Old MacDonald’s Daughter – the movie!

Here I am dancing at Saqra’s Showcase in November, 2009 in Oregon. Enjoy!

Dust & Feathers

This is a Cane dance done with feather dusters & a serving tray – part of the Act II Tableau in Rockin’ the Casbah last March. This is my favourite dance! Valery & Amber made the feather dusters. I sewed the aprons. Enjoy!

Teaching Q & A: the Case of the Struggling Student


Do you have any advice for teaching a student who is really struggling? In every class, there is always a student who just doesn’t get it. I tend to spend a disproportionate amount of time with them, when the rest of the class also deserves my attention. How do I catch the slower student up without holding back the rest of the class?

Nita’s Answer:
Keeping in mind that each student is an individual with a different level of mastery, try to spend the same amount of time with each student, correcting each  to the level she is performing at – not to the level she “should” be at, nor to the level of the class she is enrolled in. If a beginner student has enrolled herself in the intermediate or advanced class, you must still correct her as a beginner.

I find that the difficulty with learning any new complex movement usually stems from a weakness in one of the foundation movements that it is built upon. In other words, if the rest of the class is learning a complex movement and one student just isn’t getting it, you will need to identify the weak foundation movement and offer a correction to that movement (not the more complex one.)

For example, if you are teaching the class horizontal figure 8 hips but she is still struggling with isolating the hips in a horizontal slide, than of course she is not going to be able to do the figure 8 correctly, hard as she might try. In this case, you should correct her on the weak fundamental movement (the hip slide) rather than trying to “catch her up” to the rest of the class doing the complex movement (horizontal figure 8).

Say something like this: “Lets break this down. We know that the horizontal figure 8 is built on the hip slide, so lets master that first. When you’ve got that, it’ll be a snap to build on it and do the figure 8”.  Give her the job of practicing the hip slide and quickly move on to the next person.  It is then up to her to take your advice or not.

Perhaps…the movie!

Observation & Determination: a balancing act

I took last week off from my daily yoga practice. Why? I didn’t get out of bed in time. Simple as that. Did I need a week off? Did I need some extra sleep? Or maybe some extra snuggle time with my beloved?

This morning I returned to it feeling somehow emotionally and mentally refreshed from the break. It didn’t feel like a chore or a commitment that I had to live up to. It felt like a reunion. It was lovely.

On the DVD I was working with, the instructor (Colleen Saidman) said something that resonated with me and that I have been thinking about all morning. She said:

“have greater observation and less determination.”

She was talking about relaxing into the one-legged forward bend. She was talking about allowing the muscles to lengthen and the back to open. She was talking about not forcing yourself into the pose…rather, give in to it and observe how your body feels. She was talking about being mindful.

This pleased me, because this is also the “secret ingredient” in Middle Eastern dance. It’s the secret that I give to my students in their very first dance class, and then probably in just about every single dance class after that. Okay, everybody – in unison now, repeat after me! “relax the muscles that are not actively involved in creating the movement!” (can you hear me smiling?)

In a hip slide, I tell them to put their hands on their waists and feel (internally observe) the muscles working there. Which ones are actively engaged? Which ones are not? Students hear the words “opening”… “giving in”… “allowing”… “feeling.” They hear me tell them not to force the movement; but rather, give in to it and allow it to happen. Observe it. I ask them to pay attention in their bodies. I ask them, “where is your weight?” and “where is your center of gravity?” We do drills while being mindful of how our weight is placed over the heel or over the ball of the foot – being aware of the changes in our center of gravity and our core as it adjusts to different physical attitudes and levels. I ask them to be Mindful, pay Attention, Give In, be Aware, AND have to Purpose, Direction & Intention in their movements. Yes! All at the same time!

Observation & Determination: it’s quite the balancing act!

This led me to think about mindfulness and the difference between observation & determination in life in general. I thought about observation in regards to the absence of determination: passively allowing life to flow past without active participation. I then thought about determination in regards to the absence of observation: aggressively pushing ahead to the exclusion of all else. I thought about how balance between these two is key to a full and emotionally satisfying life. And how it can be so difficult! About how sometimes we need more of one and less of the other, and how we always have to pay attention to where our weight is balanced on that see-saw.

