Ataraxia and You

Back at the end of February, I had the pleasure of a tarot reading by my friend, Catti. We’ve done several of these over the last few years, and they are always inspiring and rich, helping me to understand what is going on in my life. This time, I was curious about where to focus my attention in the coming months. I’ve had some shifts that point towards finding new pathways, so I asked Catti’s cards, basically, which way I should go. 

They said, welp, major things are happening (three major arcana cards in a row, including the Tower), but you don’t know which way to go because—it’s just not clear yet. You’ll have to step carefully and have faith. 

On the one hand, I was like, well huh. On the other, it’s always good to know that it’s not just me—the way really is cloudy. 

As it happens, this was just before Coronavirus smashed into our daily life.

Which brings me to Ataraxia

It’s a Greek word that means “to be content knowing that you don’t know everything.” This is what my Literature prof told me in college. I fell in love with the word right then and there.  Because I am content knowing that I don’t know everything. I have a healthy respect for mystery. I am content to wait for things to unfold. Time is a real thing, and sometimes things aren’t ready yet. So you have to wait. 

Evening Green

Now, it is also true I have spent an inordinate amount of my life waiting. I have spent entire years unable to plan what I would do in five days, as I waited for some kind of sign. And I have planned entire years in five minutes flat.  

At the time of this reading, I feel impatient, yet mystified. Like I am in the middle of a transformation, that place where the caterpillar has dissolved into goo, before the butterfly starts to form. Hence my tarot question. And having it thrown right back to me—”Sorry, your question can’t be answered at this time. Be of good cheer,” was, well frustrating. 

So, Ataraxia. 

Recently, I found another definition of ataraxia—in Andrea Deagon’s wonderful novel, The Dancer from Tyre. It was, “freedom from care—the conscious setting aside of things that wear down the soul.” 

This definition made me love the word even more. And it’s something for us to think about in these (or any) troubled times. 

It is unhealthy and unwise to stew in despair, fear, or anger. The world news is enough to give us all panic attacks every day. And what good does that do? None. 

This is where we practice ataraxia, that “conscious setting aside of things that wear down the soul.”

For our 20 minute improv dance session, we let all that go. And maybe we can take time through the day to return to our flow state, to be more present in the moment, and less subject to the vortex of pain and misery that is always pulling at us. 

We also can be content to wait and see what happens. We don’t know everything. We are all in a state of transformation that is part of this practice. Things are happening. We don’t/can’t know what they are, but they’re happening. So let’s have faith, and be of good cheer. 

Here’s some music for that—also from Catti. Gaye Su Akyol

PS Improv is a place where we never know what will happen! Where we set aside our cares to be in the moment. In this vein, I’m delighted to be offering a series on improvising to Drum Solo and one on simply relaxing and feeling better.


​Starts Tuesday July 28! 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.

​Starts Friday, August 7 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,
Alia

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.

Preparation

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.

Presenting

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,
Alia

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

Dance to the Rescue!

When I was caring for my Mom, one of the hardest things for me to do was also one of the most self-nurturing–dancing. I managed it for a while, but as the care ground on, and my exhaustion reached dangerous levels, I could not make myself dance, no matter how much I knew it would help. 

Part of it was lethargy. But part of it was spaciness. 

dance to the rescue

I didn’t have the energy to choose music. I couldn’t do it on my own.

I needed rescue. 


So today, here are some really great music choices, to rescue you, to make your musical life easier. 

And there is more.

The more you give yourself permission to let your body thrash around to the music, however it wants to, the more you let go of pretty, perfect movement, the more relief this will give.

If you feel anxious that your energy is too angry/freaked out/overwrought for this, move in very slow motion, channeling all the crazy crackling energy; the movement can help that energy dissipate safely. 

So here are some YouTube playlists.

Most of this is western music as it has a lower bar for many of us. 

I’ve included the full links, since embedded playlist links sometimes don’t work. Please copy and paste the links if they give you trouble.

Even listening to music helps the body feel better, so if you don’t feel up to dance, just put on music and listen.

