Grit Guts Gumption, Go!

Do you know what it is to love without abandon? To keep going?

Photo: Tim Evan-Cook

There are three words that we remind ourselves of often: Grit. Guts. Gumption.

We first found these words, in that combination, when researching what creates the unmeasurable trait of "grit" within students. The answer? Being unafraid to fail, because they were taught to learn by failing.

Photo by: KidCase

Carol Honoré, author of Under Pressure, described today's children as “raised in captivity, cooped up indoors and ferried between appointments in the back seat of a car.”

This was not meant as a good thing.

Upon continued search, we found there is a book titled Grit, Guts and Gumption. Author Rajesh Chakrabarti, a Professor of Finance, wrote about how a 200-year old, public sector bank transformed its business processes, technology, and inevitably... it's business personality to survive in a changing environment.

The bottom line: Huge change takes grit, guts and gumption.

So we set out exploring - and thinking - to determine what this meant for education, and for our area of dance education.


Defined as a personality trait and in psychology as, "positive, non-cognitive trait, based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or endstate coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective." Some other words associated with grit are: Perserverance, overcoming obstacles, driving force, achievement realization. Grit was also a personality trait included on a New York City's school Character Report Card for their C.P.A. (or Character-Point Average). Studies show a strong correlation between grit and an individual's ability to push through failure and adversity.

In dance, grit is an absolutely necessary trait to posess. We don't always get the moves right, in fact... rarely do we execute a move without flaws the first time, the second time, or even at all! We are constantly working to perfect the hip rotation, or center of gravity, or spotting speed. You can never stop trying, and you can never fear failure. You just have to keep at it! Keep going, and trust that will attempt after attempt you'll arrive at achievement realization.


Defined as, "the basic visceral or emotional part of a person." In other words: How badly do you want something? And how much are you willing to work, sacrifice for it? Your everything? Your being?

In dance, we sacrifice a lot. Our bodies, our time with friends and families, our holidays. You will have people tell you it isn't a real career. You will have people tell you how silly you are for chasing a hobby. You have to have guts to believe in dance and the power it holds. You have to have guts to wear your heart on your sleeve, stand before judges, attend auditions, perform on stage. You have to have even more guts to move forward and create a career, life and legacy. In this field, guts is something we must have at every moment.

Photo: Alvin Ailey Dance 


Defined as, "Shrewd or spirited initiative and resourcefulness." Gumption is being thrown every reason not to do something, or why you shouldn't, or why someone isn't going to make it easy... and you still succeed. How? Because you are resourceful. You learn the ropes. You know the rules. You investigate. You figure out how to make your life work, and then, you do.

In dance, your choice for a life is constantly questioned. It certainly isn't made easy. People you love and respect will tell you, "You aren't good enough," "You'll be a waitress your entire life," and "You will never get anywhere." But no one can stop a dancer's belief in their gift, and the self iniative they have taught themselves over the years; years of struggle, waking up early, dancing until late, body aches, muscle tears, bleeding toes. Gumption.

Dancer: Hannah Markowitz

As teachers, we need to let our students know: It is OK to fail. Because you can learn from that failure and try again. And you can keep going. And you can, by all means, be successful.

If we tell our students, and then constantly show them that it is OK and to keep learning, then our students will develop their grit, guts and gumption on their own. They will learn from their mistakes. They will learn to record, recall and progress (instead of recoiling) from their mistakes.

What a wonderful thing to pass on... grit, guts and gumption.




Connect with us

Design & Development by Shane Jeffers