!)
  • Join this year’s #21DaysOfBellyDance Challenge starts soon! Every day for 21 days, The Bellydance Bundle will be posting one dance drill or exercise and one task for you to complete–and many chances to win MORE prizes!

The Bundle is for sale from October 21st – 28th, and more will be happening as we get closer.

Now on to TAQSIM!

The secret to dancing on taqsim is in this core concept of representing the music.

Embedded within this are other core concepts like making it look as if the music is coming out of our body, that the movement of our body is creating the sounds. So we become this visual representation of the music, and to do that as improvisation, because classically taqsim is improvised in the moment.

Now we have recorded music, so it’s entirely possible to choreograph a taqsim, but that is not really in line with the central precepts of the music and the dance. And these are at the top: the feeling in the moment; improvisation–doing it differently every time; and bringing joy. Taqsim is about all of these. So we train ourselves in intuitive movement–we want the music to come in through our ears and out through our bodies. It is asymmetric, open, and glorious!

I draw these images by letting the pen move, to make a squiggle–then I decorate and fill it in. It’s a way of cross training improvisation.

Another central quality of Oriental music and dance is this quality of compression and expansion, that taffy-pulling quality that the music has with its sliding bent notes–and we represent that with our bodies. So, a note or phrase might have a lot of compressed energy, and we can represent that by moving slowly with a lot of muscular compression and intention. Another part might be light and quick. Again, we can express those qualities with movement that will be light and quick.

We can also work contrary to the music, in a complimentary way. So maybe the music is light and quick. We may move very slowly and heavily through that passage (music is not the boss of you!) Where the music might be slow and heavy, we might choose to move lightly and quickly, because we’re responding to something in the music that gives us that cue, or because we have created some conceptual framework of our own that provides a context for that contrast.

We represent the music by training our bodies to respond intuitively in the moment.

And we do that, not through drilling, a move, or combination.

We develop that skill by–responding intuitively to music in the moment, particularly music that we don’t even know.

Because it’s a skill and skills are things that we practice and get better at.

We’re used to thinking of our technical skills as more perfectly creating shapes with our bodies, but a central skill of oriental dance is allowing the body to follow the music. Part of the development of that skill is in the dancing, in letting the music come in and letting the body follow it, and seeing what comes out.

It’s not always going to be a pretty picture.

Because we’re learning. Expect mistakes and expect messes when you’re truly learning. Learning takes effort, and feels frustrating. Relish that sense of frustration–it is a sign of success!

Part of developing this skill is listening to the music without trying to dance it at the same time. Listen to many taqasim, let them come into you and let these small, tiny sparks of intuition into the body. Let yourself absorb the music, to feel the timbres of emotion with which the musician has imbued the music.

Let your mind float down the channels and pathways of the music–without the extra added piece of moving, of representing. Just listening, letting your body absorb that music and become familiar with it.

Then let yourself be moved by the music, to the music, with the music. Close your eyes. Focus on how it feels inside, what your body feels as it follows the music.

This is where so much of the art comes into oriental dance, because this learning curve, of following and responding intuitively to the music, never flattens. There is always a delicious, beautiful challenge.

When we work this way, we become less concerned with appearance. I know, if we’re performers, we have to be concerned with our appearance, but bear with me here.

As artists, we become more interested in the inside of the dance.

The inside of the dance includes how it feels in the body. Moving in a way where we take the time to feel and appreciate the contraction and expansion of the muscles, the tendons, as they slide along the bones. The physical sensation of moving in this way, and connecting to the music in this way, is deeply, deeply rich and pleasurable and beneficial to the body and the mind. We can let ourselves become enmeshed in the quality of our movement, the quality and the feeling and the richness. We can embrace all those emotional timbres; we can demonstrate them with the quality of the movement–is it compressed, is it slow, is it fast, is it expansive?

The energy in Oriental dance is always returning inward, inward, inward, inward. The focus of the dance is largely inward. Taqsim in particular is an interoceptive, introspective kind of dance. Even as we bring joy to ourselves through our movement and our connection to the music, witnessing this brings joy to our guests when we perform.

This dance brings joy.

It brings joy and it brings inner peace, and it brings this beautiful sense of connection to ourselves to the music, for kitchen dancers, party dancers, performers, their guests. This, right now, in our challenging world is one of the most important things we can do. All of the disasters compete for our attention. Instead, we must consciously orient to joy, to pleasure, to the good. And it is in this that our dance excels.

Leila Farid once said that the dancer brings their guests to the music like a bridge. We bring that joy to our guests. And we do it expressing with our bodies the joy ad oneness that we feel from responding to the music. Responding.

