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Welcome to my Middle Eastern Dance Blog! I am very happy to have this site up and running. I will be posting new content in order share my 25+ years of experience in studying, teaching and performing Middle Eastern dance. Video clips will cover belly dance technique, combinations, choreography, tools for improvisation, fitness and moving meditations. I also will be writing reviews of books and articles, updates on my dance research and thoughts about dance as a means to share my academic training as a PhD in Dance History and Theory. I would love to hear from you. So please comment and ask questions.

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Benefits of Narcolepsy

I’m working on navigating a new phase in life and my creative response this morning said ‘share’. So as this happened, I dictated, cleaned up the text because you know that software gets most words wrong on a good day and now I’m sending it out into the world.

If this triggers a strong reaction in you, please reach out for professional support.

The Experience

I am coming out of a narcoleptic episode. I’m on my back on the studio floor. It’s cataplexy. When the body/mind releases, slumps. The only thing I can relate it to is the feeling after a really good massage, acupuncture or meditation. Except it is not planned and it takes longer to come out of it.
I’m trying to not fight the slump. I’m in a safe place where I can embrace it. It brings a strong sense of presentness. Working to enjoy that feeling.
My thoughts are the first thing to come back. And to keep them preoccupied I ask the mind to be aware of how the body feels. My neuropathy doesn’t slump. So my nervous system is quite alert but my respiratory and muscular systems are languid.
Then my toes and fingers start to wiggle. Funnily, they are the areas with the most neuropathy. And as the body begins to slowly move, I’m aware that the areas with the most healthy feelings are the last to come back. The areas of chronic pain are still there. Do they not slump fully and/or do they return first?

The Shift

Let’s make this experience beneficial. I slowly move and pause. I bring the slump feeling into the areas of chronic pain. Pausing to let them relax. Training them to use the cataplexy to practice that elusive wellbeing.
I embrace this event for not only what can be experienced as a negative but using it in beneficial ways to make it through with more understanding. And now I have new questions for the next one.
I am thankful that I had space this morning to manage this and so I by the time I taught class I had a peaceful mind and moving body. My students we’re so lovely and supportive. They said I always accommodate their needs and they would accommodate mine.

Find out more about my performance practice project.

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Instagram Videos as Performance Practice

I am finding a new space for my performance practice: Instagram videos. There is a new culture within the Middle Eastern dance community of short performances: videos of amazing dancers in their homes and gardens, wearing very little makeup and costumes. For me, to put out a video in which I am not completely decked out is a truly new experience: ‘this is what I look like when I practice and workout.’

But beyond that is the use of video media as a new way to perform. I have been putting these videos out for since Nov 2019. But the other day I was having trouble coming into presentness. I am working on new approaches to exercise and I just could not access the space. So, I had the thought that I should just video tape my exploration. And strangely presentness happened. It happened with the other videos. But this time it was different. I was not using the video to show what I am doing but I instead using it to get into presentness. It became a new tactic.

I am not sure why through performing I was able to access this presentness. I imagine it is due to my history of being there on stage and being able to access that legacy/practice for a new healing purpose. But there is something to unpack about the act of being witnessed by an audience. And also, that I do not need this audience to respond or even watch.

Find out more about my performance practice project.

If you enjoyed this blog, please support me on Patreon.

Breathing

Abs

As I am rehabbing many different parts of my body, shoulder, thoracic spine and hip, my physio asked me to work on relaxing my abs more. They are quite strong and yes, I often engage them. So, now I am connecting into the column of breath that exists in my core and relaxing those abs throughout the day. Walking around with my abs relaxed.

In the past couple of years since I had my perfect storm, I find tension grows in my torso when I practice performing. I am not sure if it was there before and now I am more sensitive or it is new. In some ways its temporal origins does not matter as I have to deal with it now. But this is something I am still unpacking.

But last week while dancing with relaxed abs, I began imagining an event where I was atmospheric. Meaning, the dance was not the focus of the experience but part of the texture, colour and movement. Then I felt a kinaesthetic connection to Moroccan Shikhat dancers, to their relaxed and weighted moves which they use to dance through long shows. It was lovely and relaxing.

