Whatchu Lookin’ At?

“In 1987, Francine Shapiro was walking in the park when she realized that eye movements appeared to decrease the negative emotion associated with her own distressing memories…”

Thus was born Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, aka EMDR. The way it works (in a very tiny nutshell), involves holding challenging memories in the mind’s eye, while stimulating the brain bilaterally (crossing the midline of the body), by moving the eyes, tapping on the body, or using electronic stimulators held in the hands that buzz back and forth between the hands. 

Imagine my surprise, back in 2011, to realize that EMDR was, at its heart, belly dance gaze. Look with the eyes to one side. Look to the other side. Drop the gaze. Look up through the lashes. 


Belly dance twinkling! 

In fact, everything about belly dance crosses the midline—from the way we use our hands to, like, every single classic move. Circles? Check. Infinities? Check. Shimmies? Check. And so forth. Some things are on one side, but we change sides on the regular, so there you go. 

This was when I first started to realize just how secretly special belly dance is. Since then I have been continually amazed at how the cultural dance (improv, agency, interoception, etc) is this paragon of healing and nervous system regulation. I now fold in more and more Somatic Experiencing® (SE) stuff and highlight these properties of the dance now in all my classes. 

So anyway, let’s talk about the gaze. 

Here is a tiny video I made about that flirtatious belly dance gaze. I call it “Twinkling on Crack.” It’s pretty short, but you’ll get the idea even more quickly. 

Twinkling is all about personality and playfulness. Just casting the eyes (not the head), from side to side, dropping the gaze and looking up, is fun. It makes you smile and feel cute, no matter your gender. And when you consider how much time we spend staring at ever-shrinking screens (hey smartphones, I’m lookin’ at you), anything that loosens up the eyes is good stuff. 

Letting the gaze rove around a space, lingering on whatever it enjoys, is settling to the body all by itself. Circling the eyes at the far edges of their orbit, changing the gaze back and forth between near and far, all these things are healthful for the eyes and the body (my most recent eye exam, my far vision had improved, while my near vision was the same, plus my astigmatism had also improved). 

In addition, gaze direction is a huge subject area. In dance (and life), gaze direction gives our movement strong focus, and small changes of the angle of the head completely change our affect. 

Note: moving the eyes can be uncomfortable, especially if they don’t move around much in regular life. So that kind of makes it even more important to do. But also, take it gently. Just do it for short periods, like 10 seconds at a time. Here is a video of yoga eye exercises and relaxation to help you feel better when your eyes get tired. 

So this week, in your practice, I invite you to use your gaze in directed and flirtatious ways. Really look in the direction you are going when you travel. In daily life, play with the gaze—focus your eyes far and pointed, and far and wide, near and pointed, and near and wide. Roll them around in their sockets—slowly—in both directions. Bonus points for eye-infinities ; ). 

And when you dance? TWINKLE!

Here’s some music for that—a little YT playlist…



Here are some other ways to use your gaze–and to feel better!

DreamBeat–Fun Drum Solo Improvisation
​Five Weeks, July 28 – Aug 25. Tuesdays at 4-5 PM ET.
A five-week adventure into drum solo interpretation and intuitive movement. Drum solo structure, technique, and exploration of various rhythms. We will use Middle Eastern drum solos as well as fusion and surprises! Registration is now open.

Tuning In–Medicine for Modern Times
Five Weeks, August 7 – September 4. Fridays, 4-4:30 PM ET
This half-hour class comes from a Somatic Experiencing® (SE) perspective. It’s is a half-hour chillout session focused on nervous system regulation. It is designed to ease anxiety and restore wellbeing. We use gentle movement, breath, and body-based strategies to bring calm in the here and now. These strategies can be used any time to help the body feel more relaxed and grounded.

I look forward to dancing with you!
All my love,

PS remember, we have a coronavirus summer special on all Teachable courses.​
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