Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Keeping Passion Alive in your Relationship

Hasan and Lisa at a recent show that involved audience participation
Photo credit: Josh Edwards

This post is for bellydancers who are in intimate partner relationships.  Like me, there may be some of you out there who struggle with balancing the needs of your partners with the needs of your troupe!  Here are just a few of the things MY partner, Hasan, tolerates (I am guessing some of this will sound familiar):  work vacation days used up for bellydance events, weekend get-aways starting on Saturday morning because troupe rehearsal is on Friday night, listening to endless fangirl stories about amazing dancers, and requests for back rubs after hours of dancing with ATS® arms. 

We spend a lot of time practicing our dance, perfecting our technique, and bonding with our troupe mates.  Here are some ideas for things you can do to focus on your partner.

1-      Turning towards each other

“Turning towards each other” behaviors will increase connection and trust with your partner.   In every relationship, people make “bids” for each other’s attention, affection or support.  This "turning towards each other" is the basis for emotional connection, romance, passion and a good sex life.  These bids for attention can be small, like a smile, or bigger, like leaving a voice mail when you know your partner is going to have a stressful day.   Rather than thinking of romance as a lavish gift, think of romance as flourishing in the everyday, little things—all of these “turning towards” behaviors.  Lavish gifts in the absence of these small and constant expressions of love can feel insincere. 

2-      Solve your Solvable Problems

There are some problems you may never solve… differences in political beliefs, ex-partners who interfere, or if your partner is a morning person and you are a night owl.  So how do you solve your solvable problems?

First, if necessary, adjust the way you are thinking about your partner.  Trust that your partner has your interests in mind by behaving as if you believe it, even during a disagreement. 

Second, when you bring up a problem, use this format:  I feel _________ about (what)       and I need ____________.  For example,  I feel concerned about the car registration and I need you to send in the renewal tomorrow. Framing things like this describes your feelings and sets up your partner to respond in a positive way.

3-      Self-Expansion Theory

Self-expansion theory posits that people have an innate inclination towards growth and towards expanding their self-concept.  One of main ways we do it is through our relationships.  In other words, satisfying relationships are those where partners help each other grow as individuals. 

Close relationships open up new worlds to people.  Small parts of yourself change and become more like your close friends and partners.  My partner works in advertising and I now talk about being "on brand" which is a concept I would have never used before I met him two years ago.  Relationships not only help shape our identities; they also provide us with shared resources.

Opportunities for self-expansion are highest early in new relationship and as self-expansion decreases so does relationship satisfaction.  Therefore, self-expansion theory also explains how to increase relationship satisfaction- ask couples to participate in new and exciting things together.

Terri and Daniel in Mexico

4-      Prioritizing Sex

Touch is such an important part of love and sex.  The United States is a very “low touch” culture.  There are actually researchers who study how often couples touch each other in different countries.  A psychologist, Sidney Jourard, studied couples around the world who were out to dinner and recorded how often they touched each other in an hour.   Couples in Paris touched each other 115 times- not a surprise!   In Mexico City couples touched each other 185 times an hour.  In London, the average number of times couples touched each other was zero; and in Florida, 2 times an hour.  In the USA, touch is a much underutilized strategy for increasing love and passion in a relationship!

If sex is important to you in your relationship, create a deliberate intention to cultivate a rewarding sex life.  This starts with positive self-talk.   Thinking or saying you are too tired and stressed to have sex contributes to creating that reality.  Prioritizing your relationship including the sexual part might seem like an impossible task with dance, busy jobs, children, pets, relatives, bills, etc.  However, once you start prioritizing time alone with your partner you will find that you have more energy, are less stressed, and have a greater overall life satisfaction than when you didn’t make time. 

I would love to hear what other dancers do to “keep the passion alive.”  For more info on this topic: www.gottmanblog.com.

xoxoxo, Lisa

Monday, August 3, 2015

Dancing to the Beat of Your Own Drum

My niece, Elizabeth is a very special child.  As you can see in the video, she dances to the beat of her own drummer.  My sister who is her mother and her loving aunts (Lisa and I) encourage that behavior.  We want an independent, sassy child who expresses herself without the societal pressures of fitting in.  We want her to express her authentic voice and be celebrated for it.

One of the reasons that many of us have chosen to belly dance is because we want to dance to the beat of our own drum.  Let's face it, this choice isn't a particularly sanctioned one in our society.  Many people do not understand our love of costumes, desire to be on stage or need for this particular community, the one that we find only in our dance sisters and brothers.

My last performance as an Egyptian style belly dancer where solo improvisation is the norm.

Yet, for American Tribal Style® dancers, we make a choice to be in community when we dance.  Our art is one of group improvisation at it's core.  When we dance in this style, we agree to put the needs of the group ahead of the needs of ourselves.  We commit to supporting our sisters and brothers, following their lead and being there for them in class, in rehearsal and on the stage.  We agree to dance to the beat of the group's drum!

Dancers at a Third Eye Tribal class practicing as a group.

In order to do this successfully, we need to be able to work cooperatively, putting our own needs aside at times for the needs of the group.  Some concrete examples of this are:
  • agreeing to different music or costuming than is your first choice
  • performing to the skill level and movement knowledge of the least experienced member of your group so that everyone shines
  • not intentionally leading moves that others in your group do not know or are not proficient in executing
  • allowing others to express their opinions when planning a set or making a decision
  • encouraging less vocal members of your dance group to share their opinions
  • being generous about allowing others to take the lead during performances
Although these suggestions seem like common courtesy or normal adult behavior, sometimes in the heat of the moment and stress of interpersonal relationships, we forget them or don't even realize that we are ignoring them, or in other words, dancing to the beat of our own drum. 

I just wrote an article called "Against the Flock" for the most recent issue of The ATS® Magazine discussing difficult students.  You can get it here:  The ATS® Magazine

Many of the problems related to "difficult students" center around dancers who need to dance to their own drum but have landed in a group improvisational dance style where that just isn't a possibility.  The same problematic behaviors that instructors find in their classroom can be found in dance troupes.

How do you cultivate community in your dance classes and troupes?  How do you encourage the members to dance to the beat of the group's drum?  We would love to hear from you!

Happy Shimmies!