Three ways to regain confidence (easily)

What I’m doing is boring…

Despite all of our improv practice, we may still have those panicky moments of feeling trapped and frozen, unable to think of what to do next.  This can feel overwhelming–but we can easily escape its grip.

The focus on what to do is part of the problem. Everybody freezes up about what should I do or, what I’m doing is stupid or whatever. We’ve been trained that it’s all about the moves, so we need a constant variety to entertain our jaded guests. 

But where our dance shines is interaction

It’s is funny when dancing at home by ourselves to think about interacting, but we are interacting—with ourselves, with the music, the camera, with our imaginary guests, or our succession of stuffed animals, or our dance persona, or our body, and the sensations that we notice, or the images that come in our head from the music, or maybe the music asks for a certain quality in the movement…

 So there are all of these things we can interact with instead of some snide little voice in the head telling us, That’s not good enough (which is always what that voice is telling us, and by the way, it is lying). 

But when that little voice gets in there, it has a lot of power. 

So how do we get out of its power? 

STOP IT. 

Look around. Come back into the space. Ground yourself in the music. Ground yourself in the space. Ground yourself in the (possibly imaginary) guests. Just observe the present moment. And something else will come.

So we’re freaking out, we don’t know what to do—so we can just pay attention to what the body is doing (instead of that little voice). 

I mean, we’re home, right? Who cares. So we can say, “I’m just gonna pay attention to what my body is actually doing right now. I’m stuck here with this hip drop, so I’m just gonna observe that hip drop.” And that little shift of attention changes everything. 

Okay I’m doing this. Maybe I’ll make it a little smaller. Because that’s different. Maybe, move it in a little circle, because that’s different. Maybe now I just like the idea of a circle and I’ll just move into the circle. Because that’s different.

So that’s one avenue, to shift in to the body.

Another avenue is to shift out to the people (who may be the chairs and so forth), and say, “Hey, I’ve been doing this hip drop for 20 minutes, how about that, right? Pretty cool. Bet you can’t do that.” 

Because the people want you to interact. The whole point is you, not what you’re doing. It’s that you’re there, it’s who you are and that you’re there, and that you’re present, and that’s what’s exciting that someone is there, interacting with them. Belly dance has no fourth wall

Another avenue is to shift on to the music—just letting it in, enjoying it, letting it create a path for us. Take a moment to just stop and smell the roses—er, hear the music. Just rest and listen. 

So when we start to freak out, we can notice it, and say, Okay, let’s just step back from that for a minute. And focus our attention on something else. The body. The room. The music. 

Freaking out is a pattern. 

That stuff in the head is a pattern. The shaming voice, the physical response to that—it’s an addictive pattern, often very old. 

And anything that breaks that pattern—breaks the pattern. The more often we recognize it—Oh shit, this is that pattern again—the sooner we notice we’re re-enacting that pattern, the faster we can step away from it. 

This can apply in many areas of life. Once you see it, notice it, observe it, you have the opportunity to change. 

Here’s some music for that. Musique blues du sahara algerien

Love, 

Alia

PS Tuning In starts tomorrow! The grounding strategies are another great way to feel more confident when improvising

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
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. Registration closes on Friday at 3:30 pm.  https://aliathabit.com/shop/#trust/

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
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEaWvqXcz8GdQ18v2FlZbe_F93-04sOUW

Taqsim playlist
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEaWvqXcz8GfDPn6RYIkkMC1mAmnheKQr

Rhythm-Heavy Belly Dance/Debke music
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEaWvqXcz8GeqUadJH_AtjtHJlOk33ubk

Wild Dramatic Classical Music 
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEaWvqXcz8Gcmfiv7rn4WiIceWHiZ0Avb

Sun Ra The Nubians of Plutonia (trust me)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLMV7BHrogw&list=PLGX_iebp2Prk18FG7qp_rw2gTBmNWAKSB

BUDDY GUY & JUNIOR WELLS -Drinkin’ Tnt ‘N’ Smokin’ Dynamite
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdbcKTkQk7E

Sam Cooke 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZB4jcPmFGo&list=PL7IYX2pTFu7a5XHFMplBz3h4QM4Una0uH

Talking Heads-Stop Making Sense
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gUsGYtozko&list=PLVSlPiUUcHnDAesZb1ES7nyb07eVLdMzM

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, 

Alia

How to Fight Fear: CoVid-19

Fight Fear

With the coronavirus CoVid-19 spreading rapidly, folks have been gripped by a new level of fear. 

