Caught between a rock and a hard place?
Making dances is harder than it seems…
(How do we bridge the gap between East and West?)
Dancers love to feel the music and express themselves.
Many teachers make dancemaking a big secret that only they can do. They dole out the choreographies for haflas and recitals. You are expected to learn on command. Even if that is not how you feel the music, not what you would have liked to do there, you’re supposed to do it exactly the same as the teacher.
So you try to make a dance yourself. A fun dance to that expresses your feeling. You take a piece of music you like, start picking steps, and putting them in place.
But it’s harder than it seems.
It’s like a big box of rocks…
No order, no beauty, no nothing. You can’t decide which of those five moves would fit best. Or how to represent the taqsim. You’re not sure what to repeat or even if it is okay, or where to be on the stage. It makes your brain hurt. And it’s taking forever…
What if you can make dances, but you are not happy with them? They are not fun to dance. They feel dull. Audiences don’t respond. You think and worry the whole time you’re dancing. There seems to be something missing…
How do you make it sing?
All you want is to make some dances–something fun for yourself, or maybe a friend. You have all these ideas, but no way to get them out of your head and into your body. It would be great to have some meaning, something more than moves. Maybe even something theatrical, with characters, and a story. If only there were a simple, fun way to do this…
What if there were such a way?
And what if you got to explore it with good friends in a safe, fun place? A step-by-step, systematic approach that works. Something you could use every time, yet have each dance come out unique and special. Smart, thoughtful feedback. Interesting exercises that help you learn and grow. A safe space to experiment with your ideas, to make your dances?
How cool would that be?
Pretty cool, right?
How to Create Dance Art
An Online Composition Intensive for Improvisation & Choreography
● Learn a creative process you can use over and over
● Practice proven skill-building strategies
● Experience a professional, trained instructor
● Develop rich, complex dances from song to stage!
A dance is like a story, longing to be told–yet so many dancers focus on how many fancy steps they can cram into the music. A step, however snazzy, is empty, a box without a gift.
Create Dance Art is different.
This system gives you concepts, options, and a proven composition process so you can fill that empty box with gifts of emotion, drama, and design.
Your dances blossom into works of art– unconventional, independent, creative, unique. Like you.
But I’m just a beginner! That’s okay. This is suitable for all levels of experience. It’s not a dance class, but a class that teaches you how to compose what you know into satisfying, deep, rich dances, replete with emotion, drama, and visual resonance. It gives you a system and practice using the system, so that you have the tools to tackle any dance task that comes your way.
But I don’t know enough steps! You don’t have to. It’s not about the steps. Really. It’s about the feeling. That’s what people will remember.
But I can’t remember choreography! You will remember this. And this system includes blocking and structure, too. Even if you do forget the steps, you will have a full box of content to express in the moment.
How will Create Dance Art Course help with improvisation? Most of us dance to recorded music. That rarely gives us the extra power that live music has in the moment. But we can use tools of composition to help us make a beautiful room in which to dance.
This course grows dances from the inside out. The very last thing we will consider (in a three month course), is adding moves. Moves are primarily containers for feeling and concepts. So most of our attention will go to analyzing music, developing emotional and conceptual content, and composing the stage design.
You don’t have to set moves at all. Once you know what you want to say with each note, where you want to be at each moment, the moves simply evolve as part of the rich tapestry of the whole.
Create Dance Art covers every aspect of creating dances: from charting music, conceptualization, costuming, and stage design, down to the final elements of setting and polishing. This is a system I’ve developed for my own use, and it works. I’ve been teaching mostly improv in the last couple of years because I saw such a need–now let’s develop some structure for our freedom. It’s an exciting process, and I invite you to join me.
CDA is a 13-week course.
There are only 25 places.
- This is a three-month course hosted on a private forum, fully hands-on, designed with scientifically proven teaching methodology such as tiny increments so you really “get” each element and build repeatable skills.
- Alia has 40 years of Oriental dance experience, 20 years of college teaching experience, and 9 years of online teaching. It’s going to be a helluva course!
- You get case studies, weekly lessons, how-to videos, daily homework (5 days/week, 10-30 minutes), small-group interaction, and daily feedback.
- There is a self-study option that allows you to do the assignments on your own, but the forum feedback helps you understand the material and implement it correctly.