 

Chest

I had already noticed that I was tightening my chest while doing shoulder rehab exercises. I was working on relaxing traps and pecs while shifting the shoulder blade and ribcage connection and strengthening lats and rhomboids. But now I am newly focused on relaxing through the column of breath. Of course, those little intercostals (those little rib cage muscles) were ‘helping’…

But a funny thing happened last week while working on my shoulders (the afternoon before I made this video), I felt a pair of wings open up out of my shoulders. I kept working out. And it was only later that I thought, well that was a very strange. I have never had such an experience. Yes, I have released energy while static stretching where muscles quickly relaxed but this was different. Definitely a shift happened.

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10-day Performer Artist Challenge – Day 2

I meet her through Anaheed shortly after I moved to LA in 1997. I think our first gig was dancing with the Perfumes of Araby at a show in Palm Desert with John Bilezikjian and Var playing. This picture was from Eden, a dance which Djahari asked me to support for EEMED 2005. It was taken by the phenomenal Herb Kissling.

Djahari has been a vital instrument in supporting who I am as an artist. While in LA, we were in each other’s works/shows and kept X-MED going for a time. She is an artist who I respect and has offered invaluable feedback and support. I won’t have started EEMED or continued it without her, Anaheed, Tatianna and Elayssa. In fact, won’t have become the experimental dancer I am without her either. Even though we have not lived in the same city for almost 10 years, our paths keep crossing. It is rare and beautiful thing to know someone who comes from a similar foundation and is on a parallel trajectory through life.

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Twisted Hips Untwisting hips

I am working on my right hip with my physio. She mentioned that my right hip was further back than the left. I wasn’t surprised by the asymmetry but a bit by the fact I hadn’t noticed it before. Then later in the week I noticed my whole torso heads back on the right.

Anywhoo, she asked me to work on firing my psoas before my quads. I lie down with one leg straight and the other bent (knee to ceiling). This involves me imaging weight coming the inner thigh and wrapping diagonally back towards the spine. During my appointment I noticed that I could fire my right psoas quicker and keep the quad relaxed than I could on the left. But while practising today I realised that it’s not the right psoas that is the culprit but the left. And so my hip twist it is because the right is stronger and pulling back while the weaker left hip is left hanging forward.

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10-day Performer Artist Challenge – Day 1

The first picture is with Cassandra and Suzanah. I was a graduate student at UCLA and Cassandra was an undergraduate. I think I meet her in my Middle Eastern dance course. And Suzanah must have been in my studio class. I remember Cassandra telling me she wanted to join a dance company. And since I didn’t have one, I mentioned all the lovely dance companies in Los Angeles. But she said she wanted to be in mine. And so it began.

I don’t know who the photographer is of the first picture. It was a friend of Cassandra’s. This was the beginning of Ya Helewa! Dance Company. So it must have been taken in 1999? This was our nightclub outfit.

The second photo is by Martha Elena Burns who was working on her photography book: Belly Dance: Celebrating the Sacred Feminine. The costume is by Anja. Using Sari fabrics to make beautiful skirts was quite fashionable at the time with Costless coin sets. This was our dance festival outfit. I suspect this costume came before the nightclub one as later other Ya Helewa! members had this one and not the other one.

The third photo is from Cafe Beledy. The lovely community builder Anaheed had a regular event with live music with Var, Rico and Maurice. And she also let us do some early experimental work there too!

The time with them allowed me to explore what it meant to create choreographies for a group. And they supported me on the journey of working between traditional and experimental genres.

If you enjoyed this blog, please support me on Patreon.

10-day Performer Artist Challenge

So, there is a facebook challenge – Every day, select an image from a day in the life of a Performer/Artist – a photo from a day you felt fierce or a memorable moment you’ve had during a performance/show/creation, and post it without a single explanation, then nominate somebody to take the challenge. That’s 10 days, 10 photos, 10 nominations and 0 explanations. Be active, be positive, be passionate… Raise Awareness of the Arts!

I have decided I have time to do this, but immediately felt the need to change the parameters. And this stems from several feelings. First, I am honoured that a couple of friends took a moment to think and nominate me. The act of nomination comes from a heart of love by those who acknowledge other artists they share the world.