The postman told me today no one opens the door for him any more. They gesture for him to leave the box outside. Presumably, they bring it inside and slosh it good with alcohol before they open it. “Everyone is terrified,” he said.

It’s hard not to be afraid. Many of us are out of work, our businesses closed by state order. Our friends or family are ill or high-risk, or far away. We frantically wash our hands, cringe from contact, and make masks at home.

Enough is enough.

I am all for safety. Kissing strangers on the subway is a nice idea, but not right now, thank you. Social Safety is paramount at this time. Keeping ourselves safe keeps thousands of other people safe, and that is a Good Thing.

But I am against being ruled by fear.

Fear makes everything harder. It freezes us in place. It cripples our minds and bodies. It bathes our cells in toxic stress hormones.

It’s time to stop.

But how?

This pandemic is what’s known as an “Inescapable Attack.” This means we are pretty much trapped and there is nothing we can do. I mean, yes, Social Safety, but the big picture is, well, rather big–and the constant barrage of apocalyptic news doesn’t help. So what can we do?

Fight!

Um, that’s it?

Yup.

Now, hear me out. I know, this sounds impossible. Plus the kids are home all day now, and the spouse/housemates, and it’s CHAOS AROUND HERE!!!! <cue hyperventilation>

Chill. I have faith in you. We can do this. And here are two ways to help.

ACT and DISTRACT

Both are part of fighting fear. Whatever keeps us out of the fear vortex is valid.

ACT

There are many many ways to act, some of which are not so obvious.

Focused Intention (essentially, prayer).

When I am afraid and there is nothing I can do, I visualize radiant beings (your deities of choice), holding the object of my concerns (myself, others, the world), in nourishment and protection. And whenever the fear arises, I go to that visualization. I focus all my energy on this outcome of safety and productive resolution. I highly recommend this practice. More about that is here. And this can be brought into the dance practice. so the whole dance becomes directed energy healing the world from fear and suffering. White Tara is my deity. She would be yours as well if you so wish it. Om Tare Tut Tare Ture Svaha. May all beings be free from suffering.

Make Art.

I’ve been dancing my 20 minutes most days, and that makes a world of difference. But even more fun lately, I’ve been making art! Every day, I draw a picture on my phone (I have a Note 3), and they are ridiculously cute. You can see most of the designs here (and the one above is one of these pictures).

I have also chosen to Act by offering dance classes focused on joyful relaxation and small group grounding sessions (coming soon–email me if interested), to fight fear. I have loaded my classes with somatic strategies to settle and ground the nervous system, so dancers come away feeling refreshed and relaxed. It works! The feeling lasts, and the strategies can be used at any time to help the body feel calmer and safer.

I know a lot of us are broke, though many still have jobs or unemployment, so I am offering these for April on a donation basis.

Which brings me to

DISTRACT

If our major defense mechanisms are Fight and Flight, Distraction is the best kind of flight. Listen to music. Read a book (on your phone from the library). Daydream. Watch a virtual tour or a movie–there are SO MANY distractions available right now! Everyone and their granny is offering things to do from home, most of them free. I’ll be listing these (as well as more Act strategies), on the page AliaThabit.com/Fight-Fear. But here is
12 Virtual Museum Tours
And here is some music.
And here is a dance for you, from me.

We will get through this. Together.

With love,
Alia

What is the Dancer’s Real Job?

Don't Prepare, Just Show Up

I’m Levantine on my father’s side, so when Aunty Ethel, my Dad’s sister, asked me to dance at her and Uncle Ed’s fiftieth wedding anniversary, of course I said yes. Never mind that it was Fourth of July weekend, smack in the middle of Elena’s Lentini’s weeklong. This was family, and you say yes.

The seminar show was the night before. Elena’s shows were way old school, and ran until 3AM. This was back when Fazil still had his studio in NYC. Those were the days! We (Stewart Hoyt and I) were barely conscious when we rolled up to the airport for our 7AM flight.

Airports, pre 9-11, were a relaxed affair. No check-in, no security. We eat a leisurely breakfast with my dad and Fran, his lady friend, and stroll up to the gate.

No seats.

“But we have reservations!” No, the flight is over booked. We checked in one minute too late. My dad and Fran, who were 15 feet ahead of us, with no one in between, are on the flight.

