True Grit Twirls in a Tutu

True Grit Twirls in a Tutu

By Stephanie Szewczyk

My daughter, Scarlett, is a competitive dancer at Envision Dance Company. She loves all types of dance…jazz, hip-hop, tap, and lyrical, contemporary, ballet. When she was four years old, I signed her up for dance classes because some other moms in her preschool class were doing it. We thought it would be “cute” and “fun” if they did it together. I am not and was not a dancer growing up, so little did I know what I was getting into.

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The first year was adorable as the girls twirled around on stage at the recital in their tutus and tights. Scarlett wasn’t yet sure-footed, but didn’t shy away from the stage and lights.

The next year the dance studio started a “mini company,” and asked if Scarlett wanted to join. A couple of local competitions and three dances…sure, why not? From there, her love of dance has grown into a passion unlike anything I have ever seen. She is now at the studio 15+ hours a week and attends countless conventions and competitions every season.

What I have learned these past seven years about dance is that it’s not an “activity,” it’s an art that gets perfected over time. The countless hours these dancers put into technique classes and rehearsals are grueling. Their commitment to their art is unwavering and forever growing deeper.

Recently, I read an article in Forbes by Margaret M. Perlis, 5 Characteristics of Grit – How Many Do You Have? I immediately thought of Scarlett and her commitment to dance.
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I don’t know about you, but the thought of dancing in an itty-bitty costume on stage in front of hundreds of people and being JUDGED on top of it? No way!! But dancers thrive under the spotlight. The courage it takes for them to step on stage is something I wish I possessed. These gritty girls are not afraid to fail, but rather embrace it as part of the process.


This personality trait is in every dancer. Dancers are achievement-oriented people. They work tirelessly, perfecting their art and want to be better after each hour in the studio. According to Perlis, “In the context of conscientious, grit and success, it is more important to commit to go for the gold rather then just show up for practice.” This is true in many aspects of life and certainly in every dance studio across the country.


Dancers love to dance. They work hard when they are at the studio. The conditioning and stretching they do is intense. The core work makes me cringe and envious at the same time! Miss Scarlett is a tiny powerhouse that can run as fast as most boys and do more pull ups then her brothers! Her endurance during competition season is something that she maintains all year long.
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As any dancer knows, you have your stellar performances and you have stumbles. Last year, Scarlett performed her solo at a competition and during turns in second, she fell out of it early. The rest of her performance was spot on, but a single mistake cost her points and she didn’t score as high as she would have if she nailed those turns. She held it together until she saw me and then she burst into tears. After she had a good cry, a hug and words of encouragement from both her teacher and me, she gathered herself to stand tall during awards. Her determination to practice harder shined the next time she stepped on stage.


Perfection is impossible. It's in the journey to perfection where dancers find excellence.  I love what Margaret M. Perlis says in the article, "Where perfection is someone else’s perception of an ideal, excellence is a attitude. Excellence is forgiving, changing, embracing failure, and resolving to keep going."  

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Scarlett shows me every single day what it means to truly commit to something. Her passion and drive for dance are so intense. I know this will serve her well in life. This thing called grit...yep, Scarlett has it and last weekend at the Hollywood Dance Jamz Convention here in Chicago, I saw it in the eyes of every dancer.  It's not's in their bones. It's not given...they push themselves every single time they step into the studio. It's not's gained with every leap, every turn, every fall. And if I know anything, it's that this thing called grit will propel these dancers to achieve great things. So dance on, girls, dance on!

Author’s Bio:
Stephanie is the mom to Mason, 12; Scarlett, 10; and Maklin, 7. She has three rescue dogs named Bella, Saylor, and Scout. She has been married to Mark for 18 years. Stephanie has a Degree in Business Administration and holds several Interior Designs Certificates. Stephanie is the co founder of STRONG self(ie), an empowering subscription box for girls. When not working she enjoys decorating, photography, traveling, reading and spending time with her family.

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