Wait, I have to be away part of that time! It’s all good–you can do your work from any internet connection on earth. If you will be offline, we can send your assignments in advance, so you can continue to learn and post your results upon your return.
Wait, what? A belly dance course on a forum? How does that work?
- We get together via forum to discuss and complete the assignments
- I upload the course materials, and you access them on the forum
- You post your homework on the forum
- I (and your small group), give you feedback and encouragement on your progress.
You will need access to the internet for the forum or email. If you choose to post video (you don’t have to), you will need a YouTube or Vimeo account to host your videos so you can link them to the forum. There will be plenty of help for every aspect of the forum, uploading, and posting process!
Wait, video homework? How much do I have to upload? You don’t have to submit any video if you don’t want to. We are developing conceptual skills, learning how to work with principles and develop strategies. You might choose to post video for feedback on specific ideas, but it’s not required.
I love to dance, but I don’t perform. Is this class for me? Performance is totally optional. If you want to make dances (for yourself or for others), and if the material and activities interest you in and of themselves, then you will probably like this course.
We do a lot of analyzing, conceptualizing, learning, and problem solving. We create conceptual frameworks to hold space for the feeling, so the musical response can evolve intuitively. This is the case whether moves are improvised or set.
We discuss and experiment with stage use and stagecraft, because that’s part of composition. We go into theatrical approaches such as persona, backstory, scenario. There are a lot of options for structure.
Create Dance Art uses research-based skill development strategies. We progress systematically through a dozen composition elements in three modules so we own the process and can implement it easily. This learning model is proven effective by current research on intelligence and talent acquisition. No more struggling to decide what to put where—Create Dance Art gives you the confidence and expertise to develop a fully-fledged dance every time.
A high-quality, experienced coach makes all the difference.
Alia Thabit is that coach.
Forty years of belly dance experience • Professional educator • Skilled in online learning and instruction • Continued, extensive learning • Specialization in improv and composition • Champion of creative expression • Awesomely cool and fun.
An Arab-American and a Vermont Juried Artist, Alia draws from four decades of intensive exploration. She is the author of Midnight at the Crossroads: has belly dance sold its soul?, a seminal work that looks at East, West, and how to bridge the gap.
She specializes in live music performance; solo and group improvisation and composition; and collaborative, narrative, symbolic, and movement-based structures. Alia champions creativity and self-expression grounded in tradition, uniting dancers, musicians, and audience in a radiant oasis of warmth and delight.
“Alia is authentic. Not necessarily traditional dancing in one style or another, but dance instruction that requires the student to be her authentic self, to reach within to both her physical and mystical core self and dance from there first. Everything else — all the precision of movement, the details of technique, the practice itself, is grounded there and flows outward from there.” Kir T, VT
“What Alia does is so much more than belly dance. I feel like every individual who studies with Alia goes on her own journey, a journey of healing, a journey of discovery, a journey of transformation, a journey of joy. What she is about is so much more than just the moves and the history. That’s all been written before. Alia has a bigger gift than that. She leads dance journeys!” Julie Ann Eason, teacher, copywriter, marketing consultant.
“A lot of people try to make money off of us by making us feel terrible about ourselves. Witness the entire weight loss industry. You’re one of the few people I can think of who consciously and deliberately works to make people feel better through what you offer. That’s a really beautiful thing.” —Atisheh, Dance DVD reviewer and blogger
Listen to an interview with Alia on Three Things You Can Put in a Dance Besides Moves at the Belly Dance Geek Clubhouse!
What’s special about this course?
- Alia is a professional educator. She’s taught grade levels from Headstart to High School for 11 years, at the college level for 20 years, online courses since 2007, and taught dance for 30 years.
- Learning methods based on talent acquisition research. Build myelin through repetition of specific skills. Do one thing a hundred times rather than a hundred things one time.
- Daily small assignments (+/-20 minutes/day, 5 days/week). We learn more, faster by focused application of skills with periods of rest in between.
What do you get?
- Clear, repeatable composition process. This is a system you can use over and over again, for any music, any time.
- How-to audio/video (with case studies). Each week’s homework broken down and explained to help you through the process.
- All information, exercises, and call recordings—so you can follow the lessons at your convenience. Self-guided study is fully supported.