We wait five hours for another flight, while calling car rental agencies. On a pay phone (remember those?) There is not one single car to rent in all of Buffalo.

We luck into a cab to the Elks Hall in Dunkirk.

For $100. Plus tip. In 1999. Cash. 

So, finally we arrive. We are dirty, disheveled, eyes black with fatigue, and very, very hungry. Aunty Ethel greets us at the door. “Are you still going to dance?” I look around. Lunch is being served. A few cousins and a bunch of grey-haired old folks, eating grey food, in the grey, undecorated Elks club. No one is talking. No one is laughing. No one is having any fun at all.

“Of course,” I say, and go off to change.

Don't Prepare, Just Show Up
Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up

I slather on the concealer and throw on my costume. I give my cousin a CD (no mp3s back then). There is a tiny, tinny little cd player. My cousin holds a microphone up to it. It doesn’t help much. But the music starts.

And magic happens.

Suddenly everyone is engaged, clapping to the music, smiling, laughing, eyes gleaming like children because here comes the belly dancer!

I tease, I flirt. I get my aunt and uncle to dance together. I make all their kids dance. I get their friends to dance. Suddenly everyone is having fun. Everyone is happy. The party is a big success. When my show finishes, we put on debke music. As the overjoyed debke line snakes through the room, everyone gets up to dance, wiping tears of laughter from their eyes.

This is what we do.

We start the party.

We give the audience permission to have fun.

This, traditionally, is our function.

Traditionally. Really. This is what we do. It is a noble function. A noble calling. We make the party happen. It’s not about us, about people watching us and thinking we’re so beautiful or whatever. It’s about making the party happen. That’s where the smile thing comes from—this dance is about the expression of joy. We bring the joy.

So we can do all kinds of dramatic theatrical tribal gothic hip hop death metal fusion—in the right venue. But when we are the only dancer, when we are doing a party, this is what we have to remember.

Bring the joy.

PS, when he heard about the taxi, my uncle slipped me a hundred bucks–and my dad slipped me another hundred. So it was a pretty good deal, all in all.

Here’s some reallly oldschool Music From A Millionaire’s Playground

Coronavirus got you down? Online Fun Classes return soon!

How do you feel about New Year’s Resolutions?

Ready to begin

I took this quiz a while back. Tiffany from the Bellydance Bundle mentioned it. I was rolling my eyes the whole time, thinking, lordy, this does not apply to me! But the results were so interesting I immediately got Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Four Tendencies, from the library to read more (it is quite readable). 

Turns out, I’m a Rebel (I’m sure you are shocked ; ).

According to Rubin, Rebels do what they like, when they feel like it. The Rebel motto is, “You can’t make me, and neither can I.” Hence, Rebels tend to avoid New Year’s Resolutions, since “I’m going to get up at 7AM every day and practice,” is most likely to result in “Eff that,” when 7AM rolls around. Internal deadlines don’t work well for Rebels–unless they feel like it. This summed up my life alarmingly well. So many things now made sense. For example, no wonder I could never stick to a regular practice! 

External deadlines, however, have impact.

If the chips are down, and I am enmeshed in an external structure, I get shit done. For example, the trash gets picked up at my house once a week at about 7AM. That trash is out there by 6:59, especially the weeks when both trash cans are full and there is another bag of trash in the kitchen waiting to go. 

Structure works for me. This is why I started to teach dance–I couldn’t make myself practice, but I could show up to a scheduled class. This is why I create online courses. They give me structure. A reason to show up. Accountability. This is key. 

I didn’t understand any of this when I first designed the 90 Day Dance Party. Looking at it now, I can see my Rebel fingerprints aaalllll over its Do it YOUR way design. 

And therein lies the benefit.

For everyone. Including you ; ). 

Because all four Tendencies like accountability. And the 90 Days provides that. In spades. 

Let me be clear–tendencies are just that. One may incline towards them, but they are not the be-all, end-all of who you are. Still, it is an interesting approach, and you may find it as surprising and enlightening as I did. 

Why does the 90 Days work for so many people? 

Rubin posits four tendencies. Let’s look at how each responds to resolutions, such as New Year’s… and how that translates to the 90 Days.

