How to Sit with Discomfort (and why your dance might thank you)

Discomfort. Yuck, right? Who needs it? It’s pretty normal to avoid pain or awkwardness or discomfort as much as possible. Or just ignore it. Pretend it isn’t there.

But sit with it? Look at it? Ewww, no.

I’ve had chronic pain for decades I just ignored as much as I could. It was always there and it hurt, so I just blocked it out and went on with my life. Of course, I also tended to avoid anything that aggravated it…. Which did kinda limit my connection to my body…

And then there’s emotional pain and discomfort.

Yeah, everyone’s favorite.

Even learning new skills causes discomfort.

So what is this about sitting with discomfort?


Because often, allowing ourselves to experience our own discomfort–in a gentle, curious, open way, without judging or pushing it away–helps it to resolve.

When we have pain, even emotional pain, we tend to cringe away from from it. Over time, that cringe, the tension around the hurt, the physical walling off of sensation, becomes habitual.

Softening our response to the pain helps it dissipate.

Even that chronic pain I mentioned above, allowing myself to feel it, to relax around it, helped it to ease. It came back, until the root causes were addressed, but it could be eased through practices such as Slow Movement. This was huge.

So many things agree!

As I got involved with Somatic Experiencing® (SE), I learned that sitting with the often uncomfortable physical sensations that arise as we approach a challenging memory, following them as they shift and travel–can dissolve the triggering that accosts us in the present. Permanently.

Learning Science shows that when people learn new skills–when we are really learning, not just amassing information–it feels immensely frustrating and uncomfortable. People often give up, believing that they are not smart enough to learn, all because they don’t know that frustration and difficulty are hallmarks of learning. As in, no frustration, no learning.

Our perfectionist culture expects us to be good at what we do and leaves little room for the messiness and pain of learning. Of life. The more we accept these things the better off we are.

Because with all that messiness comes the joy and beauty of life as well. Perfectionism drown that out, focused as it is on “improvement,” and its focus on what is wrong. Tension and avoidance drown that out too.

What important is what’s good, right, and joyful in our lives

In order to feel the joys of life, we also must sit with the downs. We focus on the good so we can traverse the challenges.

Dancemeditation taught me about Contraction, is the discomfort that precedes change and growth. It also taught me about Expansion, that joy of being in the new place. We need contraction (think of birth contractions), to get to Expansion–the new life, the new understanding, the expanded container that allows us to experience the world from a more grounded, stable perspective.

This is how I design my classes

Space to sit with discomfort

I make classes that explore essential elements of the dance that can be challenging–like improvisation. Attempting these dance elements can feel uncomfortable and frustrating–because there is so much learning available, so much opportunity for growth. It’s important to honor this challenge with compassion.

I bring a myriad of strategies to the table from a wide range of influences–because I’ve been a teacher for decades, I am curious, and I love learning, even though it hurts sometimes. So I make my classes effective and empowering, because I want us all to dance with feeling, variety, and joy.

Space for joy

Joy is vital. And times are hard, especially now. So wherever we can bring some joy into our lives let’s do that.

We have some really lovely classes coming up, opportunities to allow discomfort to pass through, and come to Joy. I invite you to have a look.

How to Dance (or Speak) for the Camera
July 13-Aug 28. Anyone feel anxious about dancing or speaking to the camera? This is for you. I am really looking forward to this class. It will be empowering and powerful. No days or time to post as our Small Group meeting times will be planned with the group. Bi-weekly one-hour small group meetings and two half-hour personal sessions. Registration closes July 12.

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.

Dancing for the Camera

Living in Vermont has turned out to be lucky in several ways–the most recent being that there aren’t so many people here, so the whole covid safety thing has been much easier than it might have been. The scarcity of people has also turned out to be lucky for dance in the time of covid. Because there is such a small pool of local folks interested in dance, I have had to go far afield–and the simplest way to do that has been online courses–and yes, dancing for the camera.

I am fortunate there, too, having become an early adopter of online courses at the college level, so I already knew how to design classes and effectively present material online. Thanks to Occupy Wall Street, I took an early interest in livestreaming as well, and have been livestreaming dance since 2012.

Here are a few things I’ve learned.


