Be kind. Be accountable. Be present.

Be kind.  Be accountable. Be present.

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These are my three hopes, dreams and aspirations for the New Year. 2018 was amazing…so much incredible design work that I took part in at my office, Studio for Spatial Practice, and so many memorable dance experiences…

  • New students in our Art in Motion family, teaching dynamic children and adults both at the studio and at Point Park.
  • Dance performances throughout the year including beautiful weddings, enriching cultural festivals, and both the Silk Screen and PSO galas.
  • Dancing with my studio partner and friend Luciana on more than one occasion!
  • Dancing with my talented Troupe Taraatha ❤️ and my great friend Jemeena!
  • Dancing with my daughter and seeing her unbridled love for dance!

With all of these wonderful experiences, I think I left myself a bit ungrounded and unable to be fully present in the moment..unfair to myself and others.

In 2019, I want to try my best to speak with compassion, to teach with patience and love, and to work fully grounded in the moment!

What are your hopes and dreams for the new year? Whatever they may be, I wish you peace, love and light in 2019!

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Beginning ATS with Jenn Senn

We are excited to announce a new addition to the Pittsburgh Bellydance Academy’s instructors and curriculum! Starting this Thursday we will be  featuring

10365997_10152447832694513_5745783830414689290_nBeginning ATS® with Jenn Senn – Thursdays, 6:00-7:00 pm

American Tribal Style or ATS® Belly dance is an improvisational form of bellydance that focuses on a community or a tribe of dancers of all shapes, sizes or age versus the soloist. The dance is created “in the moment” by a group of dancers. Level One ATS® will focus on beginner basic move vocabulary, the concept of lead and follow in a group, drills and an introduction to zills (finger cymbals). Class format follows the Fat Chance format. Wear comfortable clothing or your fancy 10 yard plus skirt. Zills if you have them!

Classes are $15 drop in or a class card at 10 for $100

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Moving on…

It’s been awhile since I posted as just myself. I am in the midst of clearing out my desk at my job of 13 years and am preparing to move on to a new stage of my life, working with friends of mine who happen to be exceptional designers. I am excited to begin, feeling nostalgic of my time here, and full of joy for what lies ahead.

1377003_10151637707782105_1950850622_nI am trying to create a new mindset for this new beginning and ran across these 10 rules of advice from painter Richard Diebenkorn. I love everyone of them and think they are appropriate to everyone, not just designers or dancers!

Notes to myself on beginning a painting

  1. attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.
  2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued — except as a stimulus for further moves.
  3. Do search. But in order to find other than what is searched for.
  4. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.
  5. Dont “discover” a subject — of any kind.
  6. Somehow don’t be bored — but if you must, use it in action. Use its destructive potential.
  7. Mistakes can’t be erased but they move you from your present position.
  8. Keep thinking about Polyanna.
  9. Tolerate chaos.
  10. Be careful only in a perverse way.

The monster within…

The monster within…

I am just back from the 2013 Miami Bellydance Convention. This is my second year participating in this large scale event, and this is the second year that I return home feeling incredibly inspired, completely overwhelmed, amazingly awed, depressed, and basically completely jumbled!

Why the contradicting emotions you ask?

The workshops (with Saida, Jillina, and Zoe) and shows were amazing, and the competition was intense. The entire event was extremely well organized and ran without a noticeable hitch. I learned so much in such a short time. However, with all of these amazing things happening around me, I still let the negative voices run rampant through my head.

Voices: You aren’t good enough to be here. You aren’t the right look. You haven’t practiced enough.

Rational me: Shut up voices.

Voices: No.

and back and forth and back and forth…

So I came across this quote,

Slide2And I am going to choose to live by it for today. I am going to revel in the fact that I can teach what I learned to my amazing students. I am going to revel in the knowledge that this event will make me work harder for next year. I am going to revel in the understanding that with training and dedication, I can and will raise the caliber of my dance while still loving the journey!

What are you going to revel in?

Mindfulness and the Now

What time is it? Now, NOW, always NOW!

Fifteen years of my early childhood training is in Chinese Kenpo, a martial arts form that focuses on joining the mind and body with each other so that movements can be executed correctly. More than anything, Kenpo was the way I learned to be in the moment, the now, from a very young age. When practicing defensive movements with a partner, if you are not paying attention to where you are or where your opponent is, you will most certainly be entertaining a few bumps, bruises, or worse!

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Knowing where your opponent is...
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Knowing where your opponent is…

I loved the moving meditations that we learned (katas). I loved that the longer I practiced and studied, the more I could understand where my body was, what my exact reach was, what every part of my body was capable of doing. When I practiced my katas, there was nothing else. Only me, the movement, and the ground that I touched or pushed off of throughout. I now realized katas allowed me to turn off my brain and to control my wandering thoughts. There were no regrets about the past or pondering about the future. There was only the NOW.

“Life is available only in the present moment.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

Lately, I have been considering these old lessons in relationship to my dance practice. As a dancer, how can we truly be present in the moment? How can  “the now”  enhance our dance? Here are a few of my own thoughts on attaining mindfulness in my own dance and in my classes with my students.

Janim says: it is incredibly important to know where your feet are wehn spinning with a veil or two!
Janim says: it is incredibly important to know where your feet are when spinning with a veil or two!

