How to “Orient” in Oriental Dance (and why it boosts confidence)

orienting eyes

When mammals enter a novel environment, they look around. They explore the space with their eyes. This is called Exploratory Orienting. It is all about curiosity, a relaxed, engaged process. Mammals do it many times in a day.

There is also another kind of orienting. Defensive Orienting, which happens in response to a perceived threat, is about fight or flight. Where is the exit? Where is the safest place? How do I get there? It is adrenaline and contraction. All your friends who want to sit in the Godfather/Shane seat, back to the wall, so they can see the whole room? Defensive Orienting.

orienting eyes

This is one of the cool things I learned in the three-year Somatic Experiencing® (SE) training. Through this, I realized that I generally engaged in Defensive Orienting when I entered a new space–like a party. I did not look around with curiosity. I found a secluded spot, and I stayed there, eyeing the room for threats. Defensive Orienting.

It has been very interesting to shift my awareness to Exploratory Orienting. I now begin all my groups with some orienting, letting the eyes look around the room, settling on whatever they enjoy. We explore our other senses as well–hearing (our fastest sense), smell, taste–and touch. Our bodies in the chair, the feeling of clothes on our bodies, the air on our skin–and we go inside as well–what is going on in there?

SE is about what is happening inside our bodies–as is Oriental dance.

In SE, we track sensations associated with challenging memories and triggering events, and we also build and grow sensory resources— feelings associated with success, joy, and pleasure.

In Oriental dance, the feeling is the most important thing–the emotional timbres that come and go in the music and also the physical pleasure of the dance movement it self. We get to relax, to enjoy the isometric pull of our muscles as our bodies respond to the music, revel in the juiciness of them.

So what does Orienting have to do with all this?

Well, I noticed that I was doing Defensive Orienting even when I danced.


Part of me was protecting myself from my guests. So I didn’t really look at them, and there was a defensive quality in my presence. This made it hard to be genuine, relaxed, and present.

This resonates with keeping the eyes more fixed, staring at screens–these behaviors reinforce one another. I’ve written before about how eye work improved my vision. It’s improved more than that.

So I changed my approach.

I began intentionally taking the time to orient. As I gazed around, I sat with the discomfort that arose and let it pass through me. I made the time to settle. And dance became easier. Friendlier. When the body feels settled so many more options come online.

And this is what our dance is really about–Personality. Presence. Communication. Joy. We really can have it all.

We can have it with our choreographed performance and also with our improvisation. Feeling settled and relaxed makes it so much easier to enjoy the music, to be present in the moment.

We can have this in our daily lives as well. My regular life has vastly improved. Yes, I have also done a lot of SE work–because even small bits have made big differences, I keep going. Even the first session caused marked differences.

I have been building Orienting in to all my classes. It’s a big feature of the improv Fun Classes, and Tuning In is pure SE.

I invite you to try it out–what might a more settled nervous system do for you–and your dance?

How to Improvise to Classic Songs

This is not your “classic” song class. We will not work on technique or pop-bead combinations. We will focus on the structural elements of classic songs, the phrases and measures, the sections and the organization, so we can understand and predict changes–and feel confident when dance to any song that comes our way. We’ll let ourselves feel and respond to the emotional timbres. We’ll allow our bodies to respond freely to the music, as we let our feeling express itself.

Each class is recorded (instructor view). The sound is beautiful! Each recording is available for one week, so you can review or catch up. Each week gets a playlist of songs to use for practice. We may explore some standbys along with less-known treasures.

Improv to Classic Songs is a FUN Class Deep Dive. It runs five Weeks, Sept 8 – Oct 6. Tuesdays at 4PM ET. Register for Classic Songs here.

If your daily life needs more attention, you might enjoy

Tuning In–Medicine for Modern Times

This little half hour packs a lot of power. Sometimes we do more soothing things, sometimes more active, sometimes both. But every exercise is all about re-regulating the nervous system to the body can settle, and life has room for more savor, ease, and joy. 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.

Tuning In runs five Weeks, September 18-Oct 23 (no class Oct 9). Fridays, 4-4:30 PM EDT. Register for Tuning In here.

I look forward to dancing with you!


