How to get perspective and move forward

My friend Delsie makes art-quality braided rugs. She teaches braiding, too. In her classes, people sometimes get freaked out and fixated on some single-point mistake in their braid that glares at them balefully. They feel their rug is ruined. Delsie usually takes the rug and tosses it on the floor, where rugs go. “Do you see it now?” she asks. Nope. Can’t really see that little glitch from even 5 feet away.

That’s perspective.
Perspective changes how we see things. We draw them out to get a sense of their real size. We change our vantage point to get a more nuanced understanding. When we see a bigger picture, look from a different vantage point, suddenly things change their appearance.

Many of us get fixated on tiny glitches in our dance. We freak out because we didn’t do this or that, or forgot whatever. We don’t like the way we look, or did that move, or whatever. We can’t see the big picture because that one little misbraided knot we are staring at seems so huge.

Sometimes the glitches are bigger. Life can suck pretty bad. Last night I talked with a friend who’s had it pretty rough. I mean hair-raising. You don’t even want to know. It certainly put my penny-ante stress into perspective. Maybe yours, too. That’s the thing about perspective. When we see a bigger picture, look from a different vantage point, suddenly things change their appearance.

But what’s amazing is people’s resilience and commitment to growth. Even though my friend endured some terrible things, she made it through. We don’t all make it, sadly. But most of us do. Our resources and reserves carry us through. Sometimes that’s the thing we have to look at–what worked. What’s good. We celebrate our strengths and what we are doing right. We all have a long way to go–that’s a given. But we need to see where we’ve been and appreciate what we have accomplished in context.

One friend whose resilience astounds me is Amity Alize. She took a huge risk in moving her studio to White River Junction, launched a Kickstarter to cover the expenses of renovation–and then her sweetheart–who was going to do all the renovation basically for a case of redbull–died. Out of the blue. Yet somehow, Amity kept it together. She finished the renovations and opened her studio. Today, just a few months later, is the studio-warming Kickstarter party.

Take a look at how far you have come. What have you overcome to get here? I guarantee it’s more than you think. And more important, too.

If you are in the area, drop by the party today. Live music from 1-4 PM. Fun stuff all day. I’ll be dancing and reading from my upcoming book. Here’s the link:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1405163849800467/

 

Love,
Alia

How isometrics energize our line

Isometrics is the the practice of engaging groups of muscles in opposition to each other. It is a stretching away from while yearning toward, contraction and expansion. All the core movements in our dance cluster around this junction between contraction and expansion. In embracing both impulses at once, isometric opposition gives power and intentionality to movement and mirrors this push/pull dialectic that exists in the music and poetry—of pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, the heaven and hell of love.

Slow movement enhances this isometric quality. You can put a lot of urgency and drama into an exquisitely slow movement, imbue it with a thick, dripping, intensity as the muscles yearn both towards and away from each other. As strength increases, the affect of effortlessness increases, until the syrupy quality of the isometric movement oozes and pours out of the body.

This is how the calligraphic effect is created—the thicker, slower arcs of the line more richly isometric, as the movement presses against itself, the hip pulling up while simultaneously resisted by the upper body, the thinner portions faster, less opposed, little frissons of decorative curlicue as the movement passes the midline and relaxes into expansion.

The shoulders pull down, away from the neck, into the body, while the arms yearn out away from the body. Each sweep of the arms energizes this opposition, each lift and sway of the hip dramatizes another, each circle draws it out again and again, hovering on that delicate edge between love and loss, slowing down to heighten the intensity of oppositional contraction, swinging blithely though the convergence of release.

An awareness of this dynamic brings great dramatic charge to simple movement. The drama arises out of the muscular interaction, the restraint of oppositional contraction and the rushing lightness of expansion. The body takes great pleasure in articulating this, illustrating the dynamics within the music, texture as well as volume, speed and pitch, embracing the hesitations, the pauses, the spaces between the notes, taking time, relaxed and compressed in the same moment.

Try it out. 

Let me know how it goes.
Leave a note below.

Love,
Alia

Music: Mohammad Reza Shajarian Live:

How to transition effortlessly between moves

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 spit 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 the 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 even 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 (a-and-), a2, and 1 (a-and-) a2 and. You would change on the final and (after the 2).

1 a-and

a

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. He may play more or fewer beats, speed up or slow down—for he is also signaling the change to the rest of the musicians. And if there is to be a change in rhythm, he 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.

Watch out for getting too busy! Changing too often (even on the beat) 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 the dancer relaxes and enjoys herself, so can the people.

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

Love,

Alia

Music: Here are some drum solos to play with the rhythm:

https://soundcloud.com/search?q=drum%20solo%20%23belly%20dance

And here is some melody, Adaweya style: https://soundcloud.com/baraa_nabil2/sets/adaweya

And here’s a breakdown of how to read sheet music: http://readsheetmusic.info/readingmusic.shtml