1. Upholders. Resolutions are their best friend. They make a plan and they do it. The 90 Days is a great challenge. It lasts a good long time, so you can really sink your teeth into it. They are accountable to themselves, and this is a challenge you can do completely on your own if you wish. Plus, doing the 20 minutes every day has so many benefits, aside from turbo-charging one’s improvisation abilities. It’s a win-win all the way.  

2. Questioners. They make resolutions whenever seems best to them. The 90 Days is exceptionally versatile and adaptable. Questioners can put together a system that works for them and manage it just the way they want. There is lots of accountability via the FB group, and someone (me), to answer all their questions, every day. 

3. Obligers. They’ve largely given up on resolutions, since they just don’t work. The flexibility and forgiveness built into the 90 Days keeps the pressure off. It gives them a sense of safety and community, and keeps them feeling connected no matter what they do–or don’t do.  

4. Rebels won’t bind themselves with resolutions or other commitments, unless they do it for fun, because they feel like it. The 90 Days is a lot of fun. There’s camaraderie, new music, lots of connection, inspiration–the list goes on. It’s even fun for me, and I’m working my ass off. 

It works so well because of NGAMO

NGAMO stands for No Guilt And Move On. You missed a day? A week? A month? Okay. Let it go. Move on. Dance today, tomorrow, the next day. We’re in this for the long haul.

I’m going to share a little semi-secret with you. I’ve presented the 90 Days four times now–and I have never danced every day. Early on in the very first one, I realized my challenge, practice, and accountability would come from the Love Notes that I wrote each day. I write the Love Notes and facilitate the Bonus Pack of Joy (BPJ) Facebook group (and the ad-hoc group that sprouted up on the event page). Every day. Seven days a week. For 90 Days. That is enough. NGAMO.

What I thought would a daily paragraph of encouragement turned into thousand-word articles.

Magical things began to happen in the group. People made radical changes in their lives. Simply from dancing freeform improv for 20 minutes a day. And it continues to happen, every time. Many folks have done the 90 Days every time we’ve run it. Lots of people have kept the 20 minutes every day for years. People put stickers on their calendar for every day they danced. Total strangers come up to me at events to thank me for telling them it was okay that they didn’t dance that day. Yet they still felt this intense dedication to the 90 Days. 

Over the years, I’ve added curated daily music suggestions, and chosen or illustrated images for each article.  It continues to grow and evolve. There’s even a QuickStart guide to get everyone up to speed on all our practices and success strategies. 

The theme of improvisation winds through every element, from the Love Notes, which I wrote fresh every day, with no plan whatsoever (and just happened, so many times, to be exactly what folks needed to hear that day). systemEach kind of person is free to craft a system that works for them. For example, Tuesday is a long day, so I don’t dance on Tuesdays. It’s all about individual agency–just like Oriental dance.  

The 90 Days is all about the low bar

Over this year, I’ve found a new kind of accountability (new to me, anyway). I wanted to share that with you. 

Remember I never danced a full 90 Days? I did dance most of them. And recently a friend and I have hit 288 days of dance, which we’ve done via text message accountability, over the last 10 months. We’ve each skipped a day here and there, mostly due to travel or illness, but who cares? We danced 288 more days of the year than we would have otherwise, and maintained a very sweet daily communication over that time.

Each day, when one of us danced, we texted the other with the number of the day. And the other texted back a word of acknowledgement. Brava! Good. Well done! We set a low bar, and we succeeded.

That’s why I am offering this very special Sharegasm+1 option.

I have had such a great time connecting with my friend that I wanted to encourage other folks to do the same. It’s 25% less per person than even the earliest EarlyBird price–because I want folks to do this together

The 90 Days is a time to be connected to dance and other dancers. To be open to surprise and curiosity. To enjoy dance. To have fun. To feel joy, to relax, and to live. Let’s do this. And let’s bring a friend. 
More information is here: aliathabit.com/90days

I hope to see you there!
Love, 
Alia

Giving Thanks…

It’s Thanksgiving in the USA today. While that first feast of the pilgrims and the Indians, one of our enduring American myths, is a big lie–the colonizers, as usual, decimated the indigenous people–I like the family nature of the day itself, that it is not a religious holiday, and it does not involve gifts beyond a pie or some jello salad (lol) for the table. 

I also like giving thanks.

Yes, lots of bad things happen, to us and in the world. But here we are, still alive to read (and write) this post. I am thankful for life, for food, and a home. I am thankful for Somatic Experiencing® (SE), through which I have come to love and accept myself. I am thankful that through SE, resilience can be increased, that the trauma and toxic stress of those bad things can be released, that I am now trained to do that, and can help others’ lives open up as mine has. 