Three Ways to Nurture our Souls in Challenging Times

Once upon a time, I said something cutting about someone who had never done anything cruel to me or that I knew of. She was only awkward and a little odd (which could easily describe myself). To my horror, she then emerged from a bathroom stall. Our eyes met.

She had recently been praised. I suppose I was jealous. I was old enough to know better. I did know better. I could do better. I vividly recall that moment, decades ago. So I applied myself to doing better. I became more thoughtful in what I said.

But over time, I discovered I had a much bigger problem: the persistent twist of shame, of self-loathing that berated me endlessly not just for one thoughtless comment (fueled by the same self-loathing), but for everything.

From the way I looked to whatever I said or did, those inner voices found fault with me. They inspired a morbid fear of making mistakes, of being found out, of admitting to mistakes, of pretty much everything. Everything was a threat, and I was helpless, frozen with fear.

It wasn’t until I had some respite from those voices (thank you, acupuncture), that I realized they were lies–a symptom of imbalance.

Over time, I found things that helped me feel more grounded, more confident, and more self-loving. The more compassionate I become with myself, the more resilience I have, and the more I am able to cope with challenging times.

And wow, do we have some challenging times!

A plague, systemic racism, the fascism in our government, economic uncertainty, alllll our buttons are getting pushed every day–and all these things are so hard to pin down. We feel helpless in the face of half a dozen inescapable and existential threats. Our bodies become unsettled, anxious, edgy, frozen, exhausted, and many other unhappy things. Our souls become sad, burdened, lost.

So here are three ways to feel more solid, more grounded, more real–and how our dance can help.

1. Improvisation

The basis of improvisation is following our physical impulses. In response to threats, our bodies want to move, to fight or run–but where can we go? What can we hit? Those self-defensive impulses get stuck in our joints. When we improvise, we let our bodies move as they wish, we can let strange physical impulses express themselves. When we use Slow Movement and Rhythmic Breath, even angry impulses can be safely expressed.

2. Self Compassion

When we improvise, sometimes those self-negative thoughts follow us and yell at us about what we are doing as we improvise. The Rhythmic Breath helps to still them, but we can also practice Self Compassion. This means being kind to ourselves, treating ourselves like someone we actually like, someone we care about. Here is a Self-Compassion Quiz. It’s worth taking. It’s worth just being nicer and more gentle with ourselves, as artists and as human beings. The world will go on turning. We will not suddenly turn into malignant narcissists. Our work will get better in the long run. We might become happier, but oh well. I think we can all live with that ; )

3. Somatic (Body) Awareness

This is the big one. It goes along with, and is a conduit to the above two options. Too often as dancers we ignore our bodies and tell them what to do. Making space to listen, acknowledge, and honor our bodies’ sensations is a real game-changer.

It was through such methods that my old old patterns finally began to shift–to change. And stay that way. Last time we talked about Sitting with Discomfort–this is part of that. As we learn to observe, to be curious about the physical sensations that arise in our bodies in response to challenge, to follow them as they morph, shift, and finally resolve, we–our bodies–become more grounded, settled, and clear. It’s a remarkable, simple, gentle practice.

“Few skills are more essential than the ability to settle your body.
If you can settle your body, you are more likely to be calm, alert and fully present, no matter what is going on around you.
A settled body enables you to harmonize and connect with other bodies around you, while encouraging those bodies to settle as well.
A calm, settled body is the foundation for health, for healing, for helping others and for changing the world…”

— Resmaa Menakem, My Grandmother’s Hands (this is one of the most loving and lovely books I’ve read on undoing systemic racism)

The world may not suddenly change around us. But our inner world will change. And that will change the way we interact with the outer world, and our ability to survive challenge with our our souls intact.

I still regret what I said about that girl so long ago. But now I offer her waves of love and compassion, which benefits us both (instead of hating myself, which does no good for anyone).

And I offer the opportunity to learn the strategies that I learned, to have the help that I had.

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,”
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Belly Dance: Powerful Medicine for Modern Times

The news is intense, and change is coming. If you’ve been out of the loop for the last few months, check out my FB timeline to get updates and shareable resources, and this post for my stand on these issues.