Premium Forum (only 25 seats):
- Private forum. Our own forum with individual small groups, personal threads and privacy.
- Small groups to maximize learning. 8-10 people in each group so you have a built-in team for feedback and support.
- Pre-start meet and greet. Get to know your group and the forum.
- Daily feedback from instructor—this is a hands-on course. I’ll be in the forum every day, reading, commenting, and making sure that you get the clarity and support to understand and use this material.
This course is a systematic process that you can use to build dances every time. There will be about 20 minutes of homework per day, 5 days a week for 13 weeks. The daily practice sets the learning in place and builds skills quickly.
Forum participants will spend another 15-20 minutes logging their practice and checking in with their group. The forum feedback helps you understand and implement the material correctly.
You are welcome to do the assignments on your own time, whenever you please.
Module 1. Conceptualization
- Musical Analysis—understanding musical structure and dynamics
- Content Development—emotional timbre, characters, symbolism, etc
Module 2. Blocking
- Principles of Design—stage use and visual composition
- Music Interpretation—traveling, stillness, dynamics, and ornaments
Module 3. Setting
- Develop movement dynamics
- Build clusters and transitions
- Lightning Round: Make a complete dance in 5 days. Worth $100
- A 45-minute mini-coaching session w Alia. Worth $60 (to be used within 6 months of course end)
Lightning Round: As our final week, we will put our system to the test, with each participant making a complete dance in 5 days. This fun week of creative craziness ensures full understanding of the system and a hands-on appreciation of its sturdiness.
Coaching session: Alia’s coaching helps you get to the bottom of your practice and find what works for you. Find your style. Focus on your art. Get your creative life together!
What this course is not:
This course will not teach you how to dance. It will teach you how to compose what you know into complete pieces. That means the system grows with you. The more you learn, the richer your dances will become. It also means you can use this with any dance form. The examples and values embedded in the course will be Oriental dance, but you are free to use any style. Our range as dancers will enrich the conversations.
This course is not for critique. It is a coaching opportunity. You will get focused support, learn how to develop your creative habits, and enjoy a safe space to explore stage use, character work, and musical analysis.
(If you want critique, see Focus on the Feeling.)
This course will give you a toolbox, guided experience, and a higher level of confidence in composing dances.
- You will get a process and options that you can use in the composition process. What you put in the dance is up to you; this class will teach you how to structure it.
- This process gives us more freedom on stage in our solos, much, much more ability to communicate with our audience—and way less to remember.
- We can even retrofit existing choreographies with high-level of content, thus rendering them far more effective and easier to remember.
- Because each moment has meaning, the whole dance makes more sense to us, and is more memorable—and more powerful—for the audience.
Bring your dance artistry to the next level. Audiences respond with delight and awe to beautiful, meaningful dances. Create Dance Art will help you tap into your own creativity and style, to nurture and develop your personal interpretation of the music.
Frequently Asked Questions
When does the course run?
CDA is a 13-week course. It begins Monday, February 4th, 2019 and runs through Friday, May 17. There are breaks the weeks of March 18th and April 22.
Where does it take place?
The course runs on a private forum. Assignments are posted each week, and participants post their progress daily (M-F)
How does it work?
Assignments are posted weekly. Each assignment is designed to be accomplished over five days.
The assignments build over the semester, from music choice and analysis to concepts, stage patterns, and polishing.
We practice each step of a complete dance composition system over 12 weeks.
What if I need clarification?
There will be weekly group video calls for coaching and feedback.
How do the video calls work?
We will have a 1-hour group video call each week to discuss and troubleshoot the assignments. These will be live online (also accessible by telephone). Participants may ask questions in advance or during the call.
Do I need a webcam?
No. Alia will share video, but participants need not share.
What if I miss the call?
All calls are recorded. Recordings are posted within 72 hours.
What if I miss a week (or more?)
The course is designed so you can jump back in at any time. Plus, you can go back through the system whenever you want, or when you have composition to complete.
What if I don’t like it?
If Create Dance Art is not for you, for any reason, you have Alia’s 30 day money-back, no-questions, Win-Win Guarantee. That’s 30 days from the start of classes to make up your mind. If you need to bail, you get your money back and the two weeks of classes and calls are yours to keep.