I am especially thankful for Oriental Dance, which has brought so much good into my life. 

I am thankful for my body, for its dancing, however much it grumbles, for keeping me safe enough to be here now, typing this. 

I am thankful for my family, friends, students, and teachers.

I am thankful for you. 

Thank you!

Love, 
Alia

 

Happy Halloween! (about that costume…)

It’s Halloween in the US. I have a pumpkin and some treats for the few kids who make it to my house. I remember when I was a kid, we trick or treated far and wide. One year someone stole all the candy a friend and I had collected–we were furious since grownups stood right by and didn’t intervene. Another year I planned to to dress as a “Gypsy.” I made myself a skirt of ribbons with bells on them.

This was waayy back in the late 60s; we didn’t know the word Rroma, or that “Gypsy” is a racial slur on the level of the n-word (apparently many people still don’t). But my mother did know the word RESPECT.

She told me that there was an actual Gypsy family living down the block from us, and that it might hurt their feelings for me to pretend to be them. That I could wear my outfit (which didn’t bear any resemblance to anything in particular), but I would have to find something else to call myself. So I did. And I made of point of being welcoming to those folks, whom I had not known were there.

My mom was a smart lady.

Looking back, I’m glad it never occurred to me, even in my then-innocence, to wear dark makeup. I’m glad that’s at least one thoughtless thing I never did.

Because that–blackface, brownface, etc–any of the colors of humanity that folk pretend to be, putting on makeup that they can wash off again at night–is extremely hurtful, to many people. People who can’t wash off their skin color. People who are oppressed and abused because of their color.

Black Lives Matter

Sadly, we have a fair amount of that in the belly dance scene, right now, in 2019. So many western dancers opt for brownface–darker makeup to look more “Arabic.” Like the G-word, it’s just no longer acceptable.

And the most recent outbreak of blackface and racist “jokes” in our scene has caused deep pain and discord.

It is ENOUGH.

As practitioners of a dance that comes from another culture–from the Middle East! from Africa!–we owe it ourselves to educate ourselves.
 
Why are so few dancers of color or the culture famous here in the west? Why do so few get hired? Why do so few headline, when so many are among the best dancers I have ever seen?
 
Simple answer. Racism.
 
Black folks are systematically brutalized and degraded, as they have been for centuries, thanks to the racist examples set by white colonizers. Not just in the USA, but all over. The darker one is, the worse the hate.
 
Middle Eastern folks in many countries are right now under attack by the USA and our “allies”, torn by war, distrusted, branded villains.
 
What can we do?
It’s 2019. We have the internet. We can be famous and meet people all over the world.
 
We can *also* learn how to respect people and other cultures–we can learn about the harm caused by blackface and other forms of racism (not to mention the word Gypsy, homophobia, and treating other folks’ ethnicity/culture as a costume or a joke). My Mom knew this and taught it to me, 50+ years ago. I am grateful to the many black and brown dancers who continue to educate me.
 
White folks, in general, don’t know what black and brown folks go through. It is simply invisible to us. The looks. The turning away. The click of door locks.
 
Dancers of color (and other minorities, plus queer and disabled folks) are overflowing with hurt and anger thanks to hundreds of years of oppression.
 
*It is on all of us to take action to heal the hurt.*
* Celebrate our dancers of color and culture–listen to them, learn from them, hire them, support their work.
* Vote with your dollars. Support events that celebrate our dancers of color and culture.
* Think before you post. Opt for compassion.
* Speak up when you see racist comments or behavior. A quiet word to someone may be enough. If it isn’t, consider speaking more loudly. Consider stepping away from the person as well (anna borisova many others, anti-muslim dancers, and even more apologists, defending these actions).
 
I’ll be reading these books.
*So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo,
*Why Are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria
by Beverly Daniel Tatum
Here’s an interview with Dr. Tatum about her book.
 
And some of these that have also been recommended. Please note, I am only including works by poc authors in this list.
*Me and White Supremacy Workbook by Layla F. Saad
*How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
*The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
 
Thank you.