Funky upbeat party music
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEaWvqXcz8GdQ18v2FlZbe_F93-04sOUW

Taqsim playlist
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEaWvqXcz8GfDPn6RYIkkMC1mAmnheKQr

Rhythm-Heavy Belly Dance/Debke music
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEaWvqXcz8GeqUadJH_AtjtHJlOk33ubk

Wild Dramatic Classical Music 
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEaWvqXcz8Gcmfiv7rn4WiIceWHiZ0Avb

Sun Ra The Nubians of Plutonia (trust me)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLMV7BHrogw&list=PLGX_iebp2Prk18FG7qp_rw2gTBmNWAKSB

BUDDY GUY & JUNIOR WELLS -Drinkin’ Tnt ‘N’ Smokin’ Dynamite
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdbcKTkQk7E

Sam Cooke 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZB4jcPmFGo&list=PL7IYX2pTFu7a5XHFMplBz3h4QM4Una0uH

Talking Heads-Stop Making Sense
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gUsGYtozko&list=PLVSlPiUUcHnDAesZb1ES7nyb07eVLdMzM

And if you have the energy to dance, there are lots of classes available right now. I highly recommend
Dunya’s new live online offerings by donation

And a whole list of things in this Facebook group DANCE AWAY – List & Find {LIVE} Online Belly Dance Classes .

And my own FUN Classes!

With lots and lots of love, 

Alia

Why It Doesn’t Matter What You Do

Hidden

The 90 Day Dance Party starts on Sunday! 
We’re counting down with Love Notes every week. This one is from 2015. 

One of the main movement practices of the 90 Days (and Sufi-based Dancemeditation, on which the 90 days is based), is the idea of allowing the body to lead, to move as it wishes. This can be a pretty scary concept. But if we want to improvise, to move intuitively with confidence and joy, it is an essential skill. So we have ways of mediating the fear….

Day 7: Why it doesn’t matter what you do

Let the body move as she wishes. This can be pretty scary. Because what if the way she moves isn’t acceptable? What if it isn’t pretty? Or perfect? What if it’s embarrassing or dirty or, or, or it smashes open that big chain-bound casket of everything dark and ugly that we have worked so hard to keep stuffed down at the bottom of our souls?

Hidden (Dreams) Why It Doesn’t Matter What You Do

Well, it might.

So we use Slow Movement to stay safe. 

When bad or scary things happen to us (often as children), our unexpressed defensive impulses (such as flight or fight) get stuck—like electrical short circuits. This is trauma. It is entirely subjective—what freezes one person with fear may not bother another. Slow Movement lets us come closer to these stored short circuits and lets us move away again. So we don’t have to engage them. And we can begin to feel safe because of this. There is a lot about this in the Quickstart—it’s good to read it again.

Doing this work is like a cleanse for the soul.

Emotions and impulses do come up. This can feel scary and dangerous. When they do, go back to those long exhales, open your eyes, and focus on soothing sights. You might enjoy running in place or drumming your feet on the floor. (If you have a history of medication and/or hospitalization for mental health, proceed with caution, and check in with your doc.)

The body wants to heal—it’s a hard-wired organic process that we have largely lost, as our dangers have morphed from lions and tigers to car wrecks, surgeries, abuse, and chronic stress. Through DancemeditationTM, we release this stress by letting the body move as she wishes. The body is thus able to express these short-circuited responses. The breath, the slow movement, all of these are tools to give us space and grounding.

So yes, some if it may not be pretty or fun. Cleaning out an old, stuffed toilet rarely is. It’s a process. But having a consistent outlet for the new layers of stress helps keep things clean and shiny. And that is kinda cool. Since I started working on trauma resolution, my general mood has improved, my breathing has slowed and become deeper, and those cruel inner voices have chilled out. Yes, I still get angry, desperate, depressed—but much less so, and it’s not hopeless like it used to be. My dance is better, too.

But how does this help our dance? You can’t go flail around on stage!

Generally, no. But here’s what happens. As we develop our intuitive expression by letting the body drive the bus, we also develop our intuitive expression of the music. And, in Oriental dance, the music is everything. Through this practice, we learn to let the body respond to the music without our controlling intervention. And it will respond differently to different genres of music.

How you interpret the music organically, that is a huge part of your personal style. Funk. Blues. Tango. Maori. Haitian. Mauritanian. And so on. Maybe not with the established vocabulary of the genre. But with the deepest, richest part of you. With your soul. And people see that. This is why we use such a varied assortment of music for the 90 Days.