But in a bigger environment, it also has quite a strong component of a popularity contest and all its pitfalls. Before the nominations, as I know others have felt, I had (ever so briefly, it’s not like I gave lots of thought to this) but questions arose about why hasn’t anyone nominated me yet? That initial response comes from places of insecurity, desire to be liked, to fit in, etc.  And behind that response comes acceptance, understanding of where those initial feelings come from and that I am also okay not to be nominated. And that healthier space is where I want to inhabit and support.

I also wondered how much awareness this is building about the arts. Is the nomination process self-referential? Circulating around those who already post? How would we include and reach those who are not in the life of performer/artist? I see a new challenge to post. Something about nominating ‘non’-artist friends to post an everyday image from their life as art. The challenge needs some work…. A thought to complete another day.

I am also having difficulty with putting a photo up without an explanation. And I have to iterate, this is my personal feeling and pathway and is in NO way a comment on what people have posted. I respect what people have chosen to post. But at this moment, it didn’t feel right to post solo pictures from shows that meant a lot to me. I do that a lot already as part of marketing my brand. I have also posted many archival pictures recently as my website was re-built. So perhaps I am just filled with that for the moment. I have also been building and reflecting on my needs for collaborations and community.

And so, having a moment in time, I decided to wiggle myself into making the challenge work for me. I want to acknowledge and thank those who have been on this journey with me. And there are a lot of people who are not in my dance pictures and I need to have a think about how to acknowledge them… but I’m going to start in one place, the place with those who have shared the stage with me. And so I will nominate all those in the picture and the photographer.

And I decided to write in my blog about why I choose the picture and what those people meant to me. I also know post my blog will show up Facebook…

This photo is not part of my 10 day collection – but it has Tatianna, Elayssa and Amber. I know others are off camera… Djahari, Cassandra, Kalilah. It was so long ago. I choose this photo because Desert Sin graciously wanted to expand and perform my work “Hole in the Willow” at The Labyrinth Masquerade Ball. I sadly don’t remember who to the photo. But this dance seems to be coming back out for a performance!

If you enjoyed this blog, please support me on Patreon.

New on-line dance classes! I am super excited to start a new project, creating content for my online Middle Eastern dance classes on Patreon.

I’ve decided to do this now for several reasons. I have a passion for dance and have been teaching it for over 20 years and this a way of continuing. On-line classes are a way to engage with people’s needs. There are number of us who to like to practice at home or when it to fits it into our schedules. It is also a way for those of us who have health issues and where working-out at home is super convenient, helpful and sometimes is the only option available. Using patreon is also a way for me to reach those who are interested in learning with me but don’t live in Sydney.

And of course, the technology is definitely here. When I tried to do this 15 years ago, it wasn’t quite there yet. And now it is! I just need to film and post the material! So many tools, techniques, drills and exercises to record, oh my!!!

There are benefits to on-site classes. For instance, feedback is an important component to learning. And so, I have coaching sessions available. We can do those online or in person.

So, as I build content, it’s now a great time to let me know what you’re working on, what you might have questions about. That way I can gear some of this early content for your own current practice. As a thank you, I can offer exclusive access to performance videos and will post more as I dig through my archive. And you will have early access to classes as I post them. And for those can’t wait, I have coaching sessions available now.

If you have enjoyed my classes, workshops, lectures, and/or performances in the past and would like to support me making content, please become a patron. Patreon is a monthly subscription which is billed at the beginning of each month. And you can cancel anytime. Once on my page, you’ll see 4 options (tiers). You are looking for either On-line Teaching Jump Start or Coaching.

Thanks!

How to do a Good Cool Down?

Knowing how to do a good cool down up is just as important as knowing how to do a good warm up. It is important that we have an active transition from moving back into everyday life.

What Goes into a Good Cool Down?

  • 8-12 minutes after you finish your activity.
  • Targets the whole body and major muscle groups. You can also do more in the area you focused on during your workout.
  • Slow down the pace of movement.
  • Use active, passive, and static stretches.

 

Why should I Cool Down?

