July 16, 2019 - Olivia Mode-Cater
Dance ED Tip #73: 5 Reasons to Get Your Dancers out of the Mirror
The mirror is a staple in a dance classroom. If you were to look at all the dance spaces around the world, the mirror is probably their most common feature. On many occasions, the mirror can be a helpful tool that assists students in finding alignment and learning choreography quickly; however, dancers can often become too reliant on the mirror and it becomes a hindrance instead of a tool. Here are 5 reasons why you should have your students take a break from the mirror and learn to do without it:
1. It can throw off their lines
Obviously, our job is to teach dancers how to embody certain lines and positions. If a dancer is constantly checking themselves in the mirror while going across the floor or performing a phrase, it might be throwing off their head-tail connection. Their head might not be fulfilling the movement entirely or there might be unnecessary tension because the dancer is constantly trying to sneak a peek in the mirror. Turning the students away from the mirror will give them the opportunity to embody the choreography from head to toe without any distractions.
2. It makes dancers too reliant on visual feedback
As dancers, we are constantly trying to develop our kinesthetic awareness so that we can feel when our bodies are in alignment and performing the correct movements. Dancers who use the mirror all the time can lack this level of awareness, because they are used to checking in the mirror to see if their bodies LOOK right. In reality, we want dancers to know when it FEELS right. This is a much deeper level of mind-body connection and will serve them come performance time.
3. It can be harmful for dancers with an unhealthy body image
Dancers spend an abnormal amount of time in front of mirror. For individuals with body image issues, being in the mirror can be a reminder of their negative feelings towards their bodies. Even for dancers with a healthy body image, you can often see them checking themselves out in the mirror or evaluating their size and shape in between exercises. Help support your dancers’ mental health by giving them some time away from the mirror.
4. It gives dancers a false sense of mastery
It always amazes me when my dancers tell me that they are really confident and know the choreography and then as soon as they face away from the mirror, it falls apart. Younger dancers often don’t realize how much they are relying on the mirror for cues, musicality, and unison. Having my students face away from the mirror is a great way for me to see who actually knows the material.
5. There’s no mirror on stage
I don’t know if your dancers have noticed, but once they get to the stage, there is no mirror! Therefore, dancing without the mirror is an authentic task and is the ultimate end goal for all dancers. This makes dancing without the mirror an important skill that unfortunately isn’t always explicitly taught. While we are cleaning our dances, we should make practicing away from the mirror a big part of the rehearsal process. This will give that extra level of refinement and cleanliness that we dance teachers love!