What is the price? Is there an installment plan?
Please look below for the price. You also get the option of a three-part installment payment.
When will the prices increase?
Price now is $519
Create Dance Art runs 3 months–but costs about as much as a weeklong workshop.
And once you pay for travel, hotel, food, etc, that workshop’s cost can skyrocket to well over $1,000. Plus you have to hassle with arranging that hotel, food, and travel, not to mention spending two days getting there and back.
CDA comes right to your home. You can do it in your underwear!
In that workshop, you might learn a couple of choreographies or maybe some new steps—if you’re lucky enough to remember them. There will be no personal instruction, no followup, and no notes.
With CDA, you get feedback, video calls, and a personal follow-up. Plus you will have a solid method to create your own meaningful, compelling dances, to any song, for any purpose, any venue, any time you want–FOREVER.
This course is a steal.
Personal 45-minute phone/Skype consultation with Alia (use within 6 months of course end. Worth $60)
Embodiment: Musicality for Oriental Dance, a $95 class, completely FREE.
In this six-week course, you will learn musical structure; explore rhythm, melody, and phrasing; and practice improvisational templates so you can bask in joyous expression.
Week 1: Demystifying the Music
Week 2. Understanding Rhythmic Structure
Week 3. Dancing on the Melody
Week 4. Interpretation and Texture
Week 5. Using Combo Templates
Week 6. How to Float and Land
Each week includes a conceptual breakdown, musical assignment, dance étude, video example, and song suggestions.
This course helps students feel the music.
It helps teachers teach musicality.
Best of all? It’s simple, fun, and IT WORKS.
Space, Time, and Design. A fabulous series of recorded lectures by Dunya McPherson sharing material from her Juilliard choreography studies.
- This was back in the 70s when there was incredible innovation in the field.
- Most of these pioneers never wrote books and many have passed away.
- This rare material comes infused with Dunya’s deep understanding of Sufi and Oriental dance and music.
This unique opportunity to acquire rare, valuable material is special to us and only available here.
Creating group dances
Want to make group dances that are interesting, exciting, and easy to remember–even for beginners?
YOU GOT IT!
- Alia’s tried and true method, Spontaneous Construction
- Bonus Presentation on Group Dances by Dunya MacPherson
- Follow up Q&A Video call
Revolutionize your group dance creation process. Guaranteed!
Notation for Oriental Dance with Walladah Valada. Walladah is a Greek dance scholar who grew up in a dance and music family on the mythical island of Crete. She learned oriental dance part of her culture.
Walladah has refined and expanded the CDA system into a notation method designed and built for the micromovement of Oriental dance. Western systems such as Labanotation do not do so well with our dance–but Walladah’s Notation for Oriental Dance does very well! Have you have ever wished to be able to make accurate written notations of your dances? Now you can!
Registration is currently closed.
To be notified for the next round of CDA, please join our email newslist.
THANK YOU for checking out How to Create Dance Art! May it add joy and fruitfulness to your life.
If you decide that Create Dance Art is not for you, for any reason, you have Alia’s 30 day money-back, Win-Win Guarantee. With 30 days to decide, you get a month of classes! Cool, huh?
Questions? Just ask! Email alia @ aliathabit . com any time!
PS CDA’s small size means personal feedback every single day–your questions answered, your concerns addressed. Information is great–but the personal response from an instructor (and a group) who cares about you and your art–that’s hard to come by. CDA helps you find yourself, your style, and your tribe. Invest in yourself. Invest in your art. It’s time.
For Create Dance Art
I wanted something for myself. Not a rehash of another person’s ideas. I have been teaching and dancing for a while now. I take as many workshops as I physically can but I get tired of learning movements, combinations and choreographies. I wanted to learn more about my personal creativity and abilities.
I really started to see the importance of creating a whole experience with my choreography, not just a dance. With the use of visuals, costuming, etc., my ideas became richer
Now, I feel up for anything. I feel more rejuvenated. Being able to look at my experiences with a new eye is a real gift. I could finally see how the ideas were going to come together.
I did appreciate having other people in the game with me. I liked to be able to see how others interpreted the assignments in ways that I hadn’t thought of. And its always helpful to see things from other points of view. I do wish my group had been more active, but that wasn’t anything anyone could control.