Observation vs Determination has played a role in my thoughts about where to go with the dance school. My life with Celebrations Bellydance had been unbalanced, with determination on the heavy end of the scale. I am thinking of the years where I worked full-time at the college and taught 6 & 7 dance classes per week on top of that. I was not mindful of my own health. I was aggressively determined to do it all – to have it all – at the exclusion of all else. Quitting dance would be equally out of balance. Dance is part of the make up of my soul. My work over the next little while is to find out what the balance between observation and determination with Celebrations Bellydance will look like.

It has also played a role in my weight-loss journey.

It all comes down to that little nutshell, doesn’t it – finding and maintaining balance between observation & determination. Mindfulness.

How has the balance of observation, determination and mindfulness played a role in your life? 



Habibity – the movie!

Habibity, the video! Choreographed by “yours truely” and performed by our very fabulous Saba Middle Eastern Dance Ensemble at the Yukon Arts Centre last April!!

Choreographer’s notes about Habibity are on this blog post.

Birthday with the family

I was in such a good mood that day – all the people popping into the office & wishing me a happy birthday – it was awesome. I was so happy that I decided that I would go into town and buy a dress that I had my eye on.  I had actually bought a new “birthday” dress only last Monday – a tropical-hot dress/shrug/earrings & shoes! But this 2nd dress was still in my mind (and behind the counter waiting for me, LOL!) A black & cream dress with a twirly skirt – I loved it! So after work I bopped on down and picked it up. I wore it to dinner with Kelly & the kids that night. Who could turn down a dress with a flare like that? Not me!


 Later that afternoon Val dropped in with greetings and a fun gift from the dance troupe which is inside the balloon (how the heck?) and stayed for a glass of wine.


Kelly, Michael, Emilie & I went out for sushi for supper, where there were presents from the kids (quilting books, soaps & gift certificates! my favourite things!) Much good food, tea & laughter was had by all. 🙂


 After supper, we drove to the college to pick up the signs from the side of the road (see previous posting, “turning 50 at the office”). Michael & Emilie had some fun with the signs along the way, running down the middle of the street with them & honking the horn! What a goofy family!

The perfect day ended with cake (of course!)

Here is my  family. I am so blessed to have such a thoughtful and caring husband. He makes me feel special every day. And how did I manage to raise a son with so much sense of humour? He sure takes after his dad that way! And his partner, Em, grows more in my heart each day. What a wonderful family I have – I love them so much! ♥


At Last – the video!

I finally purchased software that would allow me to cut pieces out of our show DVDs. I would love to be able so share some of my work! Here, at last, is At Last. Please read all about it here. This is Fawn Fritzen singing while I interpret in movement. Our MC is Doug Rutherford. Enjoy!

Turning 50 at the office

I meant to post this last night…

Lalala! Happy Birthday to meeeee, today I’m fif-teeee!  Was greeted at work with a forest of happy birthday signs along the road leading to the office, and posters of me on the walls. And flowers. And “old-lady” jewelry (which I am obligated to wear all day, LOL!) People went to a lot of trouble and I am feeling very blessed today!

Here is the sight that greeted me this morning:

It couldn’t be…

what?They wouldn’t DARE! 

Oh my GOD!!!


He did!

Awwwwww – that is very sweet! I love you, too, honey!

And when I got into the building, I see these papering the walls up and down the hallways:

Sure smells good in here! Flowers from Kelly:

And after getting back from a lovely lunch with my co-workers (thanks, guys!), flowers from Emilie & Michael (delivered in person by Em!)

Also at my desk: trinkets & beautiful jewelry:






I was speechless. Me. Do you believe it? Yes, I was!

Thank you to my wonderful husband whom I ADORE for being the one responsible for making the signs and thank you to my friends Maureen & Paul for pounding in all the signs in the middle of the night. Thank you to my co-workers for the lunch and special desk treats and generally making my birthday at the office very special.

Lalala! Happy Birthday to me! 50 kinda rocks, ya know?