Love,
Alia

Correctness–our Dance Bête Noire (and how to stop it from eating us alive)

My brain snags on the tiniest detail. Anything that is out of place, that’s where it goes. It’s annoying, especially when I am talking with someone about a big-picture issue, and my brain is lighting on some tiny factual error (for example, in a conversation about which trees to thin in the forest, I might hone in on a tree that is not even under consideration, because it is a spruce, not a pine). Literally, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees ; ).

This is the issue with Correctness

We’ve been talking about the writing assessment model, Fluency, Clarity, and Correctness (in that order), and applying it to dance. Last week, we looked at Clarity, and the week before, Fluency. Both of these are what’s known, in writing terms, as Higher Order Concerns (HOCs). They are big-picture issues–the forest, if you will. In terms of fluency, if a writer can’t turn out the words, nice clean sentences will not help. If a dancer can’t move with ease and grace to the music, all the perfect moves in the world will look stilted.

Clarity is also like this. When a dancer has nothing to say, their dancing just doesn’t have that engaging spark. Generally, folks enjoy dancers who enjoy themselves, who love their guests, and who bring them the gift of their dance. If a dancer just goes through the motions of their dance, eh. People eat their diner instead.

These are HOCs because they have the greatest impact. Folks will generally forgive technical errors when they are entertained. Except when they focus on those trees…

Trees (and Correctness) are Lower Order Concerns (LOCs)

Lower Order Concerns in writing include typos, spelling, and sentence-level errors. These don’t impact the overall quality of the writing–but they can be annoying and distracting. As a writing teacher, I had to learn to overlook LOCs as I read, to more accurately assess the student writing. Having rubrics (such as Fluency, Clarity, and Correctness), helped me do this.

In dance, LOCs are things like hair, hand position, costume adjustment, and so forth. They are small elements that have the potential to snag the eye and focus all the attention–even though they are secondary to Fluency and Clarity. Correctness issues can be far more easily, well, corrected, than HOCs. Yet who among us hasn’t been castigated for some small infraction with no attention at all paid to what we did right? And the way we treat ourselves?

We have been taught to focus on the most minute, perfectionist issues, on what is wrong, rather than on more important things, and what is right.

Focusing on what’s right is revolutionary

I was brought up in a family that generally focused on small details and what is wrong (no wonder I didn’t like myself very much ;). Plus we were sarcastic and disdainful. Maybe you were, too. Or your teacher. Or your friends. Many people are. It took me years to A. see this, and B. change it.

It was important. So I learned. As a college-level writing teacher, a subject area frozen with fear, it is vitally important to help students see what they are doing well, so they can do more of it. The same goes for dance. We have been terrorized by perfectionism, squinting at ourselves in the mirror, looking for errors. So errors are all we see.

Correctness has its place

Of course, line, makeup, hair, hand positions, etc are important. Technique is important. But they are not the be-all, end-all of the world. Like the people who completely discount the content of an article because a word is misspelled or a sentence has a dangling modifier, dancers discount their own beauty because they made some tiny error. It’s like the way we hate on ourselves because we don’t like our nose, or our thighs, or our left pinky toe.

And the tone! The shaming! It’s ridiculous. There is a lot of “I’m better than you” in the critique world, a lot of keeping people small. I don’t hold with any of it. And we internalize all of it, and shame ourselves when there is no one else around to do it for us.

But it’s a simple matter of, “I loved how joyful and fluid you were–I’d love to see your hands carry that through. What if you extend the energy all the way out your arms?” A focus on HOCs, on what’s right, and a follow up with a suggestion for how to improve.

This is why we talk about Fluency Clarity, and Correctness–in that order.

First things first. A dancer’s ability to dance is more important than flawless technique. For the dancer to share joy with their guests is more important than their styling. To have confidence, joy, brio–these are what make a dancer.

In my experience, most people have not a clue on how to give productive critique. Even worse, they give their nit-picky, perfectionist observations without being asked. Nobody needs to walk off the dance floor and have someone tell them what they did wrong.

But all of us want to improve. So what is the answer? How do we step away from a focus on the wrong? How do we even know what is right? How do we say it without hurting anyone’s feelings–how do we give critique that is supportive, compassionate, and productive? We focus on what’s right. We give specifics. When we correct, we give a path to improvement. We avoid unsolicited advice.

And, there is a class for that. I made it from my decades of experience as a writing teacher who also teaches dance. Announcing…

Focus on the Feeling: How to get (and give) great critique for Oriental dance.

