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.

Trauma resolution results include a sense of well-being, self-compassion, and increased resilience. It is a very gentle method.

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

I’m a soon-to-be-certified Practitioner in Training. I’ve long included SE work in my dance coaching. Folks like it–they feel the benefits. One gal’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 a challenging episode in your life, if you feel that it hasn’t been resolved, 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).
Online FUN Class
Online 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.

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 or Wordpress to host the streamable recordings.

Next session dates coming soon!

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

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

What is the Most Beautiful Move?

Think of the most wonderful dancer you’ve ever seen. Everything they do entrances you—every action feels perfect. You notice only the energy and the love. Joy and warmth suffuse your soul. You feel loved and loving, uplifted and happy. At the end, you applaud wildly, wishing only for more. How do they do it? How do they make everything so beautiful? They must practice a lot. If only…

What is the most beautiful move?

Here’s a conundrum. When we exist in the moment, all of life is perfect—or hell—or however that moment happens to feel. Ironically, the moment itself may be neutral. It’s about how we feel. (Okay, some moments suck—but even so, our emotional experience can be at odds with the circumstances. Who hasn’t felt crappy at a happy event? Or curiously free at a sad time?)

When we dance, we can feel great, crappy, or anything in between—whether the audience loves us or not—and this largely depends upon how we feel about ourselves in that moment. So if we feel like we are are crap, the moment will be crap. But when we feel great, beautiful, enchanting—the moment will be lovely. We can literally transform the moment through our own emotional projection. It’s magic.

So the most beautiful move is the one you are doing right now.

I know, right? Sadly, the crappiest move can also be the move you are doing right now. Yes, the same move. The difference is in your mind. This is why you won’t see me suggesting specific moves, or how to use specific muscles. Movement choice and creation in the moment is intuitive. The movement doesn’t matter. What’s important is how we feel, our connection to the music, and what we give to the audience. That’s what the audience notices. That’s what they love. That’s what they remember.

I first heard this from Fahtiem, a wonderful dancer, great teacher, and super cool human being. She said, “It’s not a hip drop. It’s a hip drop! Every time!” It’s something cool and special that we share with the audience—and ourselves. And it’s up to us to make it happen. What do they know? Nothing. We create the audience’s perception through our projection of emotional texture. So we have to learn to feel great about our moves. Seriously.

How do we learn that?

Practice. But not the way you think. We’re mostly trained to practice technique—perfecting our physical ability to recreate shapes in time and space. But there is more to improvisation than making a shape. There is the intuitive connection to the music, which we practice in our 20 minutes. And there is the mindspace of joy, of beauty. Yes, that, too, deserves practice. How?

Here’s the secret: Pick a basic move. My favorite is the infinity (aka upward hip figure 8, aka snake hips). Do the move. Slowly. Enjoy the physical feeling of every moment. As you do it, use your breath. I exhale the weight change, as the hip goes down and out, and I inhale the hip up. As you do it, gaze lovingly at yourself and say, “This is the most beautiful move I have ever seen.” And mean it.

I do this after using the restroom, before I walk out the door. It’s one of my Tiny Habits. I do it 3 times, with the breath and the affirmation. It takes 30 seconds. PS, if the mirror bothers you, then don’t look. Just feel it. Here’s a tiny video to show you what I mean.* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bT2ntWMinhU

Yeah, but what if I’m not very good?

That’s in your mind. Really. Even if you are an absolute beginner, the fastest way to hip-drop hell is to tell yourself how much you suck, to apologize on stage for existing. Look, the audience took time out of their busy lives to come and see you. Give them some honey. They don’t care about you—they care about how they feel. And that comes from what you give them: Joy. Verve. Fun.

These are things you can practice. The most beautiful move is whatever you perceive as such. So when you sashay out on stage with joy and verve, when you delight them with your love and generosity, they will respond.

Try the exercise for a week.

Put a note in the bathroom to remind you. See how you feel. Love yourself. Love your body. Love your moves. Love your guests. They will love you back.

Truth.

Love,
Alia

*Adapted from Kenny Werner’s highly recommended book, Effortless Mastery (and eternal thanks to Teadora for suggesting it). Werner writes about jazz improvisation, but his observations apply to us as well.

Music
Etta James, this times with Carlos Santana and John Lee Hooker . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIemkpnMCvg

For folks who like academic writing, here is Hillary Posey’s dissertation Transformation in Belly Dance: Movement, Rhythm, Ritual, and Connection: https://digitalcommons.slc.edu/dmt_etd/6/

.

Thank You!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the USA, a holiday with some terrible colonizer overtones, but I like that it promotes gratitude and thanks.I am grateful for you, for this dance, for all it has brought to my life. Gratitude is pretty powerful stuff. Most of us have learned to focus on what is wrong, on what we lake–on that little red dot of pain.