The upshot is that many of us are feeling a teensy bit challenged lately. Thank goodness we are belly dancers!


Belly dance is a premier venue for soothing frazzled nervous systems. 
When we engage with the social, cultural style, rich with improvisation, micromovement, and the feeling in the moment, belly dance brings joy–to dancers and to their guests. So joy is where I am putting my focus for the next few months–because human beings do better when we turn off the alarms, at least for a little while. With all this in mind, I am pleased to offer…

Taqsim Tuesdays 

Taqsim, instrumental improvisation, is all about  the feeling, improvisation, and musical meaning. Taqsim is about enjoyment, relaxation, and openness. It invites dancers to sink into the music, to wait for it, to follow it, to lean into it.

Taqsim is among the deepest, most beautiful elements of Oriental dance–and among the most challenging for Western dancers, especially those trained in choreography. Our class is a five-week deep dive into understanding taqsim structure and conventions, immersion in different instruments and their responses, learning to let go and let the music lead, to trust our bodies to follow, to trust ourselves to feel, and to express what we feel. 

The class includes technique, follow me, and individual exploration. We will explore traditional taqasim plus fusion and world improvisations with a suitable vibe. This class won’t show you what to dance to a taqsim–it will show you how to dance in the moment to improvised music.

In taqsim’s celebration of the present moment, with its invitation to let the body move as it wishes, the nervous system has time to settle, release, re-align. Few classes provide open structures and space for you to be yourself, to feel deeply in a safe space. Now is the time to give yourself this gift. 

Taqsim Tuesdays, 4PM EDT, June 16 – July 14.
Classes are recorded (Instructor view only). Recordings are available for one week.
Register here.


Tuning In–Medicine for Modern Times

In these challenging times it is hard to feel grounded or confident–pandemics, fascism, racism–fear, grief, and rage are everywhere. How do we ground ourselves with love?

Tuning In comes from a Somatic Experiencing® (SE) and Dancemeditation perspective. It’s a half-hour Zoom chillout session for soothing and nourishing the body, mind, and spirit. It is designed to ease anxiety and restore wellbeing.

Will it cure the world’s ills? No.
Will it help us withstand them? Yes.

We’ll 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.

All are Welcome

Free Open Session Friday, June 12, 4PM EDT
 Live session only (NO recording). Register here.

Five Weeks, June 19 – July 31.  Fridays, 4PM ET (no session July 3 or 24)
See this in your time zone Sessions are recorded (instructor only). Recordings are available for one week. Register here.

How to Dance (or speak) for the Camera

Four weeks, June 22-July 17. 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.
Register here.

All classes feature pandemic pricing, because times are tough. 

Summer Covid 25% Coupon for all Teachable classes!

I apologize that there is an issue with the coupon. Until I get a reply from tech support, please
click the class you want, then paste 
on to the url. Get your instant 25% off (THEN click enroll)

Support Black Artists!

Watch Black films!

Criterion Lifts Paywall to Stream ‘Daughters of the Dust’ and More Black Films for Free.
Curated here:

Read books by Black authors
Some of my favorite Black authors include
Tomi Adeyemi!
Angie Thomas
Nnedi Okorafor
Octavia Butler
Beverly Daniel Tatum (Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria is a must read)

Attend Black-produced Events

Harlem Hafla 2020 (more events coming)

See Black dancers!

MENATdancegeeks is making A Black Perspective by Ahava available to stream for free for a limited time. It is deeply worth listening and worth donating <3

See a selection of Black dancers: Lady Liquid Presents Afrodisiac The Black Bellydance Show

And listen:

JUN 14 Bellydancers Call to Action, Hosted by Belly Dancers of Color Magic

With lots of love and solidarity, 
PS 10% of June proceeds go to Black causes (TBA)

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

Taqsim playlist

Rhythm-Heavy Belly Dance/Debke music

Wild Dramatic Classical Music

Sun Ra The Nubians of Plutonia (trust me)

BUDDY GUY & JUNIOR WELLS -Drinkin’ Tnt ‘N’ Smokin’ Dynamite

Sam Cooke

Talking Heads-Stop Making Sense

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, 


Resilience and Good Cheer with Dance amid CoVid 19

I didn’t send out a newsletter last week. I didn’t do much of anything. So it’s ironic to title this resilience and good cheer–but that is what will save us from this long-term Covid 19 grind.