This is aaallll the groundwork that makes a presentation successful. Having a suitable camera, learning the software, preparing your space to be filmed, lighting, sound, workflow, decent internet, etc. This all has a steeper learning curve than I ever expected, and I am still finding out new things, adapting to Zoom’s recent upgrades, and always improving the quality of my work. It is simpler to make things look good when they are pre-recorded; live work is a whole other ball game (the class Zoom Secrets covers all this in-depth).

Top Takeaway? Light yourself nicely. It’s not that hard–a few daylight bulbs, white cloth/cardboard, and clamp lamps will do it.


This was hard. It is for many of us. We worry–who is out there looking at us? and that No-one is out there at all! As an introvert, the camera felt judgmental (and I wasn’t wild about myself on the recording, either–more on that later). But I learned.

Top Takeaway? Treat the camera like a friend (a specific friend you love!). Use your monitor to treat yourself like a friend, too. Laugh, flirt, joke, smile. Create a warmth and welcome for yourself.

This helped me survive being stuck in a small town far away from any dance classes.

And now thanks to covid, we are all pretty much stuck. And there is no end in sight. So even though we may live in an area with plenty of people to come to our classes or presentations, we need to develop our online abilities.

So I’ve been bringing my skills to the table to help us all out. Might as well make lemonade, right? And some things you can read about, but these camera skills benefit from live practice with warm, appreciative friends. Sooo, Announcing ….

How to Dance (or speak!) for the Camera.

July 13-Aug 28. Small Group meeting times will be planned with the group.
Five live biweekly small-group practice sessions plus two individual private conferences. This course helps dancers, teachers, entrepreneurs (and others) communicate through the camera.

Learn to feel relaxed and natural, to find your voice, and to create a vibrant on-camera experience.

Registration is open now.

With lots of 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.

Alia’s 2020 Summer Calendar

It seems a bit, well, fluffy to post a summer calendar when there is so much social unrest here in the USA.
Black folks are being targeted on the daily. It’s time to step up and help. For resources and information, I invite you to my Facebook page; a good place to start is this post and this video. If we are not Facebook friends, please do friend me. 


All this stress is only compounded by the ongoing coronavirus debacle. Therefore our 2020 summer calendar is heavily skewed towards helping all of us weather these challenging times. 

On to our Summer Calendar!

Taqsim Tuesdays!

Five Weeks, June 16 – July 14. Live class Tuesdays at 4PM ET.
The Fun Class focuses on Taqsim in the month of June! I invite you to a four-week deep dive into taqsim interpretation and intuitive movement. Each week will include a gentle warmup, taqsim technique, and exploration of various instruments along with both rhythmic and freeform taqasim. We will explore both standing and floor based movement (the floorwork is suitable for Any Body).  Each class is recorded (instructor view).  Each recording is available for one week. Register here


Tuning In–Medicine for Modern Times

Special Intro Session, Friday June 5, 4PM ET (by donation)
Five Weeks, June 12 – July 17.  Fridays, 4PM ET
(no session July 3)
What do you do when surrounded by threats? Everywhere we turn, pandemics, governments gone wild, family on our nerves, fear and anger everywhere. It’s scary, and it’s hard to feel calm in the face of all this danger. We feel frustrated and anxious. How do we fight what we can’t even see?

Tuning In comes from a Somatic Experiencing® (SE) perspective. It’s is a half-hour chillout session 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. Each class is recorded (instructor view).  Each recording is available for one week. Register here.

How to Dance (or speak) for the Camera

Save the Date!
Four weeks, June 15-July 10. Meeting times TBD
Our social interaction happens through video these days, and we may be doing it for a while. Through weekly live small-group practice sessions and bi-weekly private conferences, this course helps dancers, teachers, entrepreneurs (and others) communicate through the camera–to feel relaxed and natural, to find their voice, and to create a vibrant on-camera experience. Limited seating. Registration opens June 5.


Focus on the Feeling–a Dancer Empowerment Project

Six Weeks, July 20-Aug 21
Save the date!
More info coming soon
Pre-course Webinar TBA

25% off all Teachable Courses

Because times are tough, I invite you to take 25% off all my Teachable classes. Use the coupon SUMMERCORONACARE

Thank you for reading and sharing! I look forward to dancing with you!



Is our Dance Sacred?

