Preschooler's improv tap routine reminds parents to let kids be kids

A viral video of a preschool girl improvising her way through a choreographed tap dance recital highlights the often understated value of sitting back and letting kids just be kids.

Elio Rui Silva/YouTube
The video of a young tap dancer who makes up her own routine during a recital when she forgets the choreography has collected more than 200,000 views on YouTube.

Parents want their kids to succeed and “get it right” when they perform on stage, but when an adorable preschooler departed from the choreography at a Dance Factory Preschool Tap show making her own, superior, tap routine, she proved once again that resilience is a better goal than perfection.

The video from the recital has gone viral on YouTube because the footloose and fancy free little imp improvises a hilariously magnificent dance of her own.

Seeing the video reminded me of my favorite quote by Vivian Green, “Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass. It's about learning how to dance in the rain.” 

Face it, "the further off-script kids go the better the show" should be etched over every stage in America so parents like me can relax and enjoy the moment.

We don’t yet know who the child is, but I know that when she lost the thread of the choreography and let herself go with the moment her performance was perfection personified.

It’s fun watching her mug for the audience and groove to Broadway Baby in a way that creates the equivalent to a weapons-grade kid Kryptonite that would level notorious perfectionist dance teacher Abby Lee Miller and most Dance Moms.

Anyone who has ever had a child in any type of school performance knows the parental angst of watching them perform.

We want them to succeed and most times that translates to a flawless rendition of whatever they are supposed to do or say on stage. Nobody wants to hear a child scrape through a violin recital off key, forget their lines in the school play, or trip over their robes in the church pageant.

However, those things are bound to happen and when they do there can be no more successful moment than when the child ad-libs, does a little jig, or rolls their eyes to let us all know that a mistake isn’t the end of the world.

The key is that they won’t cope in the moment if we don’t provide examples of how we ourselves bounce back from errors and miscalculations during all the off-stage moments of their lives.

The secret ingredient to parenting isn’t showing the kids we’re perfect, but revealing that we’re not and showing how we deal with our own glitches and goofs.

I am a Type A, perfectionist, nervous-Nelly by nature. My analogy for how I handled errors and failures before and after kids is that I was like a shard of broken glass that was thrown into the parental sea and tumbled into a softer, frosted version of myself.

The lesson I learned is that striving for perfection is a worthy goal, but reality and chaos theory are waiting in the wings for our kids and we need to do a little rehearsal time for those events as well.

Frankly, if kids were Stepford perfect the family photo and video albums would be a bore to go back over.

While I deeply admire the parents who send me a yearly family photo of everyone neatly matched in holiday sweaters, the only story those pictures tell is that the parents are great kid wranglers who can afford nice clothes.

What I long to see is the card containing a photo snapped in a moment of typical chaos, with one kid’s sweater on backwards, another making rabbit ears over a sibling’s head or mom scolding the kid pulling a derpy face. I can see their whole year from a photo like that. That family interests me.

I hope the tiny dancer in the video never loses that ability to find her feet in a moment of uncertainty. Here performance should stand for the perfection of imperfection long after all the flawless recital footage has faded away.

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