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.

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 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

Why copying has its place (and how to keep it there)

Hidden (Dreams)

When you learn something new, you copy. When you learn to draw, you copy and trace drawings. When you learn to write, you copy other writers. When you learn a new move, you copy the new move, and so on. So when does it stop? Because a lot of us only copy the work of others. We are afraid to do anything of our own. Because it might not be (gasp!) perfect.

First task: Perfection. Let go of that idea

Nothing is perfect. Everything has room to develop. This life is is about becoming. We learn, we grow, we change. Otherwise, we are dead.

Second task: Examine your mindset

Many of us were raised with the idea that we are born with a certain amount of smarts, and that’s it. If we are smart, everything is easy. If not, it’s hard. If something is hard, we are just not smart enough. Except, surprise! That’s totally wrong. Advances in neuroscience now tell us that intelligence is highly malleable. We increase our intelligence by learning new things. This is a real shocker for many of us. Used to being the smartest person in the room, we suffer shame when confronted with difficult tasks, avoid anything that might make us look stupid, and give up rather than face failure.

Hidden (Dreams)

Yet learning new things is the best way to keep the brain in good health

(and if there isn’t a struggle, there is no learning). Learning develops new neural pathways. Learning wraps those pathways in myelin. Myelin is a white, tape-like structure that cements learning in place. Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and several other diseases, destroy myelin, so we forget how to do things, and what things are. Pretty soon, we are loading the laundry into the freezer and pouring soy sauce into our coffee. Nobody wants to be like this.

The more we place ourselves in positions where we constantly learn, problem solve, and figure things out, the more we protect ourselves from these illnesses of demyelinization. A major study by Stanford University concluded that dancing regularly was the best defense against Alzheimer’s and dementia. By a LOT—76% more than any activity studied, cognitive or physical. Dancing makes you smarter. But not just any dancing. Based upon the other most protective activities, Richard Powers, who teaches ballroom dancing at Stanford, suggests, “Involve yourself in activities which require split-second rapid-fire decision making, as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), or just working on your physical style.”

Split-second rapid-fire decision making.

Yes, we are talking about improvisation. When we improvise, we make innumerable calculations and adjustments, in the moment. We are not even aware of them. Powers refers to the follower in ballroom dance, who must interpret the invitations of the leader, and choose their next move with intelligence and intuition. So duet or group improv can bring even more benefit.

We copy to learn, we take classes, study others, and practice. But there comes a time when we must hop out on the branch, launch ourselves, and fly. Taking such risks benefits us in so many ways, some understood and others yet to come. Will our first efforts suck? Of course they will. Fail early, and fail often. That’s how we learn what works—through trial and error, persistence, and trying again.

We have been brainwashed into thinking that we have to be perfect or stay home

Women especially are tyrannized by the expectation of perfection. That’s just a myth designed to keep you sad and powerless. It’s not about being a perfect copy. It’s about you. Being you. 100% yourself, with all your beauty and variety and personality. The world needs your individual glory.

Fly your freak flag high. 

Love,
Alia

PS Effortless Improvisation will help you fly!

(Last call for earlybirds. Prices rise on Monday.)

PPS The one-hour video class How to TEACH improv is still available, with a boatload of extras!
  • Webinar Recording (75:49)
  • 5+ pages of Class Notes
  • Classic Qualities of our Dance
  • Music Examples
  • Resources on Learning
  • DanceMeditation Sample Session (20:34)
  • Handy Lesson Planner

PLUS get answers to your questions!
All for the price of a one-hour class.

Come join us!

How to develop stage presence at home (and on video)

Alexander the Great conquered the known world. Everywhere there was fell to him. He did a good job, too, keeping the local culture culture intact. But his big love was conquering. When he got as far as there was to go, when there were no more countries to to invade, Alexander broke down and cried.

Mosaic of Alexander and his horse, Bucephalus (c. first century AD), ancient Roman floor mosaic from the House of the Faunin Pompeii showing Alexander fighting king Darius III of Persia in the Battle of Issus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_the_Great)

 

Sometimes it seems we can only go so far by twinkling at our pets, stuffed animals, and furniture. Where else is there to go? Yet many of us do not perform, or we have few chances. We need some real live interaction.

Well, here is an an idea.

Dance with the mirror.

Most of us have been trained to squint at ourselves critically. What if we danced instead?

I started by just smiling at and reassuring myself in the bathroom mirror. Then I moved on to a little mirror in my living room. Then when I danced in that room, I found I danced to myself in that little mirror—just my face. I would dance and smile and twinkle, and it was so much nicer.

The other day at Leila Farid’s improv class, people were asking about using mirrors to practice improv. This is generally a terrible idea, since we all squint and judge ourselves so much in the mirror, focusing upon what we look like and tweaking our visual.

I mentioned that I was developing a new relationship with my mirror, dancing with rather than staring at, and I danced a little bit, twinkling at my reflection, enjoying the moment.

The reaction was interesting. Everyone’s jaw dropped. Clearly, no one had done this before. So I mention it today. What if we all reclaimed our self-relationship? What if we all used the mirror to reinforce our self-love and enjoyment? I think that could be one hell of a revolutionary gesture.

