Progress Not Perfection

Happy St. Patrick’s Day dancers!

Anyone have any special St. Patty’s Day traditions (aside from drinking too much)? Traditional meals? Good old fashioned folk dancing? Please share in the comments!

My day was busy, which is why this blog post is coming a little late. It started with solo practice, of course.

This past week, we worked on our Open Tango routine in my dance lesson, specifically working out the timing. My knees held up ok despite all of the dancing done essentially in a half squat. Just going through the counts of the routine might sound tedious, but actually it was fun because we got to see how the highlights in the routine matched up to music. They matched up so well! Teacher’s a great choreographer, so I’m not surprised. Still, it makes you feel kinda like a mad scientist going giddy over seeing his creation come to life.

Reviewing that timing was one of my tasks for solo practice today. I decided the second would be reviewing the Waltz routine from the perspective of the styling and tiny details that will give the routine that extra something special.

My knees were aching before I began. They were bothering me on Friday, and then I went to Zumba anyway. The weather on Saturday morning was beautiful, so I decided to take the dogs for a longer walk (they had been sick most of the week, so they deserved a nice stroll in the park). Not surprising that my knees hurt this morning before I did anything. I was in the mood for practice though and wanted to take advantage of the extra motivation, so off to the studio I went.

The warmup section of my solo practice was choreo review. I went through the steps of the Waltz and Tango routines to see how much I remembered. Ignoring the groaning coming from my knees, I then went through each dance in greater detail.

It was far from perfect. I knew the steps of the Waltz but there were plenty of places where I couldn’t hold my balance, even though I’ve been able to in the past. I wasn’t engaging my core properly. Tango was one big fuzzy memory, even though we spent the entire lesson this past week and the week before working on it. Isn’t it frustrating when you can easily dance something with your teacher but you’re lost as soon as you have to do the steps on your own? (Gee, maybe that’s why we practice.)

Maybe it wasn’t perfect, but I know I at least made progress. We haven’t worked on Waltz in a couple weeks, but I was still able to go through the whole routine. The coordination of my arm styling with the steps was definitely better in some spots. I was also better coordinated in my first turn in Tango (even if the steps after it were fuzzy).

I’m usually incredibly critical of myself. Today’s practice included plenty of things for me to criticize. But as the shirt I wore says, I decided to focus on the progress instead of the perfection.

As dancers, we’re cursed with this drive to reach perfection. That’s what makes the dance journey a lifelong one if we want it to be. There is always more to learn and always room for improvement. It’s a destination we’ll never reach though, and when we forget that, it can cause us more harm than good. The self-criticism gets out of control and we aren’t able to just enjoy what we’ve achieved and what we’re capable of now, in this moment.

I’m still in a transitional reality as I sort out my knee issues and how much or little I can do with them. I could focus on the limitations and how I’m seemingly further away from “perfect” than I was before. Or I could focus on the fact that I still know my Waltz routine better now, despite the aching joints. I’m still progressing forward on my dance journey. I just carry extra ice packs with me.

If you’re getting down on yourself for still not getting something right or making the same mistake over and over, look closer and pick out where you’re making progress. I promise you it’s there. If you can’t see it, ask your teacher to help you identify where you’ve made improvements. The tiniest steps forward are still steps forward, and each one is worthy of recognition.

Once you’ve identified the progress you’ve made this week, please share in the comments.

I hope you have a wonderful week, dancers!

P.S. – Follow me on Instagram to see an imperfect clip from my solo practice today.


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