The course runs 6 weeks, from Sunday, October 13 — Friday, November 22, 2019.
It’s on a private forum–no Facebook groups. It has daily homework and feedback (M-F). And it’s a sure-fire way to like your own dancing more, and to have a much better way of talking about dance and improvement.

I’m updating the page now, and will share it next week.

In the meantime…

The Bellydance Bundle is coming!

What shall I make this year? What would you like to learn?
Write me back! Now is the time.

With all my love,
Alia

How to Have Clarity in Dance (it’s all about the feeling ;)

Ready to begin


A while back, I went through an entire year where I could barely plan the next day, let alone the next month, or six months away. It was strange and rather disconcerting. I was in a dense fog and couldn’t see which way to go.

And then something happened–the planets shifted or goodness knows what–and the entire next year unrolled before me, with perfect clarity–Boom.

Ready to begin
The entire year, all planned out

It can be like that with our dance–we wander around not sure where to put our focus or what we want to say, until something comes along to help us find Clarity.

Last week, we talked about Fluency, Clarity, and Correctness as an assessment method in dance. Fluency means that we own our vocabulary and can easily move with the music. This week, we’ll look at Clarity. In this case, Clarity means we have something to say, and we make our point clearly. 

Wait, what? Something to say? 

Yep. In Oriental dance, the dancer shows her feeling from the music through movement. This feeling is what she has to say. Maybe it is the joy of the present moment. A dance performer’s classic task is to share joy with their guests. Maybe it is the complex wealth of emotional timbres inherent in tarab music. Maybe it is a theatrical piece. Whatever it is, we share it, and we want our guests to understand what we express. If we are homestyle dancers, we still have things to express–for our family and friends or just for ourselves. 

This means that all of our body works together to convey our feeling. This is soul. This is personal style. This is where we go beyond simple movement and into embodiment. It is part of our art. Oriental dancers are interactive. 


Clarity is a benchmark

Can the student move fluently? Great. Are they having fun, are they sharing their joy? No? Then that’s where we put our focus. 

Many times, dancers don’t know what to feel from the music. Like my year of fog, they get anxious, wondering what the right answer is. The right answer is what YOU feel from the music. Making space to just listen, to be engaged with the music, to let it move you–clarity comes from here. And soon enough. you will know which way to go. 

Next week? Correctness!

With love,
Alia

PS the Fall Calendar is coming!

You might like a sneak peek of the first few items–and some special pricing ; )

Somatic Experiencing Personal Sessions
Somatic Experiencing Personal Sessions
Somatic Experiencing® (SE) is a naturalistic and neurobiological approach to treating trauma, resolving anxiety, and generally feeling safe and comfortable in one’s own body.

SE focuses on the body sensations, images that arise, and movement. You don't have to tell your life story, or much of anything. We work with what is, right now.

Results include a sense of well-being, self-compassion, and increased resilience. It is a very gentle, effective method.

I’m a Somatic Experiencing® (SE) Practitioner. I’ve long included SE work in my dance coaching. Folks like it–they feel the benefits. One client’s 30-year pain went away. Another reduced her fear of being seen. Another became close to her family again. It makes my heart glad to see the healing.

Sessions are conducted via Zoom for distance clients. Sessions last about an hour. It is recommended to take a nap afterwards.

If you’ve had challenging experiences in your life, if you feel that they haven’t been resolved, if you find yourself being repeatedly triggered, SE may help you.

I am making these sessions available at a special price as things are so hard right now for so many people.

To discover more, I invite you to email me or book a brief complimentary call. We’ll chat.

Artist's Creative Expression (ACE) Mastermind
This Mastermind is for small groups (+/- five people) who meet online bi-weekly for two months (five total meetings).

Each member chooses their own creative goals while the group provides accountability, cheerleading, and coaching. Each person gets about fifteen minutes per meeting to talk about what they’ve done, what they want to do, and troubleshoot or discuss. Alia provides spot-coaching, and participants then choose their next steps or new goals for the next two weeks.

What might you focus upon? It could be any kind of creative goal, dance, improvisation, a prop, or anything you want to learn or practice, painting, costume making, writing, marketing, establishing boundaries, whatever you want to work on.

This Mastermind will run from late September to mid November. Meeting times will be decided by the group. Meetings will be recorded and available via Teachable There are only ten spaces available for the mastermind.