The forum was helpful because I had all of my assignments, learning and information in one place. I could come and go as I needed to. I could work at any time that was convenient for me.
The course was very clear and understandable. I could always understand what my assignments were and there was a lot of space for me to come up with my own understandings of my learning. It isn’t a course that just hands you material. I felt like I was handed a map and it was my choice what I did and what I accomplished at each stop.
I would explain that the course is for a student who is capable of managing assignments on his or her own time, but is still interested in a setting that makes you feel as if you are in a group. Just like everything, you get what you give. I feel like I gained a great deal.
Alia took the time to read my postings and reply to every one, always with helpful information and insight. I felt that she really understood the different ways people learn and work. We weren’t all the same people. I felt that I was a part of the group but that I was also lucky enough to be taking a private course with Alia.
I think I had the biggest (and most) ah-ha moments when listening to the conversation with Dunya. The ideas about space and energy really spoke to me. But it was also a big deal when I did the exercises about “if this was movie music.” Imagining an entire scenario was something I had never done before.
And it was really amazing in the ways that it helped me to make my dancer richer. Even if it was only in my mind. Because every feeling I have is somehow translated to the audience, and having so much to work with made me feel that I would never be out of ideas. I could do a hip circle 20 times, but if I emoted differently with each one, it would seem different to the audience. Mind blowing.
I think the spreadsheets are fantastic. I wouldn’t go as far to say that they are unusual, but they are something that I have never tried to use and would never have thought to use. And I was definitely unsure of them at first. But what a great way to keep all of my generally jumbled thoughts and ideas under control.
The course gave me the tools I needed to learn what I needed to learn. You didn’t just hand us something to memorize or something to replicate. I am certain that every single person gained something (or lots of things) from this course, and I bet that it is different for every single one of us.
The rants definitely brought up subjects that I hadn’t really thought about before. And many of the rants were things that my students and I have discussed before and having other ideas to go through brought new perspective to some topics. And it was a fun way to get to know the other students
This is so unlike any other course I have taken in relation to dance. It brought together both sides of my brain. I could be creative, emotional and thoughtful, but it was anchored with reason. It wasn’t just a matter of “do what you feel” blah blah; I did what I felt, but there was reason and purpose behind it…and that spoke to my logical side.
We are all busy. Hours go by, time gets away from us. But having small assignments each day gave me the capacity to actually finish them when I needed to. It also made the ideas and learning much more digestible and reasonable to work through. If I had received all of this information at once I might have given up. But small steps take you on a long journey sooner than you thought.
Do the work. Stick with it. No matter how busy you are, you can find 10 minutes for yourself. And don’t take everything so seriously. Have fun. Be yourself. Let the course do what the course is meant to do for you. Don’t have a pre-conceived notion of what you will receive or experience. Just let it happen.
I personally feel a rejuvenated sense of creativity. Not just in the sense of choreography. I feel like I have more knowledge of what dance truly means to me. That it isn’t right or wrong to think, do or feel a certain thing. It’s the journey. It’s the process. Can I take the audience on an adventure with me? Will they remember the adventure? Will they feel differently after the adventure has ended? That’s what really matters. And I realize that is why I dance, teach and perform.
Thank you Alia for a fantastic course. This has been a great few weeks. I am sad that it has ended. It’s like this forum has become a friend I get to visit everyday and check in with!
–Rachel Micheletti www.hipnoticbellydancing.com
I felt stagnated. I wanted to improve my choreography retention in workshops because I have such trouble. I wanted a connection to some sort of BD group.
I was self-defeating. I loved dance but never felt “good” enough or like i’ve been properly trained and this came up screaming in my head when I performed or was thinking about performing in the past year and a half or so. I was concerned with how “right” things would be if I chose and Egyptian song and wasn’t a purist about it.
Now I feel rejuvenated, hopeful, excited to look at more songs and putter around with them. I feel amazing in a lot of ways. The negative voices are in a distant land that i’m not a part of anymore. I have a stronger sense of what is important and what is superficial BS that can be discarded. I did this process and continue to in my real life it’s nice to do it in dance.
I did “get it” and I was making leaps and bounds. I just had to trust myself and my process.
It was a big deal for me to Skype and be recorded. I’m really glad I did it and I pushed myself to call even though it was awkward and a bit scary to me.