This also works on video.

I first noticed this when I was making 90 Days practice videos. I see what the camera does on my computer screen. I keep an eye on the monitor to be sure that I am in the frame, and I smile and send love out through the camera to to all of my guests. But I realized I was doing more than that—I was dancing with myself. Instead of squinting and judging, I was twinkling and smiling and playing!

Well! That was a fun surprise. I find it is becoming a habit. And what a nice habit! Because I smile at myself, it comes through the camera as though I smile into it, so it has a double benefit of love to myself and love towards my guests.

I usually position the cam so it is at waist height, which I understand as the best angle for recording dance, as neither half of the body is lengthened or foreshortened. I do all the normal video things, check the light, mark the space I have, remove any clutter, and then I have a good time dancing with myself! I even like the way the videos have been coming out. So it is a win-win.

I have a video for you below, so you can see what I mean. I made this for the 90 Days; now you get to see it, too ; ). https://www.dropbox.com/s/r6b7p97272co7t4/Alia-Practice-6-HB-baladi%2Bclassic.mp4?dl=0

I invite you to try it for yourself!

Start with mirrors or video as you like—just smile and twinkle at yourself. Dance and have fun!

Love,
Alia

Music: Abdel Halim Hafez!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztEhH2_gNWY

 

PS ONLINE News
I’m doing a series of live online classes starting in June.
More info coming soon. Email me if you want early news

PPS LOCAL News (VT/NH)
I’ll be teaching a 3-credit Middle Eastern Dance and Culture class for the Newport VT Community College this fall. Check it out here: https://andromeda.ccv.vsc.edu/Learn/Grid/Sections.cfm?COURSEID=DAN-2210&grid=Fall

 

Folkloric Weekend (GREAT instructors) in WRJ, July 7-8
https://amy-smith-lxq4.squarespace.com/yalla-dancefolkloric/

Happy Birthday, Bobby Farrah! (+Alia on Geek Clubhouse tonight)

 

Bobby Farrah1. Happy Birthday Bobby Farrah!

Many of you know that Ibrahim “Bobby” Farrah is one of my major influences. I attended his classes in NYC often several times a week for several years. One of the things I have become aware of over the course of writing the book was just how well his teaching methods prepared me for improvisation and performance to live music. Here is a short piece I wrote for his neice, Tarifa Salem, for his birthday last year.

Bobby Farrah

What Bobby had was firstly a deep understanding of the soul of this dance. He realized the dance is about expression of the dancer’s feeling from the music, that it is about embodiment and timing more than steps or combos. He encouraged personal expression and style in all of his classes. But he did so much more than this.

Bobby’s classes, especially in the early days, were models of learning science.

One of the hottest concepts in learning today is interleaving. This means that rather than sticking with one thing until you get it, you keep the brain always reaching. You do different things so the brain never knows what to expect. You cycle through things and make them different every time.

Bobby never repeated. You could go to his class three times in a week for two hours at a time (and I did). He never repeated. Every single time, he would do something completely different. There was a fairly consistent format of options—for example, a combination, traveling across the floor, following Bobby as he improvised—but it was never the same combo, the floor crossing was always different (and sometimes different for each person), and the impro—well, that, by its very nature, was different every time, even to the same music.

The result of all this multiplicity was that we learned.

We learned musicality, how to combine moves, how to transition between them, how to improvise, how to interpret music, how to compose, how to use a stage—without him ever having to say anything about it. And we learned how to present ourselves, even though we giggled to see Bobby swan across the floor, beaming at himself in the mirror. We learned. It was hard, but it was worth it.

Even in his later years of choreography, the dances were deceptively simple. They embodied this deep understanding. They didn’t beat the music to death. They made space for the dancer’s own special sauce. For her feeling. For the love she brought to the guests. For the expression and communication of her feeling.

You can tell a Bobby dancer by the way she uses the stage. He marked us all, in the best possible way. It took me years to realize what gift he had given us, what a world-class education I had received. It took watching a lot of dancers, many famous, and slowly realizing, Huh. I can do that. I get it. I see it.

Bobby taught me to own the dance.

He taught me that I had something to say. He taught me how to say it with dance. I am proud to carry on his legacy.

 

2. I’m delighted to be a guest tonight on Nadira Jamal’s Belly Dance Geek Clubhouse!

Every month, Nadira interviews a belly dance luminary about something cool, interesting, and useful. This time, it’s me.

We’ll be talking about how a performer’s emotional resonance enriches both herself and her guests.

Here’s Nadira’s description:

My guest, Alia Thabit, will talk about how the gift of sharing your feelings with your audience can enrich not only your performance, but their experience.

Imagine a world with less fear and detachment. A world with more joy and connection. 

As artists and performers, we have the ability to share our emotional responses to the music with the audience, inviting them into our experience. Amid the glamour, the flash, and the hip drops, we have the amazing power to spread joy and cultural understanding through our dance.

YOU’LL LEARN: 
– The power of dance as a personal practice
– The gift of connection in dance (for you and for the audience)
We’ll also have some discussion time, so you can ask Alia your questions.