Registration is now open–with special Trust the Chef pricing for earlybirds (there’s even a payment plan--click the link at the top--or right here to see it).
FUN Class

June TAQSIM Fun class!

Fun classes are live online (video) classes streamed via Zoom.us. They are designed for FUN for all levels. They are primarily follow-me, improv classes with some combinations, technique, and a Dancemeditation section for stress release and joy.

June's class has a taqsim focus--we will dance to many taqasim over the evening.

Each class is recorded. The recording is available for one week, then replaced by the next recording. We use Zoom for the classes and Wordpress to host the streamable recordings.

Current session dates, five Tuesdays in June at 7PM EDT

If you'd like to have fun, come join us!

Coronavirus Special for June Session! Sliding Scale and Pay what you will.

Upcoming events:

I’ll be performing September 14, 2019 at Belly Dance Nights at the Main St. Museum in White River Junction, VT. We start at 7PM, and it’s only $15 for advance sales. This is the funnest show and dance party going (and there’s plenty of parking). Please come join us!

How to have a Power Innage

When I was a kid, there was a huge blackout in New York City. The whole region lost power, right up into Canada. Our family huddled together in the dark. But we had a secret weapon. Gas. We had a gas stove, so we could cook dinner. It was serious magic. 

I’ve had gas stoves ever since; now that I live in an area with frequent power outages (and occasional -40F temperatures), I have gas heat too. And a wood stove sitting in the shed. Just in case. Yes, I have cut down trees, lugged them home, cut them up, and split the wood. I have the tools. 

When our power comes from outside—like our electricity—we are at the whim of that provider. 

When our power comes from inside— Well. That’s something else. 

Power 

Scary. 

Attractive. 

Dangerous.

Imperative. 

We all have that inner power. Some of us are unaware of it. Some of us run from it. Some of us abuse it.  Some of us have been severely punished for even glancing at it. But it’s here. It’s still here. It’s always here. 

So what do we do with it?

How do we access our power in a safe, productive, sustainable way? 

Or is all that “safe” business just hedging our bets? 

We have immense power, whether we use it consciously or not. But to abnegate our power (renounce, disbelieve, or reject it) is far more dangerous than to embrace it, welcome it, and learn to wield it in grace and harmony.

Here’s the problem. When we stuff things long enough, their combined mass and weight becomes just a little… alarming. 

What if it gets out? 

Like the Incredible Hulk? 

And wreaks HAVOC?

Yeah, it’s scary. 

And we may feel guilty for wanting to rip someone’s face off. Like, if we started, we wouldn’t stop. But honestly, this is just a normal reaction to chronically unresolved helplessness and freeze. It’s called “murderous rage.” Yep, that’s the technical term. 0.o.

Soooo, since we’d probably get in trouble if we actually did that, but that stored, short-circuited energy reeeaalllly wants to be expressed, so we can reset the nervous system… 

So we go slowly. 

This is why Slow Movement. 

It is an element of this practice that resonates with Somatic Experiencing®. In a session, when a practitioner notices a client’s body movement, they often ask the client to repeat the movement—slowly. Very slowly. More slowly…

And wow, shit opens up and vibrates. 

I worked in this way with a friend who had been bullied in her previous job. She is very assertive, more of a fight person than flight, but this boss…  Months later she had not recovered her verve, suffering from sleeplessness, fatigue, pain, and anxiety. We agreed to try some of what I had been learning (I’m in a three-year Somatic Experiencing® training program). 

During the session, she mentioned a specific incident in which she had been unable to defend herself. I asked her what her body had wanted to do at the time. Then I invited her to do it. She punched the hell out of that two-bit dictator. Slowly. Very slowly. More slowly (with all the intent and energy stored within that reaction).

When scary negative things come up, I invite you also to consider asking your body what it wants/wanted to do. To let your body move as it wishes. But slowly. Very slowly. Even more slowly. With all the intent and energy stored within that reaction. Butoh, baby. Put it all in there. 

Then let it go. Relax, shake it out, run, move crazy, cough, kiyai (the martial arts vocal expression that accompanies a blow). Then give yourself some love. And have a nap. 

My friend? She’s back. Yep, 100%. It took more than this, but this was the beginning. 

Hugs and kisses and all my love,

Alia

Here’s some good music for that. 

It’s only 11 mins, so here’s something to round it out. 

https://sunramusic.bandcamp.com/track/reflections-in-blue-3