If you put on Turkish Roman music, you will feel the rhythms, emotions, and melodies and dance them. You might not cram in all the gestures and fixed steps you ever learned, but your feeling will be stronger and your dance richer than if you self-consciously click through your repertoire. After one show during which I chose to refrain from any specific Roman technique, a gal told me, “Your 9/8 was good. Usually I don’t like it when they do 9/8, but yours was good. And I’m Turkish, so I know.” Turns out it was Suzy Tekbilek, Omar Faruk Tekbilek’s wife, the gal who taught Dalia Carella (Faruk Tekbilek was playing for us that night). So, it works.

Likewise, try some Egyptian orchestral music. Let your body enjoy the oozy yumminess of the melodies. Yes, enjoy. Like, Mmmmm, delicious! Every move your body makes will be rich and juicy—for real, not because you try to look juicy. I mean, this dance is a pleasure! It is a pleasure for the body to move with the music, to let go and just respond.

We make it so much about hard work and being perfect, but it’s not.

It never has been. It’s play.

When I went to Egypt in 2011, I danced in the opening night show at Camp Negum. The orchestra played for me one of my favorite songs, Hayart Elbi Ma’ak. Azza Sherif was in the audience. I wore a plain red dress and danced with a veil. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to dance “Egyptian.” I would have to dance just plain old me. With the veil. Not Egyptian at all.

So I did.

Afterwards, the old Sai’di gentleman from the folklore troupe came all the way to the back of the room to touch his heart and bow. The waiters (all of them) insisted I was Egyptian. The Russian costume designer told me she loved my dance because I was not afraid to not be pretty. And the next day, Madame Azza called me out in front of the whole group to tell me she loved my dance.

So it works.

Sure, you need technique, skills, vocabulary. But we already get a lot of that. What we don’t get is the opportunity to discover how our own bodies respond to the music. How to play.

It’s play.

Let’s play.

Here’s some Mercan Dede. See what comes out.

The 90 Day Dance Party starts on Sunday. Come play with us!

Love,
Alia 

PS In other news, LOCAL VT FOLKS: I’m teaching live classes at the Grindstone Cafe in Lyndonville VT. Come dance!

What is the Most Beautiful Move?

The most beautiful move is the one you are doing right now.Think of the most wonderful dancer you’ve ever seen. Everything they do entrances you—every action feels perfect. You notice only the energy and the love. Joy and warmth suffuse your soul. You feel loved and loving, uplifted and happy. At the end, you applaud wildly, wishing only for more. How do they do it? How do they make everything so beautiful? They must practice a lot. If only…

What is the most beautiful move?

Here’s a conundrum. When we exist in the moment, all of life is perfect—or hell—or however that moment happens to feel. Ironically, the moment itself may be neutral. It’s about how we feel. (Okay, some moments suck—but even so, our emotional experience can be at odds with the circumstances. Who hasn’t felt crappy at a happy event? Or curiously free at a sad time?)

When we dance, we can feel great, crappy, or anything in between—whether the audience loves us or not—and this largely depends upon how we feel about ourselves in that moment. So if we feel like we are are crap, the moment will be crap. But when we feel great, beautiful, enchanting—the moment will be lovely. We can literally transform the moment through our own emotional projection. It’s magic.

So the most beautiful move is the one you are doing right now.

I know, right? Sadly, the crappiest move can also be the move you are doing right now. Yes, the same move. The difference is in your mind. This is why you won’t see me suggesting specific moves, or how to use specific muscles. Movement choice and creation in the moment is intuitive. The movement doesn’t matter. What’s important is how we feel, our connection to the music, and what we give to the audience. That’s what the audience notices. That’s what they love. That’s what they remember.

I first heard this from Fahtiem, a wonderful dancer, great teacher, and super cool human being. She said, “It’s not a hip drop. It’s a hip drop! Every time!” It’s something cool and special that we share with the audience—and ourselves. And it’s up to us to make it happen. What do they know? Nothing. We create the audience’s perception through our projection of emotional texture. So we have to learn to feel great about our moves. Seriously.

How do we learn that?

Practice. But not the way you think. We’re mostly trained to practice technique—perfecting our physical ability to recreate shapes in time and space. But there is more to improvisation than making a shape. There is the intuitive connection to the music, which we practice in our 20 minutes. And there is the mindspace of joy, of beauty. Yes, that, too, deserves practice. How?

Here’s the secret: Pick a basic move. My favorite is the infinity (aka upward hip figure 8, aka snake hips). Do the move. Slowly. Enjoy the physical feeling of every moment. As you do it, use your breath. I exhale the weight change, as the hip goes down and out, and I inhale the hip up. As you do it, gaze lovingly at yourself and say, “This is the most beautiful move I have ever seen.” And mean it.