My group was kickass. It made everything better. I appreciated the support they offered. I also liked peeking in other groups as people dropped off and the group was smaller.
I felt connected to the group and enjoyed the learning process and how my brain was being re-wired. I felt like I was slowwwwwwwwww and that things were taking me hours when everyone was working faster. Looking at other people’s questions I realize I wasn’t alone.
When I was feeling lost I checked out other people’s threads. A lot of times it helped me organize the assignment so I could complete it without floundering. People were honest, strong and amazing. I think part of it was the personalities involved but a major part was the precedent Alia set. Alia, you being so clear, honest and giving made the forum’s follow your lead. Thank you!
I had a week or two where I skipped the forum. I didn’t want the outside influence. I wanted to be in my own head so I skipped.
I loved that I could look up past weeks easily–because they were all there on the forum. I learned more from everyone that I would have on my own and I needed to feel like I was a part of something.
I had a hard time pulling myself away. I was invested in the people posting and the magic they were sharing. It’s not really a “bad” thing but more of an observation.
We had weekly written assignments, dance assignments and supplemental video’s, articles and Skype calls.
Alia is GENEROUS, wise. It’s best to be as specific as possible when asking a question. Alia has heart and she passes a little bit along to everyone. Committed, descriptive, fountain of information.
You felt like a dance Mother, guiding, coaxing and allowing us to find our own paths. You didn’t say “this is wrong and this is right” you encouraged experimentation so it was our “truth” coming out.
I still have to work on my floor patterns. I had a lot of those special moments. I remember pictures and feelings mostly and my internal timeline is terrible.
I think the biggest thing for me was being able to “let it go.” Not feeling guilty or bad because I couldn’t do all the songs. Just saying to myself that it doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m learning a methodology and not making an award winning choreo for Belly Dancers of the Universe (although it’s possible for someone to do that).
It was about the journey, the process and the re-wiring of my brain around my dance, my relationship to myself and how I view things. Things just worked…I didn’t always see it at the time but when I looked back I said “WOW”.
The calls were helpful. Some of the etudes were “out there” but I liked how it made me think and come up with things I might not have otherwise.
Song mapping = WONDERFUL! That made a massive difference to me and it helped me visualize the song. I also loved the template. I need to figure out how to add a column to the left for numbers. I wrote on my sheets the sections ex. 1 -12 1 being the intro and 12 being the end. It was just another way for me to mentally organize things.
I liked the emotion words, I added 2 sheets of those. I would have been cool to have something similar for stage patterns.
Alia makes it unique. I loved that it was a website and not a FB group or an email list type group. THe forum fit this type of in-depth work and was the perfect delivery system. I felt safe here. FB is something I am on but I don’t check it every day, or week or two. I don’t like “having” to go on FB because i’m taking a course. I loved coming here because there were fewer distractions. I wasn’t seeing other things in my inbox, or stuff online. It was pure CDA.
I loved the additional learning areas. I enjoyed that people felt free to post things they thought might be relevant. If I had extra time I went there but it didn’t feel like something I had to do. It was a choice.
I would recommend this course because the work is spaced out over a long period of time which allows for a true thinking sift to happen. It’s a lifestyle change not a diet so to speak.
I would recommend this course to people who are ready to have a paradigm shift and who have an open mind.
I think that time is a powerful key to this process. Small changes over time. I had to implement an allergy diet and it was a 2 year endeavor. It has shifted the way I look at food for the better. If I had done it for a week or two it wouldn’t have “stuck” the same way. It sinks in and doesn’t bead and run off.
Time management. I never felt like I had enough time at night to do the assignments. I am a morning person by nature so after 7pm i’m not as functional or useful. I just did what I could do. I always tried to do SOMETHING. Keep the ball rolling. I never gave up but I did take little breaks when I needed a breath.
Keep the ball rolling, if you can’t finish the assignment do what you can. Don’t give up. It’s ok to drop songs if you need to. I put a star next to my thread heading so I could easily find my work in the group jumble. I JUST made a 3 ring binder with my stuff in it. I should have done that sooner LOL!
I printed each assignment and went over things with a highlighter and pen.
I feel alive again. It made things look brighter
I’m so sad it’s over.
–Lyla, NY State