I’m glad I’m in VT where people are taking this stay-home order seriously.

I’m hopeful my friends and fam–including you! take steps to protect themselves and say healthy. I’m sending out healing energy to the world.

I’m concerned about the levels of fear folks are experiencing. I attended an Artist’s Story Circle last week with dozens of other Vermont artists (virtually, of course). One of the prime takeaways was a commitment to “be a clear conduit for the reduction of fear.” I am down with that.

And I am very grateful for the three-year Somatic Experiencing® (SE) training I have recently completed for helping me stay stable and grounded and giving me the tools to help others do so as well.


We are in the midst of what is known as an Existential Threat. We can’t see it or touch it. We can’t fight or flee. So we hunker down, alone in our homes, and try to live normal lives. Many of us are stuck with too many people needing too much from us. Soothing or caring for others is exhausting. Many others are alone and afraid. Many of us are still going to work every day, many struggling with child care, often not allowed to wear a mask. When will all this end?

No time soon. I’m guessing we’ve at least another month to go.

There are positive signs. Vermont’s caseload is leveling out. There were crocuses in the yard this week. I went shopping today, and found everything on my list at ONE store–a small, local family-owned store–and lots of people were wearing masks. I thanked every worker I passed for making food available. Each time it made me cry. Each person said, “You’re welcome.” And they meant it.

But still, we all know someone by now who we will never see again in this lifetime. And we have to wonder who is next. Insha’allah, we will all be careful and stay safe. In the meantime, we need a vacation from the fear and stress.

Dance, of course! In special ways. And more about that next week. But first…

Three Mini Vacations

  1. Soften the tongue. Let the mind go away from the problems at hand. This comes from advice to health workers as they move between patients, even if going within seconds from one to the next. It takes a few seconds to have a mini vacation. We can take hundreds over the course of the day. Just step away from that vortex of anxiety and go to your happy place.
  2. Orient. Use all five senses. Notice that you are safe in your space right this moment. Let yourself relax.
    Look. Take a moment to let the gaze wander around your space. Let the eyes rest upon whatever give them pleasure. They get stuck on that crack or water stain? Look somewhere nice. Don’t have anywhere nice? Draw or write something and put it up on the wall.
    Listen. What do you hear? What are the near sounds? What are the far sounds?
    Smell, Taste.
    Touch. Feel your hand on your own arm. Feel your clothes on your body. Feel your feet on the floor. Be in the present moment.
  3. Notice your Breath. Are you breathing? I invite you to deepen your breath. Lengthen your exhales. Long exhales lower the heart rate and help the body feel calmer and more grounded. And feeling grounded is key.

Why do this? We are not made to exist in a state of constant tension. Yet many of us live our lives this way. And now the unthinkable has crashed down upon us. Now is the time to learn to make a space between ourselves and things that are not actually physically attacking us right this moment.

Look around. Right here, right now, it’s okay.

With lots of love,
And here’s some truly lovely music: Anouar Brahem a Coutances

Offerings for fun and frolic!

Tuning In

I’ve been making a new program to help us cope. It’s called Tuning In. We tune in to our body, to the here and now, to our own trust and compassion and vitality. It’s a mini vacation, a half hour of grounding, focusing to the good, and various strategies to help us chill out and feel better, any time at all. Look for this opening up next week.

The Fun Class

Fun Classes are ongoing with special pandemic pricing (sliding scale and by donation). This is a live Zoom video class anyone can join.

Zoom Secrets

Want to make your own Zoom video classes? Learn how with Alia’s Zoom Secrets! I invite you to check it out.

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




How to Dance Away Body Shame​

The 90 Days is going well. Already many folks have found it easier to improvise, to dance for 20 minutes, and to enter a zone of presence and calm. Here is on of this year’s Love Notes I thought you might like. 

How to Dance Away Body Shame

Many years ago at Ahlan wa Sahlan, I took a class on dance from Siwa. One of the steps was a cute little skippy side step—with a twist. Not a physical twist, but a mental one.