  • The number one reason to do a Warm Up is to prevent injuries!
  • Raises the heart rate.
  • Gets oxygen into the muscles by opening up blood vessels.
  • Heats up muscle and joints.
  • Decreases tension.
  • Reduces DOMS (Delayed-onset muscle soreness). This is the soreness that can last up to 48 hours after a workout. If after 48 hours the soreness does not decrease, please see your doctor to make sure there is no injury.
  • Allows for a transition from the outside world into dance/exercise space.

 

I will post on Patreon examples of cool down routines. If you would like for me to review your cool down routine, contact me. I go more in-depth in the Injury Prevention course.

If you enjoyed this blog, please support me on Patreon.

How to do a Good Warm Up?

How to do a good warm up is something students and teachers often ask me. And it is certainly something I love to teach. In fact, I have a whole course on Injury Prevention. It is important that we have an active transition from everyday life to get the body ready to move.

 

Think of the muscle as a balloon. When you watch a balloon artist, they will warm up the balloon by gently and repetitively, lengthening it. If they didn’t do this, when they blow it up, it could pop. Muscles are the same way. If you don’t get them a bit pliable before working out, they can tear.

 

What Goes into a Good Warm Up?

  • 8-12 minutes before you start any activity.
  • Targets the whole body and major muscle groups. You can also do more in the area you’ll be focusing on in your workout.
  • The movements should be Dynamic stretches. Don’t think of a Dynamic stretch as a ‘stretch’ in the sense that you hold it. But instead, as a movement. It is a controlled movement that you repeat 8-10 times. You should start slowly and then build up speed and/or range.
  • By the end of the warm up you should have a raised heart rate and as I like to say, feel a be dewy.

Remember: The purpose of the warm up is not to push into your range of motion or hold a stretch. (Overly stretching before a workout can actually lead to weakening the muscle as it has to relax in order to stretch.)

 

Why should I Warm Up?

  • The number one reason to do a Warm Up is to prevent injuries!
  • Raises the heart rate.
  • Gets oxygen into the muscles by opening up blood vessels.
  • Heats up muscle and joints.
  • Decreases tension.
  • Reduces DOMS (Delayed-onset muscle soreness). This is the soreness that can last up to 48 hours after a workout. If after 48 hours the soreness does not decrease, please see your doctor to make sure there is no injury.
  • Allows for a transition from the outside world into dance/exercise space.

 

I will post on Patreon examples of warm up routines. If you would like for me to review your warm up routine, contact me.

If you enjoyed this blog, please support me on Patreon.

Welcome to my new website!

Thanks for visiting me here. As you may have seen on Facebook and Instagram, I have been digging through my photo archive. That is because I have been working with Cindy Muñoz to rebuild this website to create a site that represents who I am now as an artist and showcases the various styles of dance and roles I take on. I also wanted it to be a container for my archive.

 

The website is part of a bigger project, one in which I have returned to the reliance on the independent dance sector as a source of income. I am once again a free agent. And with that comes a rebuilding. I am excited about these new unfoldings.

 

I have been wanting to teach on-line for years. In fact, I wanted to make DVD but timing, technology and cost just never quite connected until now. I look forward to connecting with those who I used to teach in Los Angeles, Austin and Sydney and making new ones. But first I must unpack the technology and make content.

 

Over the past year, archiving and re-deploying my past has become important project. It is not about living in the past but learning to make it work for me now. I have several projects working in this area that come from different pathways. One has been understanding who I am as an artist with disabilities. And the other is building in Sydney a community of like-minded artists.

 

The website is also a space for me to present different aspects of my choreographic practice: my work as a Middle Eastern dancer and as a contemporary/experimental/inter-cultural dancer. Oh those terms! Those while get pulled apart another day. Middle Eastern dance has been my bread and butter for over 25 years. My choreographic processes have gone through a couple of radical shifts and in fact have changed over the past 3 years due in large part to developing a new inter-disciplinary process. Working this way has shifted my dance in ways I could have never imagined. But that is the point.

 

I look forward to using this platform as a way to express and create. I also would love to hear from you.

 

If you enjoyed this blog, please support me on Patreon.