I was perusing the forums at Bhuz* and I came across an incredibly helpful reading recommendation from Ozma. A student dancer was explaining how her old teacher had helped her to get out of her own head (my words) regarding dancing. In response, Ozma recmmended the book How to Dance Forever, and in particular the section on "Noise". Noise is all the self criticism, worry and defeatist thoughts that happen while learning dance, which can become patterns that can inhibit dancing.
If you log onto Amazon and go to the book, check the "Look Inside" option and search for noise inside the book, and you can read most of the chapter (thank you to Suzana for pointing this out). It definitely struck a chord with me, as noise is something I have had to work past in dancing. It's the "I'm so old/out of shape/uncoordinated/clueless/etc." critic that can run on an endless loop in my head. When this happens I have to turn it off, focus only on what I need to do in class, ask questions, and act like I look awesome while I work things out (to avoid frowning, angry looks, or "oops" face while dancing).
While reading one line struck me as particularly relevant for ATS/ITS dancers: "Above all, be certain you learn as quickly as possible what happens on count 1. If you don't know count 1, count 2 will be ridiculous." ATS/ITS dancers, have you ever had the moment when you've gone into a move you don't know that well, fumbled the one count, then proceeded to make a train wreck of the next 4 or more counts? I have! I've also hesitated started a move, with the same result, as well as confusing feet, losing the beat, rushing a move to get to the "good part" and so on.
When this happens you can not only mess up yourself, but as a leader you can take your followers down with you. If that happens too many times, you can start to lose the trust of those following you, and when that trust is gone you can lose the magic that makes ATS/ITS work. You don't lead with confidence, your followers second guess what you are doing, and there becomes a tension and stilted quality to the dancing that makes it flat and uninspiring.
So, know your moves! Know them well, inside and out, facing in different directions. Know them to different tempos, how to come in and out of them from different moves, and which ones work and don't work with different music. Know what to do when you mess up, so you can correct gracefully and with confidence. Have your safety moves. Also, know your music! How many times have you fumbled your dancing because you didn't know the music? If you're dancing to live music or a song you've never used or heard before, mess ups will happen. If you're dancing to music you've used before or was picked for a performance, there is no reason to get out there and have no idea of what is happening. Listen to your music in practice, at home, in the car, wherever and whenever you can. Knowing your music is as much a part of training as knowing your dance vocabulary.
And no, no one is perfect and there is nothing wrong with messing up, but messing up and letting the noise take over your head can lead to a disintegration of quality for the whole troupe. Be prepared both physically and mentally so that you can dance with confidence and ease (and joy!), which is the best thing for you and your troupe!
* really, no matter what you're bellydance style, get on Bhuz occasionally and read the forums. There is a lot of information to glean from the members.