LOGISTICS:  

This free call will take place TONIGHTMonday, February 27th at 8pm Eastern time.

To see that in your own time zone, visit:
http://bit.ly/2lhC25x

There will be a recording and Nadira generously makes these available to everyone. Clubhouse membership, however, does give you some great perks: you can join the monthly conversation live, get notification of call recordings, and an invite to join the private Facebook group where you can interact with each month’s guest (and fellow dancers from all over the world). If you are already a member of the clubhouse, check your email for the details. If not, it’s free and easy to join.

 

Thanks and see you then!

Love,

Alia

 

What’s your wall?

Sometimes we hit a wall. 

SoHigh2

So high, can’t get over it. So low, can’t go under it. So wide, can’t get around it…

Where is your dance wall?
What stops you, gets in your way, or keeps you from dancing what you feel in the moment? What walls do your students or dancer friends face?

Here are a few things I, and other folks, have struggled with. 

Confidence
Never feeling good enough, creative enough, or anything enough.

Presence 
Getting stuck in one’s head, losing energy, falling out of the zone.

Introversion
Feeling constrained in performance or navigating social scenes.

Improvisation
The feeling in the moment ; )

Not Performing
Why is this such a crime?

Technique
How the heck do I… ?

Age/Looks
We don’t fit the mold, but have so much to express.

Personal Style
How do you find it? Does it take forever?

Finding Spirit in Dance
Is it really all hoodoo?

 

What’s your biggest wall?
How does it affect you?
What would help?

 

Write to me. Or post on the blog. I’ll write back.

Love,

Alia

PS I am once again endeavoring to create a little something new, this time in two weeks. This week is for figuring out what to make. Next week is for making it. It shall be done and ready to roll on May 1. I want it to be something that solves a problem for my dance friends–that’s you. Hence my question. More on Thursday!

How to transmit wonder with your dance

TransmitWonderIn our secret hearts, we come to this dance for transformation. We seek a magic carpet ride to our true self, our inner goddess, femme fatale, power and glory. We want this so hard it hurts. We cry at night for the loss of the beauty, freedom, mystery and adventure with which we were born. Life is hard, and it has taken its toll.

We come to this dance for redemption. To see ourselves in a new, truer, mirror, one that will shine back to us the beauty and joy hidden away in our souls.

This dance delivers. It delivers in spades.

Everything we crave awaits us inside this dance. All the joy, the beauty, the glory, hidden treasure waiting to be found. A secret blossom trembling on the brink. A fourth doorway, a portal to the Divine, hidden from sight—until we are ready to open it.

But we are afraid. Afraid of feeling our pain, afraid of shoveling through the shit of life to get to the treasure. Afraid there is no treasure. So we put on our hipscarves and copy empty movement for an hour a week, pretending we are beautiful. It is an epic tragedy.

How do we get through the fourth door? 

Well, first we have to find it. 
And then we have to make a few changes.
And that may take some effort.

Learning is hard. It hurts, like an unused muscle, newly awakened. We all want to have fun, but most of us also want to learn. How do we balance the difficulty of learning with the pleasure of the dance itself?

This dance flourishes within its cultural context. All of its wonderful, chaotic heterophony, micromovement, improvisation, social ritual, and feeling–these are not quaint traditions. They are the living breathing center of this dance.

Our dance is a magical doorway. It leads to a place within where we feel our beauty, dissolve trauma and stress, nurture our body and brain, feed our soul, and connect with the Divine. This is the nature of this dance. It is a magical transmission of wonder. 


Wait, how do we magically transmit wonder?
The first step is to reclaim our own wonder. We have all been brainwashed into regarding ourselves with narrow eyes, alert for any flaws or ways in which we do not fit the proscribed vision of perfection. Alas, there are so many ways to miss the mark.

Let’s change the rating system. Let’s step back from perfection of form and the Platonic Ideal. Let’s step up to shared mystery and glory.

The wonderful Fahtiem once explained, “It’s not just a hip drop,” as she rolled her eyes, looking bored with her own movement.

“It’s a hip drop!” And she gasped, her eyes got big as her face expressed amazement. Suddenly the move transformed into wonder–the wonder we all felt once upon a time, the wonder that drew us to this dance.

What if every hip drop, every move, every moment of our dance were a testament to wonder? We feel and express the wonder so others can also see it, feel it, live it.

The fourth doorway awaits. 
Will you walk through?

Love,
Alia

PS Last call for How to Create Dance Art
Oriental dance evolved for improvisation. Choreography can inhibit our ability to express our feeling from the music in the moment, to be different every time.

On the other hand, recorded music is the same every time. How to balance these conflicting influences?

Create Dance Art is the solution!
Check it out: http://CreateDanceArt.com

PPS Final free webinar on Sunday: Fast, fun, fabulous Group Dances that folks can remember and enjoy doing! Plus a special offer for Create Dance Art!
Click here: http://eepurl.com/bJETD9

Happy Holidays, Beautiful!

Happy Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, Eid, Solstice, and more!
Whatever you celebrate, even if it is a can of soup, I send you all my love and kisses.

And of course, we have a present, too!
This year’s present will keep giving all year…

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Hugs and kisses,

Alia