It’s 4 am and my brain is burning

July 27, 2009 at 5:42 am (Belly Dancing, Teaching, Transformation, Yoga) (, , , , , , )

Lit. On Fire. WHOOSH. 

Can you hear it crackling?

The smoke, the heat, they keep me from sleeping.  (And it doesn’t help that there’s a tiny monster laying on my chest and his whiskers keep going up my nose.)  So there’s nothing for it but to get up and let the fire burn its course. Fire 1

I taught teaching today, one of my favorite things.  I’m kind of a pyromaniac that way… I like lighting people on fire… especially those who are going to light other people on fire. 

Have I mentioned that some of my Denver friends call me Cat?  Nothing to do with my name, or with the furry monster on my chest. 

It’s short for Catalyst…

Things are whatever they are, and they remain that way until you add a catalyst, and then things start happening.  Something chemical.  A chain reaction.  Heat, light, fire. 


Have I mentioned I love teachers?  One of the best things is teaching teachers, because once lit, they light up others.  Chain reaction.  So very cool. 

Today my students were teachers, Belly Dancing and Yoga.  The first of today’s Big Questions is one of my favorites…  Why Do You Do What You Do?  Dance?  Yoga? 

And people gave some real truths in answer: Because it’s fun; Because in it I find acceptance, of myself and others; Because I feel beautiful; Because I feel at peace; Because it is a way to create and express myself; Because I feel healthier; Because I feel better in and about my body when I do.

Because I love it.

And here’s where I need to say… No.  You don’t.  You do not love yoga, or dance. 

You think you do, but you don’t.  The “it” is not the object of your love… you do NOT love yoga or dance.

What you really love is Who You Are when you do it. 

The dance, the yoga, it is a vehicle.  It is the way, the path, the mechanism.  It is Your way, it is what is working best for you right now, and may always be what works best for you, but it is still just a tool. 

Consider this… when I taught ballroom dance for a living, nobody ever came in because they needed to learn to waltz.  They THOUGHT they needed to learn to waltz… but… did they really?  Was it that they needed a box step and a hesitation and an underarm turn to make their life complete? 

Really, I just desperately NEEEEED a box step! Pleeease!  I am not whole until I have one!

Or did they need what those moves were going to give them?   The ability to go and do something fun with their spouse? The confidence to talk to a beautiful woman and know they were going to be able to entertain her?  The knowledge and relief they would not look like fools on their wedding day?

What you really love is Who You Are and How You Feel when you do it. 

It’s like strawberries.  I say I love strawberries.  But really, is it that I love them?  Or is it that I love the sensation of their taste?  The feeling of delight that comes from looking at their shiny redness? The stimulation of feeling their smooth and stubbly brail exterior? The sweet and sour satisfaction of eating them?  What I love is the sensation of strawberries.  I am grateful for their existence, but what I love is how I experience them.

AzizaLgWhat you love about yoga, about dance, is how you experience yourself and the world and others when you do it.

So… to my teachers I say… what is it, really, that you love?

Because once you know that, you will know what and why you teach.  And then you can really teach it.

… can you hear the crackling? Feel the heat?  Smell the smoke?  I can…



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Is that weird?

August 17, 2008 at 7:40 am (Belly Dancing, Performance, Transformation) (, , , , , , )

It’s a question that comes up a lot.  Sometimes in the form of “I want to use this song to dance to… is that weird?”  Sometimes it’s “I want to borrow from this style”, or “I don’t want to dance for people I know”, or “I think I’d like to perform”, or “I don’t want to tell the people I work with…”  Sometimes it’s about an emotional reaction to a piece of music, or liking or disliking a song.  Sometimes it’s about trying to figure out how the dance fits in your life.

So let me answer the question for you… but the real question.  It’s not “is this weird?” But “am I weird?” 

The answer is Yes.  You are.  You’re weird.

Ok, take a deep breath… you’re weird.  We’re both weird, and there’s no getting around it, so you might as well embrace it.  Once you do, you’ll feel much better, I promise.

This afternoon, a friend and I were looking at websites for universities for a project she’s doing.  We were trying to get a sense of their individual presentation styles, of how they identified themselves and set themselves apart, of what they were doing to attract students and make someone interested in choosing their school over others.  The more schools we looked at, the more we realized they all looked the same… frighteningly so.  Like they’d all been designed by the same person.  Like they’d all been drinking the same Kool-Aid.  It was a little creepy.   I started thinking about why they would do that, every single one trying to look like the others… herd mentality, no one daring to stand out, no one setting themselves apart.

No one daring to be different, lest they look weird.

Rather gave me the willies, actually, everything so uniform from state to state, coast to coast, every one almost exactly alike… 

Did you ever notice that sometimes when you go to a big show, it seems that after a while the dancers all look alike?  Egyptian after Egyptian, tribal after tribal, after a while they begin to run together.  Sometimes a dancer’s look stands out, or her costume, or more rarely her performance, but far too often they begin to blur, one so much like another.

Did you ever notice when someone new and interesting becomes the rage, how everyone begins to look like them?  Some dancer appears on the circuit and soon enough everyone looks like her.  For a while, it was 15 new students starting a week, every one of them asking “can you teach me to dance like Shakira?”  Now everyone wants to be Rachel Brice. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Shakira and appreciate the boost she gave the dance, and I think Rachel Brice is brilliant.  But the world only needs one of each.

And because there is only one of each, they are, by definition, Weird.  Unusual.  Outside the norm.  Not like everyone else.

I mean, think about it, when was the last time you saw someone who was completely, absolutely, thoroughly middle of the road vanilla typical normal… did it make your pupils blow wide open and your heart beat fast?  Did you say, “Oooooh!  I want to be just like THAT!”?

I’m going to guess not.

I’m going to guess not because I already know you’re weird… after all, you’re taking BELLY dance classes, for gosh sake!  There’s proof enough right there. 

So you might as well get used to the idea… seeing as it’s already true, and it’s too late to get out of it.

Ok, now here’s the good part… you can’t be better without being different.  And you certainly can’t be unique without being different.  You’re already a mile down the weird road just by taking up belly dancing, don’t wimp out now and try to be like everybody else.

Remember the Dr. Pepper commercials that went, “Don’t be one of the crowd, be a Pepper!”?  Don’t be one of the crowd, be one of the… er… crowd.  Those commercials always made my head explode.

So I say embrace your weirdness.  Find the weird that is uniquely, precisely, completely you.  Discover the ways you are like those you admire, but also discover the ways you are different from everyone else.  Become the complete constellation of yourself, the unique combination of choices that is truly only you.

The more you can find your unique way with the music, find the dance that is authentic to you, the better your dance will be.  It’s called integrity… how much a thing is consistent with itself.  When you embrace your likenesses and your weirdnesses with equal enthusiasm, when you trust that weird is an important and valuable part of who you are, then you are on your way to being fully, freely, actively and completely yourself.  And that self will be interesting to watch on stage.

It’s like Sungha Jung.  He’s 11.  He’s been playing the guitar for two years.  He takes a couple of days to learn a song to performance quality.  He composes his own music.  He creates his own arrangements. He plays with the soul of someone four times his age. And frankly, that’s just weird.  In a truly wonderful way.

Enjoy these videos of him embracing his weirdness.  Links to more about him below.

Here’s to the truly, deeply, wonderfully weird.  Aziza

Sungha Jung playing Manha Do Carnaval

Sungha Jung playing Kiss From A Rose (Seal)

More videos: Sungha Jung on YouTube

Sungha’s YouTube channel: Sungha Jung


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