Let’s talk about it. One of the most prevalent themes in the dance industry is the strive for perfection. From the moment our training becomes serious, even if that time is in our childhood, the thirst to become the perfect dancer is planted. Sometimes that seed is planted by those we may look up to and sometimes that seed is planted by our own thoughts. Now more than ever in the age of the internet, it is so easy to binge watch dancers perform and see how amazing they are, and that is absolutely okay! As dancers, it is natural and inspiring to have a healthy admiration for one another. However, the problem arises if that admiration turns into comparison. This can lead to the belief that compared to others, you don’t measure up and thus you must work harder. This then begins a cat and mouse chase of working harder, but no matter how your skills may evolve for the better, your best is never good enough for your own judgment. Thus the mindset of perfectionism is formed.
While some may believe that having a tinge of perfectionism is healthy, the end result always seems to prove the same time after time: perfectionist mindsets usually produce a very hard working dancer, but not a very happy one. In any career, your happiness and enjoyment for what you do must be of the highest importance, especially if your job is physically demanding. From contentment to stress, what happens in your mind will eventually affect your body and as dancers, that is a huge factor to be on guard against. Since the idea of becoming the perfect dancer has been passed on for many generations, it’s important that in the year 2023, with the way the world and our industry is changing, that we make an effort to change this narrative as well and replace it with something more constructive. Why? Because the goal of “perfect” is unattainable.
While it is absolutely possible to be a fantastic, well rounded dancer, who is knowledgeable, capable of their craft and down right awesome at what they do, the level of perfection is unrealistic. Human nature simply will not allow room for perfection because the human experience and life within itself is not perfect. Not only is it unrealistic, but it is actually a social construct that fluctuates with time. And for me personally, any ideal that isn’t built on solid ground, is not an ideal I want to follow. As it is said so many times, by so many people, perfection is an illusion. But if there isn’t a goal of perfection to work towards, what should we work towards instead?
As a dancer who found myself caught in the cycle of chasing perfection once upon a time, I found that the chase was actually leading me into circles of uncontentment. And then I realized that maybe if I worked towards betterment instead of perfection, I could then see my own growth. Thus, this would be my answer to that question. Instead of working towards perfection, diligently work towards becoming better in your training. What are your goals? What do you hope to achieve within the next few months? What are the technique tips that you hope to master? Work towards becoming better in those areas and take your training one day at a time. As cheesy as it may sound, your journey is yours and it’s all about becoming better and better as time passes. Working towards betterment alone will allow your eyes to be open to see the great dancer that you really are, which leads us to our final point. Appreciate where you are right now.
Perfection doesn’t stand a chance against self acceptance and gratitude. Sure, you may not be where you want to be, but you are way farther than you were a year ago. Take a look back on the last few years of your training. I’m sure that you can recall that you have achieved so much already! See the dancer you are and appreciate them. They’ve worked hard to be where they are and they’ll work even harder to get where they are going. Don’t hurt them by constantly telling them that they aren’t enough. No matter the support system you may have, your biggest cheerleader should always be you. You’ve chosen this path, walk it with joy.