Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall: Part I
Mirror as Crutch
As dancers, we are trained to work in front of a mirror. For as many as eight hours a day, we scrutinize every inch of our bodies from our fingertips to our toes, searching for…what? Are we using the mirror to scrutinize our dancing or are we getting distracted?
I was taught that the mirror was a tool and that by looking, I would become more self-sufficient at spotting and correcting my errors of alignment, line, and technique. In fact, when I was training, I used my reflection constantly to correct myself and it was helpful.
However, at some point in my training, the power dynamic shifted and the mirror came out on top. When I couldn’t see my reflection, my technique suffered. When my image was blocked by another dancer, I didn’t feel my feet or my extensions in the same way. I became reliant on my reflection to dance well. It stopped being a tool and became a crutch.
How Does It Happen?
In my experience, this is something that happens to most dancers at some point. We often have trouble feeling things like where an arabesque is (90 degrees? 110 degrees?) or whether our feet are pointing in petite allegro, so we look at our reflection to see what’s going on.
Find Out Where You Stand
If any of this sounds familiar, then try this little experiment over the summer. Start by asking yourself some questions:
- If I am having a good class- I’m on my leg, I feel centered and balanced- does that change if I stop looking in the mirror?
- Does my image of my body or technique get better or worse when I see myself?
- When I see my image in a distorted mirror (the so-called “fat” mirror), does this change how I feel about myself or my dancing?
- When my reflection is “taken away” or covered, do I panic? Do I lose my center and my bearings? If so, how long does it take for me to get re-oriented?
- How much time do I spend correcting errors vs. noticing other things about myself (hair, make-up, leotard, etc) or other dancers?
Your answers to these questions may indicate that it’s time to start thinking about how to change your relationship with the mirror. It will take some time, but will be well worth the effort. You’ll dance in a more organic way if your movement comes from what you feel in your body, rather than what you see with your eyes.
Answer the above questions and tell me what you’ve learned. I’d love to hear from you. Next time, we’ll talk about ways to start changing how you work with your own image.