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  • Writer's pictureTamara Howe

Practicing for Progress, not Perfection

“Practice makes perfect.”

Chances are you’ve heard this saying many, many times in your life. (We sure have!) It’s one of the most well-known proverbs, with roots that go all the way back to the 16th century. And while we appreciate its intention, here at Tamara Howe School of Dance, we much prefer to say “practice makes progress.”

Why? Because we don’t teach perfection as a goal. Especially when it comes to the showcase, we strive for every dancer to showcase their knowledge and skills, and to express their joy. We want the performance to be their opportunity to celebrate achievements big and small, public and personal. And a focus on perfection detracts from all of those things.

We do need to be clear that although we don’t teach perfection as a goal, we do teach excellence. Excellence, to us, is different than perfection. Excellence means we are holding our students to a high standard yet still giving them room to grow, to be themselves, and to develop at their own pace. Excellence is realistic; perfection is unachievable.

We know all too well from personal experience that perfectionism can be a difficult mindset, one that takes years to overcome. For dancers, perfectionism can result in frustrations and tears because they do not see any other path forward. We’re working to change that mentality! Part of our mission is to uphold an environment where every mistake is actually a learning experience, and every disappointment leads to a stronger work ethic.

Live performances, too, always have some measure of unpredictability. Sure, we plan and rehearse (and plan and rehearse!), but we do so with the understanding that the showcase is still a live event, which means there may be moments where a dancer forgets a step, stumbles, or freezes. And the power of that moment is in their ability to keep going and finish strong, not in the anguish of missing the target of perfection. They can only find that power if we instill it in them.

There is beauty in the real-ness of the showcase, the true reality of it. In no other way can you see—up close—the courage, vulnerability, strength, and pure emotion that dance brings to your child. It will take your breath away to see all of this onstage!

So when you watch your child onstage at the showcase, we want you to rejoice in their growth. Witness their joy. Tell them how proud you are of their effort and confidence onstage. Show them you see them. And celebrate their path to progress!

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