1. When we practice our traveling steps, where our feet go, we go. It seems like an obvious statement, but it is too easily overlooked. Additionally, if we pay attention to where our weight is distributed, we know which foot is free to move forward or back. When you are feeling a disconnect and not sure where to go or what to do, return to your feet! Check how your feet are touching the ground right now..is it a full connection? Are you off-balance? A small adjustment in your grounding may be all you need to bring the wowza back to your performance.

Sandra, mid hip circle
Sandra, mid hip circle

 2. Breathe in and breathe out. Focus only on the in and out of your breath. Now connect an inhalation and an exhalation to a movement. I teach this in class with extra-large horizontal hip circles. Breathe in deeply while raising arms up over your head and starting your hip circle to the front. Your hips are moving at the same rate that you are breathing in. Exhale and complete the second half of your circle. Did you puff out the air quickly and swing your hips around quickly? Did you slowly exhale and drag out the movement to match? Try varying your inhale and exhale speeds to see what dynamic textures that you can create!

3. Turn off the inner voices. When I used to take tai chi, our first exercise was to sink the mind down into the mind-body, which resided somewhere in your gut. This is useful when practicing dance because there is nothing worse than trying to learn a new combination while thinking of the 20,000 things you need to do this afternoon! Or performing at an event, and suddenly wondering, do you think the audience is bored? The mind-body is not thinking of the past or the future. The mind-body is fully engaged in the present and itself. It senses where you are and what each part of you is doing.

To put this into dance practice, when your mind starts to wander or you hear the critical voices, sink that mind down into your gut through a downward movement…perhaps a long series of slow and purposeful hip drops, down, down, down. Turn inward with your focus. Internal, stationary movements and isolations linked with our breathing can help to bring the focus back into the moment. Close your eyes. Let your movements build from one another, growing and traveling to other parts of your body. Flow like water from one movement to the next.

And with those helpful hints, I will leave you with the words of the late Bruce Lee.

Empty your mind, be formless. shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.–Bruce Lee

And if you enjoyed this post or have any questions, please feel free to contact me!

 

Bellydance State of the Union

Last night, I had my mentoring call with the lovely Lisa Zahiya of Asheville, and it was suggested that it is about time for me to undertake a little Bellydancer State of the Union.

Over the last six months, Lisa has been helping me to establish my bellydance business as well as to develop a personal practice for myself. Most of the business goals I had established have been met, the personal practice goals are a wee bit lagging, but there has been improvement. I do tend to struggle with them, but she helps me understand how to break them down into manageable tasks.

Dancing cat
Goal 745: Teach cats bellydance entrance piece with veil. Too ambitious perhaps?

Breaking down goals into realistic and manageable tasks is such a positive motivator. It makes you realize that there is truly a path towards your goal.

OK! Now time to evaluate the event planning, the class teaching, and the performances, and the business development of the past few months. I created this spreadsheet below (looks boring, I know) so that I can track profits/ expenses, time spent, and emotional reactions to each of my activities.

BD SOTU

What we want to see is where is the most emotional benefit derived from as well as the most profit. I have a feeling that this chart, once entered and analyzed will lead me to drop something or other or to consolidate. Because if it isn’t fun and rewarding, then what is the point?

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Continuing your dance education

While I already follow a bellydance practice schedule for myself in addition to teaching my own classes, I have always thought that adding other dance or fitness classes helps to polish and refine my dance. I also find them to be stimulating, creativity-generating, and just plain fun.

But how do you decide what classes to take? Classes can begin to add up especially once you add in your expenses to train with master teachers in workshops and private lessons. I came across this article today taken from The Ballerina Project blog.

If you havent visited the site yes, be ready for breathtakingly gorgeous photos of dancers in the urban realm. You can also find some rather good advice for dancers in general. I particularly enjoyed this article and her tips on navigating the wealth of classes available!

In a quick summation, she states,

1.Know your background. You should know what style of training you’ve had thus far. If you are not sure, talk to your previous coaches, read their biographies; that should at least give you a sense. This has to do with my first suggestion of going to instructors who teach something different from what you’re used to. The nature of experiencing a different approach, phrasing, or philosophy every teacher has is akin to working with a new ballet master or choreographer, and one of the best things you can do when preparing yourself for dancing various types of ballets.

2.In ballet, we always improve. So when you go to a new class, do so with an open mind and embrace everything you can learn and add to the arsenal of your dance vocabulary. Don’t just follow the order of movements, pay attention to details: the musicality of a combination, the amount of attack a teacher might expect in a step, the corrections they give mid-way…

3.Don’t forget what you already know. Just because this teacher does not stress the use of port de bras as much as your old one used to doesn’t mean you should forget it. Keep all that, anything it might be, and add the new layers. Try to identify points of similarities and points of differences. If a movement is taught differently you cannot disregard. Only directors can afford such attitude. You can’t. Master it both ways.

4.Another thing I find very beneficial is going a level up, if there is one, or a level down, of your own (those going down – less often). For younger people the increased challenge, excitement of performing the fancier elements, and often, being in the presence of an admired dancer are but priceless in the development into a professional. For pros and older students going a level down provides an excellent space for re-checking those basics, taking more time with execution, or taking it easy after an injury or a break.

5.Don’t forget to attend your rarer, but all-important class of jazz, hip-hop or whatever. Not only is cross training good for your muscles, it’s good for your coordination, can do no harm to your ballet form (if there is one) and can open up room for movement previously unexplored with the ingrained repetition of ballet.

Enjoy!!!!