So you have discovered that you use the mirror as a crutch. Now what do you do? Here are a few things to try: **
- Change barre placement: stand where you can’t see yourself.
- Change centre placement: stand in the back, or on the side where your full image is not visible.
- Try doing normal, non-dance things without a mirror. If you practice yoga or go to the gym, don’t look in the mirror. Try to feel and sense things instead.
This will all feel weird. Don’t worry and don’t give up. You are highly adaptable and in a few days, it will feel normal. Think about how the first rehearsal on stage feels so strange, but then, within a few run-throughs, it starts to feel better.
It wasn’t until I got injured that I changed my relationship with the mirror. I learned that when I was forced to face the wall, I lost a lot of my turnout and placement. I also learned that my alignment when jumping was slightly off, which I couldn’t see very well during en face allegro. The physical therapist I worked with at the Boston Ballet helped re-orient me in the studio so that I was looking inside of myself for my alignment and balance, not in the mirror.
I started taking barre a few days a week without looking at myself. I learned to place myself in the centre off to the side, behind the piano, so that I would be forced to dance without seeing my image. It was hard!
At first it was so disorienting to not get the immediate feedback I was used to. I couldn’t see how good or bad things looked so I didn’t know what to work on. Instead, I had to focus on what it felt like in my body. And you know what? I adapted. My body and mind adapted. I learned how to look inside for my center and how to feel my technique. I didn’t have to see it to believe it.
This was an important lesson that I learned much too late.
Doing these little experiments can help you understand whether you base your feelings about yourself, your body or your dancing on what you SEE in the mirror or what you FEEL in your body. This is an important distinction, but most of us can’t feel it because we’re so distracted by what we see.
Try this out and then tell me: What did you learn? Did anything surprise you?
** NOTE: If you are like many dancers, you have a certain way of doing thing. You like “your spot” at the barre; you have a special way you like to stand so that you can see yourself just so. Which means, of course, that you may not want to experiment with standing somewhere else. But if you’ve noticed that you use the mirror as a crutch, then do try some of the experiments. I promise you, you will learn a lot about your dancing and discomfort is often the first sign of growth. Don’t be afraid to try something new!