The step was done facing away from the guests, and the intention was to show off the dancer’s, um, behind. Our intention was to show off our luscious rear end, to put our attention there and to feel and convey how juicy and nice it was.


How to Dance Away Body Shame

Frankly, this was the first time in my life I ever did this. And I was not young at the time. My relationship to my rear end (and a few other body parts), was problematic to say the least. But Lo!

It was SO FUN. And naughty and liberating and mischievous!

It was so fun that later on I did some experiments. I chose troublesome body parts (ones I generally hide), and danced as though they were the most beautiful, glorious, delicious body parts in the world.

Mmmmmmm ; )

Imagine a body part you hide—with clothes, costuming, etc—or wish you could.

In your practice, I invite you to let it be the leader, the most beautiful and lush. Display it with gratitude, pride, and delight.

Today was sunny, the snow was melting, and the day was so much longer! Let’s dance renewal and rebirth, too.

With our newly luscious body parts ; )


Music: Here’s Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue

And here’s a long version of Summertime

And here’s a great venue in which to flaunt your body parts! ; )
March into the Spotlight: Bring Basic Belly Dance Back Challenge
March 1-14 2020

  • Dance for fun, no costume or fancy setup. 
  • Video yourself. 
  • Post the vid on FB or Insta.
  • Hashtag with #basicbellydancerchalleng
  • Use the hashtag to find other videos.
  • Watch everyone else’s videos and they will watch yours!

It’s free, fun, and fabulous. Plus you can win prizes!
I’ll be doing it–I hope you will too!
I’ll be doing pop-up live streaming of my dances via zoom–if you’d like to be part of that, join here:​

March into the Spotlight: Bring Basic Belly Dance Back Challenge

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!

What is your biggest problem with improvisation?

freeze response

This is the question I posted to each person who signed up for my 2019 Bellydance Bundle class, Intro to Effortless Improvisation. I’ve gotten over two dozen responses so far. And most of them mention some kind of freeze response.

Their vocabulary goes out the window. Only the most basic moves show up. No moves show up! At its heart, this is the fear of being judged and found wanting–and this fear causes us to have nothing at all to say. 

It is true that improv is riskier than choreography. It’s messier. We don’t know what will happen. We have way less control over the dance. It won’t be as polished. It won’t be as fancy.

We might make <gasp!> mistakes.

freeze response

But there are also benefits to improvisation 

Improvisation gives us more time to feel the music 
When we improvise, we can take our time, enjoy the physical sensation of moving. As we enjoy our own dance, we make a space for others to enjoy it as well. The belly dance scene has way too much squinty focus on technique. Ours is a dance of joy. Let’s all enjoy ourselves and our dance a little more.

Improvisation allows for increased presence
When we enjoy our own dance, we can be more present with our guests. We are not bound by a preset movement agenda. We can relax, enjoy the people, visit with them, chat and blow kisses. When we are present, there is more connection. Our dance becomes a collaboration between ourselves and everyone else in the room. Our response to our guests’ energy brings them into our dance. They feel our love for them. We enter a healing state that nourishes everyone in the room.

Improvisation helps us share joy
Ours is a dance of joy. Is the dancer enjoying themself? Do they share their joy with their guests? Are they one with the music? These are marks of mastery in Oriental dance. As we learn to trust our bodies, the music, the moment–this is when, and how, the magic happens.

Choreography is generally designed to be the same every time. Our dance, and its music, are designed to be different every time. Improvisation.

We don’t need lots of moves
We have micromovement, We can dance with only circles and make every one of them different, through dynamics such as force, speed, size, and decoration. We can relax, slow down, and take the time to enjoy each flex of the body. Make each movement have meaning, weight, resonance.

This is the beauty of improvisation
It’s not about showing off and pushing yourself out. It’s about showing up and pulling your guests in. It’s about sharing joy.

Show up
Be present
Bring joy

Your dance is a gift of joy that you bring to your guests. This is what it is all about.


PS The next three FUN Classes are still available! Improv-based, follow-me classes, different every time. Each class is recorded, and the recording is available for a week. 
Check them out:
I’d love to see you there!

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


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: