The last couple of years have brought an almost insurmountable amount of chaos and WTF moments in our lives. Many of us are running around trying to fit 49 hours of “stuff” into 24 hours, all while staying mostly sane! Add to that the endless media feed, pressures from society, work, family, etc., and it can be overwhelming at best.
What exactly is mindfulness? It seems to be a popular buzzword online, and there is a lot of information out there on how to achieve it. I encourage everyone to research it to find what it means to you and how you might benefit, as I believe it is a somewhat personal thing. I try different methods to practice it, there’s a ton of information available to that end. My nutshell understanding is that it is about finding ways to quiet a chaotic mind.
One might wonder what the heck does ATS® belly dance have to do with all of this? For me, it has brought some focus to a small slice of my day. As with many, meditation, art, and a trusted and small circle of close friends have all helped ground me. One of my favorite exercises in mindfulness, though, comes through this special dance that is ATS®. It’s a set slice of time each week that I can depend upon to bring a bit of peace and freedom to my consciousness with a bit of structure - a place I can challenge my body and mind in ways nothing else does.
I can put the daily grind on pause for a few hours each week and escape to a world of empowering movement to stimulating and delicious music as well as practice gratitude for a body and culture in which I’m free to dance. I give thanks regularly and through the moving meditation in class to having space to dance in, philosophies behind the lotus (check out Thich Nhat Hanh for more on that), surface to dance on, ancestors, teachers and those with whom I share the dance.
I find purpose in studying (yes, I still train and take classes/workshops when I can!) and teaching a format that gives me a greater appreciation for the miracle that is our bodies and has brought joy to folks the world over. When I see students first walk into class, maybe with a bit of uncertainty/apprehension, and with each week build even a tiny bit of progress and a little more light in their eyes, it makes me realize what a benefit it is to me to be able to share and enjoy this dance. Oh yeah, and drumming! More on that in another blog post!
ATS® belly dance is different than other styles of belly dance in that it relies on an established format of steps, movements and concepts with non-verbal cues where dancers must rely on one another to create art in the moment. The thing about art, is that it’s not always perfect…and the most beautiful art is often imperfect! With ATS®, since it’s improv, there’s certainty in spontaneity. Meaning, there’s certainty in the steps/movements, formations and concepts but spontaneity in the unplanned sequence of those movements and gracefully moving through occasional slip-ups while continuing to dance.
The slip-ups diminish as we progress in our studies, training and practice; but as I've found with myself, peers, and my teachers, there are moments where things don't go perfectly. Seeing and experiencing those mishaps, and most importantly how to recover smoothly, is all part of this dance and gives me a bit of comfort to know that while I try to do my best to "get it right", that it's okay if I get thrown off course...as long as I keep dancing!
As the material becomes ingrained and you execute with less thought, you enter what’s termed “divine flow” – meaning you are in a conscious moving meditative state. It’s a perpetual exercise in trust, connection and putting the time and effort into learning, practicing and polishing the material to get to the treasure that is being able to dance in synch with others. It’s about being kind to and patient with yourself whilst learning, realizing we all absorb and process the information at different rates, taking each class as an opportunity to improve, and being vulnerable while working towards a common goal. And being kind and patient with others as you get more experienced by being a strong, encouraging leader and dance mate. It looks and feels like growth in acknowledging and moving on from our mistakes – taking them as lessons - and being gracious and humble with our successes. Kind of sounds like we can apply this to life outside the studio, doesn’t it?
Classes with BABD are fun, safe and encouraging, combining specific instruction with the absolute basic steps, body positioning and muscles used in Level 1 and once students become proficient, we take what was learned, and gradually build upon the basics up to more advanced concepts, movements and steps in Level 2 and 3.
If you’re in the Richland/Tri-Cities, WA area and are interested in becoming part of this fulfilling dance, check out when the next Level 1 class session starts at www.blueamberbd.com! If you don’t live in Southeastern Washington, see the FCBD® Sister Studio listing at https://fcbdstudiomanager.com/ or contact me to help you find an ATS® teacher in your area!