I do this after using the restroom, before I walk out the door. It’s one of my Tiny Habits. I do it 3 times, with the breath and the affirmation. It takes 30 seconds. PS, if the mirror bothers you, then don’t look. Just feel it. Here’s a tiny video to show you what I mean.* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bT2ntWMinhU

Yeah, but what if I’m not very good?

That’s in your mind. Really. Even if you are an absolute beginner, the fastest way to hip-drop hell is to tell yourself how much you suck, to apologize on stage for existing. Look, the audience took time out of their busy lives to come and see you. Give them some honey. They don’t care about you—they care about how they feel. And that comes from what you give them: Joy. Verve. Fun.

These are things you can practice. The most beautiful move is whatever you perceive as such. So when you sashay out on stage with joy and verve, when you delight them with your love and generosity, they will respond.

Try the exercise for a week.

Put a note in the bathroom to remind you. See how you feel. Love yourself. Love your body. Love your moves. Love your guests. They will love you back.

Truth.

Love,
Alia

*Adapted from Kenny Werner’s highly recommended book, Effortless Mastery (and eternal thanks to Teadora for suggesting it). Werner writes about jazz improvisation, but his observations apply to us as well.

PS The 90 Day Dance Party starts Feb 16. Now is the time. Cherish yourself!

*Adapted from Kenny Werner’s highly recommended book, Effortless Mastery (and eternal thanks to Teadora for suggesting it). Werner writes about jazz improvisation, but his observations apply to us as well.
Here’s Sun Ra, with some of my favorite jazz.

How to transition effortlessly between moves

pic of sheet music

Imagine, you’re dancing along and suddenly you have a better idea. So you go with it. Then you have another. But that one’s not so good, so you switch to something else. Then another, and… It’s like a bad dream. In a split second you are trapped in your head, worrying and thinking. How can we transition gracefully between moves during improv?

Structure, Timing, and Relaxation

Structure

Music has structure. Even a taqsim with no rhythm has structure. We make our transitions in accordance with this structure. We make them between the phrases. Between the measures. This is why we listen to so much music, so we can intuit the structure. This is why we want to know our songs, so we have an idea of when the changes come. It’s fun to dance blind to music we never heard before, but it’s all the listening we have done in the past allows us to do this.

Where is the most organic place to change? Every song, every section, every phrase, every beat has a beginning, middle, and end. There are verses and choruses, calls and repeats, rules  of 4, etc. And there is almost always a change at every 4 measures. That is a great place to switch. (Some songs have 3 measure phrases, some two, and some have sections with longer phrases—it doesn’t matter.) The end of a phrase (or a measure) is the best place to switch. You will always look in synch.

Timing (a quick lesson on music).
So here comes the end of the phrase—what do you do? You switch on the and, usually between the 4 at the end of one measure and the 1 at the beginning of the next.

The rhythm can be broken down verbally to accommodate all these notes. For example, 1(and 2 and 3 and 4 and) 2(and 2 and 3 and 4 and) etc. In music, it’s often phrased thus: 1 a-and-a 2 a-and-a 3 a-and-a 4 a-and-a.

Music can have lots of notes per measure, but the base measure is usually 4 counts. (Most of our music is 4/4. There are many other time signatures—3/4 is waltz time, 9/8 is karsilama, etc, in which case the base count is different). Each count can also be divided up to fit many notes in the measure (see below for more).

Here’s the music for Ah Ya Zein. The horizontal lines show which note to play. The vertical lines show the demarcation between each measure.

Musical notation for Ah Ya Zein
Musical notation for Ah Ya Zein

 And here’s Ah Ya Zein in person. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3tt_KvAz4o It’s being played as a 2/4. You can hear the ayyoub rhythm under the melody going dum, ka dum tek; dum, ka dum tek1, and2, and 1, and2, and . You would change on the final and (after the 2), so you are ready to go on the 1.

1,

and

2

and

dum,

ka

dum

tek

Here’s a maksoum beat: dum tek, tekka tek, dum tekka tek, (tekka). This translates to 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. That last and is the place where you change.

1

and

2

and

3

and

4

and

dum

tek

tekka

tek

dum

tekka

tek

(tekka)

A drummer will often play that last bit of the phrase differently. They may play more or fewer beats, speed up or slow down—for they are also signaling the change to the rest of the musicians. And if there is to be a change in rhythm, they will signal that quite vigorously, often with a series of dums, as he has to adapt as well. Understanding the rhythm helps us feel this most basic structure of the music (the melody brings us to the higher levels of structure).