The word sacred or spiritual or anything like that sets some of our teeth on edge. I generally avoid these words, but  my practice is certainly spiritually nurturing for me as well as healing (plus good exercise, a mind-body practice, and generally an amazing package of benefits! My teaching is geared to helping others feel more deeply and develop their intuitive movement, and I see my performances as blessings. 


I am very excited to be part of the Sacred Dance Summit this May 4-8!

Leslie Zehr, author of The Alchemy of Dance: Sacred Dance as a Path to the Universal Dancer, is the host for this free online Sacred Dance Summit. Twice a year she brings together five fascinating women to speak about their experiences with Dance as a Spiritual Practice.

The speakers span halfway across the globe from Arizona to Australia. Guests, besides myself, include Carrie Konyha, Katie Holland, Keti Sharif and Maria Sangiorgi, all of whom are belly dancers.

They will discuss modalities ranging from Awakened Bellydance, Embodied Bellydance, Dancemeditation and Spiritual Belly Dance; to how to bring somatics, esoteric wisdom and energy healing arts into bellydance. You can read more about each of these women on the Universal Dancer website

The summit runs May 4th-8th. Each day at 12am PDT (3am EDT, 7am GMT/UTC, 9am EET, 3pm AWST) a new interview will be released. The interview will be available for viewing for free for until the end of the summit.

In addition to the interviews each of the speakers has a wonderful free gift for you on the interview page. I invite you to check it out and take advantage of it. It is an excellent way to get to know the speakers better, as well as a way to expand your awareness of the healing and sacred side of bellydance.

I hope you will join us to hear what all these wonderful ladies have to say as we “peek behind the veils” of the ancient art of bellydance. And please share with your friends!

Registration is easy and the summit is free!

Free Sacred Dance Summit

If you’d like to own the interviews and get some cool bonuses, there is a huge deal on the all-access package…



With much love, 

PS the Fun Class runs through May with Pandemic Pricing. Come dance and have fun with us!

How to be Social, Safely

Times have been pretty tough the last 4 years. Threats have abounded, to life on this planet, along with liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We’ve all been in a state of anxiety. Not that we ever even recovered from the economic crash in 2008, amirite? And now we have a worldwide plague, another crash, AND we all have to lock ourselves away. Yikes.

Most folks I know are frightened, tired, angry, or overwhelmed (if not all four at once).

We need a way to be social, safely.

A way to enjoy ourselves with others while keeping ourselves and others safe. A way to have fun and laugh, to step away from stress. 

Humans are not meant to live in a state of constant watchfulness and threat. Our evolutionary pattern is is to activate–and then deactivate. But we live in situations where we feel obliged to be constantly on guard. When this happens, our nervous system forgets how how to shut off the alarms. We get stuck “on,” constantly flooded with stress hormones. It’s destructive and dangerous–and we may live like this for decades, as our health and well-being become more and more fragile. 

So what do we do? How do we feel safe in this new reality?
We can’t even go dance or hang out with friends.  

Or can we?

Over the next few weeks. I’ll be announcing several new ways for us to be together, to step away from fear and stress, to have some fun and feel good. 

It is okay to have fun and feel good. It is essential. 

Every time we shut off this alarms, we increase our resilience and our capacity for joy. We become more whole–our true self begins to shine. We improve our long-term heath. We get a breath of fresh air. We push back against the madness. 

This is what we need right now. 

Three things we can do right now:

  • Focus on the GOOD. What brings a smile? A sigh of contentment? Joy? Focus on that.
  • Stay in the present moment. Look around your space, where you are right now. Notice any threats? No? Good. Relax. Take some long exhales, twice as long as your inhale. At least 3 of them. Notice the difference? Soak that in. Do this regularly.
  • Escape. Read a fun book. Start a creative project. Call a friend and make jokes together for an hour. Really. Yes. Currently I am enjoying the adorable Sorcerer Royal series by Zen Cho. I got it from the library’s digital collection.

And here is the first offering of social, safely. 


Alia’s FUN Classes!

(Social, Safely edition)

Tuesdays, March 31-April 28, 7PM EDT
These are LIVE classes, streamed online. Each class is recorded, with the recording available until the following week, when it is replaced by the new class. 
Alia’s classes are designed to help soothe and regulate the nervous system. This is how we survive stress and become more resilient.
Dancers feel relaxed, energized, and happy. So will you!

