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Make it impossible to say “no”…

posted in: advice, performance tips, Teaching | 3

I tried to link this directly, but for some reason the link was completely jacked and wouldn’t show me the essay on its own. I didn’t want to link you just to the blog and then make you scroll to look for the article in question, so I have posted it here in its entirety. But please stop by the original poster’s blog at http://tipsfromthehip.blogspot.com/ and express your appreciation if you like the essay.

In the article below, really like the idea of framing new ideas in such a way that it is not a black and white “fail/succeed”. As a teacher, my instincts are often to give my students all these up-front provisos and caveats and warnings when they are trying something new, to try and help them understand that it may be difficult and to encourage them to not to be frustrated by the attempt should they not “get it” right away. But really, aren’t I just setting up an expectation for frustration or failure by planting that seed at the outset? Would it be better to practice the “Daughers of Rhea Way”, and simply say “try it”? Read on and let me know what you think…

Melina’s Tray of Candles

From birth I was thrown into all aspects of belly dance – both the art and the business of it. I naturally accumulated skills because I had no choice: my mother knew the secret of making it impossible to say no. I was thrown into it like a newborn is thrown into a tub of water and finds it can swim to the surface.

Mom never prefaced anything by saying: “This is a hard thing to learn. If you practice every day, maybe you’ll master it enough to do it on stage.” Instead she said “Hey Melina, come in here and see if you can balance this tray of candles on your head.”

I’d trot over and presto – I found I could move around the kitchen with a large bronze tray on my head. “OK now see if you can do a backbend.” And I’d find I could. “Why don’t you try it on stage tonight, just for a second, and we’ll put a few lit candles on the top, and then just take it off and give it to me when you feel it slipping or you don’t want it anymore.” How can you say no to this?

That was mom’s secret:

“Just try it this once, and then I’ll never make you do it again.”

“Why not just try it and see how you like it?”

Three decades later, that tray has never fallen off my head.

Just when I thought I was beyond my mother’s wild idea clutches, it happened again. Just last summer while we were dancing together at Karoun’s.

I had the tray on my head, and mom suddenly left the stage, shimmied into the kitchen and came back out with three water glasses. There was no time to protest, I knew what was coming. She set the glasses up in the center of the stage and took my hand and led me to them.

“Stand up and balance on these glasses, dancing all the while with the tray on your head,” she was silently telling me in her “let’s try this thing” Rhea language. Gripping her hand as I gingerly felt for the glasses with my bare feet, unable to look down lest the tray should fall and trusting only in my feet, my mother’s idea and will to succeed, and the intangible higher power of my belly dance goddess guide, I stepped up onto the glasses and danced: flames flickering up from the top of my head.

Melina’s Tips from the Hip:

Just try stuff and don’t be afraid.
Just try something for a second and then stop.
Don’t be afraid of what others think.
Practice “What if,” as in: “What if we did that, and we did it while singing/balancing on water glasses/drinking ouzo from a glass without hands, only teeth to hold the glass/….”

That is the Daughters of Rhea way.

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Shay Moore is the director and primary instructor at Deep Roots Dance in Seattle, WA. She loves writing, movies, costuming, knitting, cooking, and bellydance to the moon and back again; and loves her amazing husband and doggies even more than that.

3 Responses

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    Melina is awesome and her mom is . . . a force of nature. Her sister Piper (one of my teachers) hosts a big workshop weekend here and they all teach and it’s pretty incredible. I hope Melina publishes a book of her stories one day, though right now she’s done a story or two on NPR (All Things Considered I think).

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    Shay Moore
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    “…a force of nature.” Woah, ominous! 🙂 Piper is a famous name in American bellydance history. I want to meet them all…

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    Rhea is, from what I know of her, the embodiment of the free wheeling hippie. The workshop I took with her was non stop movement, non stop stories and advice, and she is funny (and a bit of a party girl).

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