While you wait for the moment, relax. Relaxation is the key to everything. The more we get chased by worry and stress, the harder everything gets. When we feel stressed in dance, it’s time to slow down and start Rhythmic Breath. Breathe with the music and slow down. Whatever you are doing, no matter how fast the music, intentionally relax. Remember to enjoy yourself. This alone is radical.

When we are relaxed, suddenly everything is possible. Everything is easier. Everything is more enjoyable. When we slow down before a change, we get to see the change coming. The space around the change between phases opens up like sunny day. It becomes easy to pass through the change, even gracious.

As you find the spaces in the rhythm, you can change even more frequently. Try changing with every measure, every beat even, as in stop motion. Tribal fusion does this a lot, and it can make for some nice accents. But remember the melody, too. The rhythm is the most basic part of the music. The melody is a heavenly palace of textures and warm breezes to waft you along.

Keep it relaxed! Too many changes wears everyone out, including the dancer. The music repeats—so can you. Take the time to explore and enjoy each section. People want to have a good time. When dancers relax and enjoys themselves, so do the people.

Take your time. Connect to the rhythm. Express the melody. Enjoy your dance.

Want a more structured approach? An actual class? I invite you to check out

Embodiment: Musicality for Belly Dance

A fun, easy way to to embody the music. 

Love,
Alia

How to self critique (without wanting to die)

student looking at paper with F

When I was 16 or 17, I danced at the local block party. It was my first performance, ever. My homemade costume took weeks. I made a grand entrance from the big doors on the parlor floor of my house and danced down the front steps. I did floorwork in the street. Lots of people gathered, and everyone cheered. It was a big hit. I was happy.

A friend filmed the show (we didn’t have video back then). A few weeks later, we all sat down to watch the movie.

Imagine my horror when the film brought back every moment of worry. I was paralyzed by shame. All the fun memories were smashed by the anxiety the film ignited. And this was only my first performance. Over so many years, even when a show felt great and I I got great response from the guests, when I saw the video, I cringed.


It’s taken most of my life to enjoy my own performances. I’d like to help you enjoy yours–now.


What is self critique?

Self critique means looking at our own work with the intention of understanding its strengths and weaknesses. We see what we are doing well, and where we could improve. Take special note of that last sentence—strength as well as weakness. The problem is, most of us have no idea about our strengths, since all we ever see are our weaknesses.

Why self critique? 

Why not just ask our teachers and friends to give us advice? Certainly teachers who know more than we do could do a better job of diagnosing our dance and offering solid advice.

We might like doing it ourselves.
Self-critique gives us a lot of control. We can take our time and analyze what worked and what didn’t from our perspective, based upon what we wanted to accomplish. It happens on our own time, when we are ready to do it. While it is incredibly helpful to get honest, unbiased feedback from a mentor or peer, no one needs judgmental comments made by folks who don’t “get” what we are doing.

We may not have reliable mentors/friends.
Thanks to the internet, many of us have learned to dance through videos. We don’t have any friends or teachers that we can easily ask for feedback. It’s fine to ask a random pal what they thought, but they may not know enough about what we are trying to do to give us actionable feedback.

Or we may have plenty of dancer peeps, but we may have outgrown their level of expertise. Or their objectivity may be compromised by their own baggage. It’s challenging to get critique from someone who feels threatened by us, or is obsessed with minor issues of correctness.


Plenty of people will tell us what we did wrong.
But not so many will celebrate what we did right. So we are going to learn to do this for ourselves.


The key is objectivity. 

This means we have a set of criteria that can be applied across the board to help us measure our accomplishments. AND we have to know which elements are most important—because, frankly, having a good time is more important than whether your hip scarf was tucked just so. Yet so many of us feel a dance was ruined because of some little glitch! If the dance reaches the guests, they never notice that hip scarf, except in the briefest of passing moments. So our tasks are

• Develop a set of objective criteria
• Rank these from most to least important (you may be surprised)
• Apply them as tools to help us focus and improve our dance.

What’s really great about this set of elements is that they are helpful to teachers as well. This is why I developed the course Focus on the Feeling (FoF 😉

FoF is special

Fof helps dancers learn self-critique. It helps us develop an objective view. It helps us help our dance friends, too. AND it helps teachers learn to value strengths and provide more compassionate, productive help for their students.

