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.

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!

Why?

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. https://alia-thabit.ck.page/tuning-in/

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.  https://aliathabit.com/shop/#trust/

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! alia.teachable.com/courses

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 
?coupon_code=SUMMERCORONACARE
on to the url. Get your instant 25% off (THEN click enroll)
Example:
https://alia.teachable.com/p/course-name-here?coupon_code=SUMMERCORONACARE

Support Black Artists!

Watch Black films!

Criterion Lifts Paywall to Stream ‘Daughters of the Dust’ and More Black Films for Free.
Curated here: https://www.criterionchannel.com/browse

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 https://www.facebook.com/events/270882567360406/

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

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. 

Announcing, 

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:  AliaThabit.com/ Fun-Class

Love, 
Alia

 

 

New Years Eve Radio & Show + 90 Days Sharegasm price ends Wednesday

It’s New Year’s Eve! 
I’ll be dancing in the Rabble Rousers show at Echo, the Leahy Center in in Burlington VT! We go on at 11:30 or so–come hang out if you are in the area. 

For those at home, come visit with me, Cassandra ShorePatricia Cumbie (author of The Shape of a Hundred Hips), on the radio! We’ll be talking about belly dance and healing, artistry, music, and cultural values. It’s sure to be a winner–even our planning meeting was a blast. It’s 7-8pm CST (see this in your time zone) on the programWrite On Radio, KFAI Minnesota

And finally, the Sharegasm+1 price for the 90 Days expires at midnight on Jan 1. I’ll wait until the end of the day, but if you want the very best deal on the most unique event in all of belly dance, find a friend to dance with and take advantage of this offer. There’s even a payment plan.

The 90 Day Dance party costs about as much as one-day workshop–but it gives you three months of personal support in a really cool group of interesting people doing something different, fascinating, and wildly fulfilling. 

Each person’s experience is unique–someone once characterized the Love Notes as signposts on a journey that pointed in different directions for each person who read them. 

Everyone has their own path to their true self, the real you. That’s what this is all about–getting to that place, where you are in the moment, enjoying yourself, your dance, they music, and everything is YES. 

Come join us!

Love, 
Alia

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