Take a peek: Alia’s Fun Classes!
There’s even a full sample class on the page. 

Why Alia? I’ve been teaching and designing online classes at the college level since 2003. Yes, that’s seventeen years. I’ve been teaching dance for decades. I’ve been deeply immersed in trauma resolution and stress reduction models for eight years now. I know how to do this. I’m good at it. I invite you to join me. Alia’s Fun Classes!

Why Now? This worldwide pandemic has us all inside and out of work, so we are pleased to offer our regular fee, PLUS a special Pay What You Will option and a Sliding Scale payment plan, for those of us who are financially impacted by this disaster.

I invite you to join me. However works for you.
Here’s the link: Fun-Class




Do you worry when you improvise? Want to have fun instead?

I’m struck over and over again by how many folks find improvisation ​to be a scary, anxious endeavor. Since it is such an important skill for belly dance, I’ve been applying myself to solving this problem. 

To that end, I have put together a presentation called 6 Ways to Melt Improv Fear. 

It’s an online workshop that I’ll present for FREE on Thursday, Jan 30, 2020 at 1PM​ Eastern timeSee this in your time zone (add to calendar button in link). YES, there will be a recording!

Do you worry when you improvise? Want to have fun instead?

These will be hands-on, tried and true methods to help dancers relax and enjoy improvisation. We’ll experiment with the methods and talk about how they work–each participant will ave multiple strategies to use in their own practice. 
Sign up here

Imagine–having fun with improv! You can ; )


Maybe you already have fun–but you have friends or students who struggle? Send them along. It’s free!

Here’s that link:

With all my love and Happy New You!

PS, one more week for the 90 Day Dance Party Earlybird price! I look forward to dancing with you!

Here’s a holiday prezzie for you!

Thank you!

Happy holidays!

Thank you for being part of my crazy path ; )
As a gift, here is a full Fun Class for you to stream. It’ll be up for the next month. (please copy and paste if the link is not clickable)

Here’s to a great 2020!

LOTS of love,
PS I added a 90 Days Sharegasm Payment Plan, if that helps. Remember, the Sharegasm closes with 2019.
Scroll down at

How to Live Through Hard Times

3. Bait. Inktober2019

Things have been tough lately, haven’t they? Terrible things in the news, the rise of racism, homophobia, and general cruelty. At least it is here in the USA and it seems to be a global trend. Most of us have been exhausted for the last few years. It’s like an endless attack, and since it comes from the news and the internet, and all around us, it’s hard to fight back.

So I have kind of a radical suggestion.


A few weeks ago I found myself scrolling Facebook, infuriated by all the shady crap the government is pulling, the kids in cages on the border, the infringement of public lands, the weakening of every protection. People need to know this, I thought, and I posted a ton of really depressing stuff.

Then my timeline was one long stream of upsetting things. I didn’t like that.

So I changed tactics. I posted good things. Useful strategies. Stories about individuals who made a difference.

Am I sticking my head in the sand? Maybe. I’m still noticing the evils that go on all around. But I’d rather focus on the good.

3. Bait. Inktober2019

We are all inclined to focus on the problem. It’s a human thing. If things are good, fine. But problems are dangerous. So we give them disproportionate attention. And at times like this, there is no end of them. Serious things. But do we really want to give them all that power over us?

I admit, it can be very, very hard to drag ourselves away from the trauma vortex, that endlessly tempting downward spiral of anger, pain, shame, and blame. But it’s worth our while to do so, every day.

What can we do?

Look around. Be in the here and now. Find a nice safe space and take the time to feel safe.

Exhale. Long exhales tell the body it is safe. Exhale to a count of 8, inhale only to 4. It works quickly.

Move. Our dance has so much joy to give. Put on some music, close your eyes and let you body move as it wishes. Breathe with the music and enjoy the physical sensation of reacting to the music!

Be with people. Especially people who help you feel uplifted. Volunteer for your candidate of choice, join a book group (for something fun, of course), or….

Take a class. It’s a great way to be with people while leveling up your skills. Here are some suggestions.

Focusing on the good is why I made Focus on the Feeling. It’s a course about critique. Most folks think of critique as negative. To me, it’s about looking at what’s working–and how to make it better. FoF starts in October–you might find it a good distraction from all the misery–and your dance will improve ; )

Another way of focusing on the good is the upcoming ACE Mastermind. We’ll identify your creative goals, and craft a step-by-step practice plan so you can achieve them, with accountability, camaraderie, and great group of friends.

Even more cheerfulness awaits you with the Online Fun Classes. These start Oct 17. A one-hour, live video dance class designed to be a good time for all levels. Something different every week, a little technique, a combination, some zils or veil, some Dancemeditation–all so you feel refreshed and relaxed.

And there’s the super fun Bellydance Bundle Instagram Challenge, 21 days of belly dance exercises and drills. It’s open to everyone, it’s free, and it’s going on now.

And of course, remember to VOTE.

That’s all for now!

All my love,

How to critique for confidence (or, “What the hell is this B?”)

A gal I knew was raised to believe that she mustn’t handle flowers when she had her period, because the flowers would die. I’m not kidding. People used to believe this.

I was shocked to meet someone for whom this had once been a truth. We met in the first belly dance class I ever took, so she had finally figured out there was something wrong with that picture (and it is an easy test, after all).

Outdated Beliefs

Sadly, many of us are raised with equally outdated beliefs and models

And we never even think to question them.

One of the more dysfunctional models with which I was raised was the dismissal of anything done well, and a focus on what was wrong. For example, growing up, I never heard, “Oh, honey, four As. Nice work!” Nope. All I got was, “What the hell is this B?” So this is how I talked to myself, too.

My self-critique was vicious. I couldn’t watch a video of my own dance without wanting to die. I never saw the good of what I did. I felt anxious and insecure.

I see that same focus on what’s wrong in many of my dance friends and students. We have been brainwashed into thinking that we have to be perfect or stay home. Women especially are tyrannized by the expectation of perfection. That’s just a myth designed to keep us powerless. When we focus our critique on what’s wrong, we rob ourselves of confidence and accomplishment. When we focus on what’s right, we win.

Switching to what’s right builds confidence

In child-rearing, the productive model is to tell the kids what to do. Instead of saying NO all the time, you can say YES. Instead of “Don’t touch that!” you redirect the kid to what is okay for them to play with. This was a big shift. When I started teaching writing at the college level, I educated myself about how to teach, how to do critique. Wow. I learned a LOT. It changed me as a teacher and as a human being.

Focus on student success

I have been a teacher at some level since the early 80s, working first for Headstart and later as a Speech Language Assistant in the public school system. I now teach English Composition at the college level (and have for over 20 years), so I have to do a lot of critique.

It was a hard job to change this in myself, but it mattered a lot. I was a LOT nicer to my students than to myself,  but I still told them what was wrong with their work instead of what was right. It didn’t work very well–for me or them.

The main thing I learned is to emphasize everything students did right. I even developed rubrics with all the tasks so I could find more things to compliment. And I went one step further. When we discussed what needed improvement, I framed it as an action step—something to do, instead of taking them to task for mistakes.

For a dance example, to a student with good presence but sloppy, floppy hands, I’d say, “I love your shining presence. I’d love to see you bring that energy into your hands. What if you try this?” And I’d demonstrate. This worked. It worked with the writers and the dancers. It worked for me, too.

Yes, there is a lot of crappy dance out there

But is shaming dancers for their mistakes going to make it any better? What if we try another way? When dancers enjoy the pleasure of the movement and the moment, when they give themselves to the the dance, when they are relaxed enough to enjoy the process, they feel more confident–and their technique often improves organically.

Nothing is perfect. Everything has room to develop. This life is is about becoming, not being. We learn, we grow, we change. Otherwise, we are dead. We copy to learn, we take classes, study others, and practice. But there comes a time when we must hop out on the branch, flap our wings, launch ourselves, and fly. Taking such risks benefits us in so many ways, some understood and others yet to come.

Will our first efforts suck?

Of course they will! Growth and learning include failure and revision. That’s how we learn—through trial and error, persistence, feedback, and trying again. Embracing process, identifying and correcting errors, this is key to improvement. Shame is not.

Let’s all learn how to reinforce the good, critique wisely, and model Eastern dance principles.

For more on how to do this, please check out our upcoming course, Focus on the Feeling. Registration is open now. There are only 25 seats. The super early price is good for the first ten purchasers. Please take a look right away.