There are five weeks of classes. Each one focuses on a different tool. All the tools work together–and you can use them for more than dance–in fact, you can assess pretty much anything.

FoF is also special because it is hosted on a private forum. No Facebook groups! It features daily accountability, daily instructor interaction (that’s me ; ), and a fun group of like-minded dancers.

I’ve been teaching critique for over twenty years
I had to learn to help my own students. And now I’m here to help you–and your students ; )

It all starts next week… Focus on the Feeling

Love,
Alia

And of course, there’s more!

The Bellydance Bundle
Yes, the Bundle is back ; ). Better than ever, too. Available Oct 16-24.

Focus on the Feeling
FoF starts Monday, Oct 21–right around the corner! Compassionate, productive critique is such a useful skill in our dance. If you’d like to join, please do! This is one of my favorite classes.

ACE Mastermind
This past summer (here in the US) five of us piloted the Artist’s Creative Expression (ACE) Mastermind. It was a happy success, so much so that it is now going public! If you would like to be involved, there is still room! We’ll start up in late Oct or early Nov and go through the end of the year.

FUN Classes
FUN classes are just that–FUN. They are a one-hour, improv-focused, follow-me, vacation form the real world. The current crop begins Thursday Oct 24. These are available here.

FREE Fun Class
We will also have FREE live Fun Class open to the public on Thursday, Oct 17 at 7PM EDT (a recording will be available until to stream until Weds, Oct 23). Please do come, and feel free to invite your friends. Here is the link to sign up: https://alia-thabit.ck.page/free-fun-class

How to Focus on the Good (to feel stronger and take action)

Last week, I inadvertently gave the impression that we should all turn off, tune out, and stop caring about the cruelty going on in the world. This was not my intent. I apologize for having done so.  

I am concerned with the levels of overwhelm that swamp so many folks. There is a lot of bad news, and many of us feel powerless against the rising tide. This is why I stopped posting bad news and started posting good news, news about people who had made a difference. Because we can all make a difference. But marinating in misery doesn’t really help us do that.  

Focusing on the good helps us step out of overwhelm.

Focusing on the good helps us have the space to take action. Taking action helps us make a difference. Even a small difference makes a big difference.

My small way of taking action has been to learn about trauma and how to heal it. My model of choice has been Somatic Experiencing (SE). I just completed their truly splendid three-year training program.  Soon, I will be certified as a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner. 

I’m pleased with what I have accomplished. But I’m more pleased with now having the tools and skills to help folks come back into their bodies. Into theirselves. Into their lives.

Trauma is a killer.

Most of the cases of depression on the list below are trauma-related.

There is a picture here worth seeing

Most of us have suffered challenging experiences whose effects still drag on us. Many toxic elements of the current global situation (not to mention our life experiences) are extremely challenging. They won’t stop. So we have to stop them from eating us alive.

We do this by creating safe spaces for ourselves.

We do this by consciously becoming aware of moments when we are not under attack. Feeling the sensation of safety.  Sometimes it may amount to sticking our fingers in our ears and singing La la la. Or reading a trashy novel. It’s a start. 

Yes, we can live in a constant state of overwhelm. Sort of. But it’s exhausting and unhealthy. When we feel stronger and more stable, we can do more, take more action, be there for ourselves, our children, and generally, the world. So it makes sense. 

Focus on the good. 

Focus on what works.

And take some action. Pick something. Just one thing. It can be very, very small. It still makes a difference. Taking action feels good, too. 

One of the greatest goods in my life is Oriental dance. It has so many built-in elements that help release stress and trauma! These elements are strongest in our improvisation. I’ll be featured Friday on the BellyDance Bundle’s new podcast Yallah Raqs talking about Improvisation, and included in their Instagram 21 Days of Practice Challenge (along with many other great teachers!).

Plus!

I’m pleased to offer a short series of live, online Fun Classes. 

They focus on–fun! Having fun with dance. 

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

Each class is recorded. The recording is available for one week only, then replaced by the next recording. We use zoom for the classes and Teachable to host the streamable recordings.

Let’s set aside one hour a week to marinate in joy. 

6-Week session starts Thursday, Oct 17 at 7PM Eastern time.  Sign up here. I would love to see you!

 

With all my love, 
Alia

 

 

 

 

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.

Stop.

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,
Alia