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Dancer's abusive relationship with a mirror

"Mirror, mirror on the wall..."

There is an an interesting obsession among dancers to constantly watch themselves in the mirrors. Is this something that can make us better or worse?

Mirrors in a studio are obviously there to help you develop. However, all dancers, from beginners to professionals, should be aware of what and how to practice in front of them. Watching yourself can be a great tool for improvement as it gives a dancer immediate visual feedback. But, is that all a dancer needs?

1. Technique

Watching yourself in a mirror when practicing your technique and studying body movement can be very helpful. You can recreate the images you produced when you learnt something with your teacher.

2. Static lines

Many dancers use mirrors to check if a specific line with a partner, or solo, looks "acceptable", assessing body shape and height. The only problem is that these will be mainly stationary actions so you may miss the pre- and post- line "dancing".

3. Performance

Quite a number of dancers check their performance and expression in front of a mirror. However, can you ever fully commit to a dance or move if your mind is preoccupied with "the look" only?

When you're in a studio, there's a strong temptation to keep checking if what you're doing is "correct". Just imagine, the constant repetition of words in your head: Do I look good? How can I look more graceful? Do I look beautiful?

If dancers pay too much attention to the picture they see in a mirror they may develop this overpowering self-consciousness which hinders their ability to dance.

There are a few points you may want to think about when using mirrors:

1. Have a dedicated time during your practice when you simply feel the movement and don't look in the mirror. Over time it will help you sense your body and show you how enjoyable this can be.

2. When you use a mirror, be very specific what you're focusing on technically: What is the goal of the practice?

3. Overusing the mirrors can create wrong images in your head about yourself and make you very self-conscious. Be aware of this risk.

4. Mirrors give a two-dimensional view of self, which in fact may conflict with the three-dimensional picture you create when you dance.

5. We are our harshest critics and sometimes we hurt ourselves more than anyone else just by not liking what we see. Yet, are we objective in our opinions?

Mirrors are used worldwide as a tool for dancer's development. It's important to understand how these should be used by teachers and students. "Abusing" mirrors in a studio can inhibit your progress as a dancer because all you're concerned about is how you look, instead of focusing on how your dance should feel like.

Remember, dancing is about using all your senses, not just one.



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