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Permission to Make Mistakes

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One thing I emphasize in my classes is that everyone should feel free to make mistakes. In fact, it is the only true route to growth, since humans by nature are imperfect and learn through trial and error. (Check out my blog entry “I Release You From Perfection“. Go on. I’ll wait…)

We have a tradition at Deep Roots Dance called “pre-apologizing”. Before drills in class, I make my students promise me they will make mistakes, then we turn to our partners and pre-apologize for any “screw ups” that might occur. This is a promise to our partners and ourselves that while we may make mistakes, we won’t stop or hesitate when there are flubs, and instead will dance through it all with confidence and poise. After all, the audience doesn’t know what is right or wrong, only we do; and only our faces and demeanor will reveal those mistakes. By dancing through our mistakes, both as leaders and followers, we mask them entirely. Ideally, all the audience sees are dancers moving in unison, gracefully, joyfully.

This weekend is our big local bellydance festival in Seattle, Med Fest. In rehearsals preparing for our set, we work hard to improve our performance with every repetition–we find areas of strength or weakness, discuss them, then move forward to solidify the former and diminish the latter. But throughout I try to remind my dancers that perfection is not our goal. A good show in which we had fun, danced through any mistakes, and thoroughly entertained our audience is a success!

So give yourself permission to make mistakes! In fact, here, let me give yo a leg up. Here is an official certificate, giving yourself permission to make mistakes and grow in the process! In class, in performances, in your living room, wherever! Feel free to use this with your troupe mates, classmates, fellow dancers, and/or students (please keep the copyright intact!), so we can all benefit from our glorious mistakes.

Now go forth and screw up!

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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.

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