Focusing on the good widens our attention, and there is a lot of good, even in the midst of some pretty bad things.

You, for instance.

I am grateful for you, for this dance, for all it has brought to my life. 

Thank you.

With love,
Alia

What Dina said III

Greetings!

It’s Fall here in the Northeastern USA–cold and damp abound. The heater is on, warming me and ticking quietly to itself. Thank heavens, because I do not love the cold.

I rather do love Dina, though. I am sure that she has her ruthless side–one does not get to to the top of the heap and stay there without a lot of energy. But she has. And so we find her perspective and opinions interesting. 

Dina performing at the Bellydance Blossom Festival 2018. Photo by Ken Dobb

I’ve posted two articles about things she said or did at the 2018 Bellydance Blossom festival. Now Yasmina Ramzy has thoughtfully compiled a series of videos of Dina’s groundbreaking interview there. And here they are for you. 

Part 1 https://vimeo.com/292498445
Part 2 https://vimeo.com/292511403
Part 3 https://vimeo.com/281554250
Part 4 https://vimeo.com/295100422
Part 5 https://vimeo.com/295104253
Part 6 https://vimeo.com/295106091

In other news, Glorious opens November 4th.
Nov 4-Dec 8
Glorious: A Five-Part Series about the Five-Part Routine

This is the dance I grew up with. I’m delighted to share it with you. 

Each week we will: Highlight one part of the routine. Dance through an entire routine (different every time). Each class will be recorded. Each recording will be available for one week. There will also be a Q&A video/phone conference each week.

Students will learn structure, moods, and technique, as well as practice improvising through the routine. Trust the Chef Premium Earlybird Pricing (until Oct 28): $79 (full price $99). It’s going to be a LOT of fun!

Link goes straight to Paypal. Please copy and paste if the link is not clickable. 
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=WGXCTY2AW22LW

That’s it for now!
Love,
Alia

ONE Day Left for the Bellydance Bundle

I’ve been looking over the material in the Bundle, and I have to say, there is some good stuff in there.

Nadira Jamal’s Improvisation Toolkit. Keti Sharif’s beautiful Traditional Arts of Egypt video seminar. Sahra Saeeda’s complete Journey Through Egypt (JtE) Fundamentals–first time ever as an online class. A month of the Salimpour School. Makeup info, posing for pictures, making beaded appliques–There’s just a ton of stuff. It’s really quite impressive. 

I’m also pleased by the class I’m making for the Bundle–Embodiment: Musicality for Belly Dance. It’s one of the best classes I’ve designed yet. 

Embodiment: Musicality for Belly Dance.

To embody something is to “be an expression of or give a tangible or visible form to (an idea, quality, or feeling).” In the case of belly dance, we seek to embody the music–visually expressing our feeling from the music. 

The problem comes when we don’t feel the music. How are we supposed to express something we can’t even understand? We need a way to enter the structure of the music so we can relax and enjoy our own dance, so we can share our joy with others.

But how do we do that?

Ah! That’s where this course comes in.

In this six-week course, you will learn musical structure; explore rhythm, melody, and phrasing; and practice improvisational templates so you can bask in joyous expression.
.
Week 1: Demystifying the Music
Week 2. Understanding Rhythmic Structure
Week 3. Dancing on the Melody 
Week 4. Interpretation and Texture
Week 5. Using Combo Templates
Week 6. How to Float and Land
.
Each week includes a conceptual breakdown, musical assignment, dance étude, video example, and song suggestions.
.
This course helps students feel the music. 
It helps teachers teach musicality. .

Best of all? It’s FREE to buyers the Bellydance Bundle 2018. 
Yep. A $95 course, FREE
.
That’s a big win-win for everyone. ​

And that’s just one offering. 

The value of this package is through the roof.

Embodiment is $95.  The Salimpour month is $80. JtE is $100. Mahin’s zil course is $125. And that’s only four things. There are 27 contributors, with a combined value over $1,300. That’s a lot of stuff. And a wide variety of stuff! Take a look–you’ll be amazed: aliathabit.com/bundle

Plus you get a nifty little guide to help you decide what to work on first, and a FaceBook group so you can find friends to work on things with you. It’s a really well-designed package.

There’s only ONE problem…

Yeah, only ONE day left. The Bundle closes at midnight on Wednesday October 10 (technically it closes 8AM Thursday Eastern time to cover all the timezones)

So now’s the time.

Take a look, see what you think. I think it’s pretty impressive. And so have a lot of us!

THANK YOU to everyone who has supported the Bellydance Bundle!

Thank you to everyone who has taken a look, followed the Instagram challenge, or taken any notice of this at all ; ). It’s not for everyone, but…

Maybe it is for you.
I invite you to take a look–soon. Before it’s all gone. 

aliathabit.com/bundle

Love,
Alia