We don’t just translate the music into the language of the body, we interpret it. The music, like the poetry of its lyrics, is not meant to be “literally” translated, every beat and note articulated. It is meant to be poetry, with all the metaphor, surprise and nuance of poetry.

The goal of the music, of the playing of the music, of all of this stuff, these ideas of tarab, is that everyone is connected in this oneness of musical ecstasy…

That’s our goal.

That’s our goal as dancers.

Not to be admired or show off.

Our goal is this gift that we bring, of joy, of musical ecstasy, of peace, of oneness.

We bring joy.

THE root skill of dancing on Taqsim is the ability to improvise with ease.

Effortless Improvisation is designed for this.
It runs 6 weeks, from October 11-Nov 21.
Registration opens today.

I look forward to dancing with you.


Whatchu Lookin’ At?

“In 1987, Francine Shapiro was walking in the park when she realized that eye movements appeared to decrease the negative emotion associated with her own distressing memories…”

Thus was born Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, aka EMDR. The way it works (in a very tiny nutshell), involves holding challenging memories in the mind’s eye, while stimulating the brain bilaterally (crossing the midline of the body), by moving the eyes, tapping on the body, or using electronic stimulators held in the hands that buzz back and forth between the hands. 

Imagine my surprise, back in 2011, to realize that EMDR was, at its heart, belly dance gaze. Look with the eyes to one side. Look to the other side. Drop the gaze. Look up through the lashes. 


Belly dance twinkling! 

In fact, everything about belly dance crosses the midline—from the way we use our hands to, like, every single classic move. Circles? Check. Infinities? Check. Shimmies? Check. And so forth. Some things are on one side, but we change sides on the regular, so there you go. 

This was when I first started to realize just how secretly special belly dance is. Since then I have been continually amazed at how the cultural dance (improv, agency, interoception, etc) is this paragon of healing and nervous system regulation. I now fold in more and more Somatic Experiencing® (SE) stuff and highlight these properties of the dance now in all my classes. 

So anyway, let’s talk about the gaze. 

Here is a tiny video I made about that flirtatious belly dance gaze. I call it “Twinkling on Crack.” It’s pretty short, but you’ll get the idea even more quickly. 

Twinkling is all about personality and playfulness. Just casting the eyes (not the head), from side to side, dropping the gaze and looking up, is fun. It makes you smile and feel cute, no matter your gender. And when you consider how much time we spend staring at ever-shrinking screens (hey smartphones, I’m lookin’ at you), anything that loosens up the eyes is good stuff. 

Letting the gaze rove around a space, lingering on whatever it enjoys, is settling to the body all by itself. Circling the eyes at the far edges of their orbit, changing the gaze back and forth between near and far, all these things are healthful for the eyes and the body (my most recent eye exam, my far vision had improved, while my near vision was the same, plus my astigmatism had also improved). 

In addition, gaze direction is a huge subject area. In dance (and life), gaze direction gives our movement strong focus, and small changes of the angle of the head completely change our affect. 

Note: moving the eyes can be uncomfortable, especially if they don’t move around much in regular life. So that kind of makes it even more important to do. But also, take it gently. Just do it for short periods, like 10 seconds at a time. Here is a video of yoga eye exercises and relaxation to help you feel better when your eyes get tired. 

So this week, in your practice, I invite you to use your gaze in directed and flirtatious ways. Really look in the direction you are going when you travel. In daily life, play with the gaze—focus your eyes far and pointed, and far and wide, near and pointed, and near and wide. Roll them around in their sockets—slowly—in both directions. Bonus points for eye-infinities ; ). 

And when you dance? TWINKLE!

Here’s some music for that—a little YT playlist…



Here are some other ways to use your gaze–and to feel better!

DreamBeat–Fun Drum Solo Improvisation
​Five Weeks, July 28 – Aug 25. Tuesdays at 4-5 PM ET.
A five-week adventure into drum solo interpretation and intuitive movement. Drum solo structure, technique, and exploration of various rhythms. We will use Middle Eastern drum solos as well as fusion and surprises! Registration is now open.

Tuning In–Medicine for Modern Times
Five Weeks, August 7 – September 4. Fridays, 4-4:30 PM ET
This half-hour class comes from a Somatic Experiencing® (SE) perspective. It’s is a half-hour chillout session focused on nervous system regulation. It is designed to ease anxiety and restore wellbeing. We use gentle movement, breath, and body-based strategies to bring calm in the here and now. These strategies can be used any time to help the body feel more relaxed and grounded.

I look forward to dancing with you!
All my love,

PS remember, we have a coronavirus summer special on all Teachable courses.​
Click the course you want. Click “Enroll in Course,”
Add coupon on the next screen.