One of the most important equipment in a dance studio is the mirror. Dance teachers require it to show the dance steps correctly to the students. At first, some beginners find it awkward to follow their dance teacher through the mirror. But later they become an expert in not just following but also correcting dance steps by themselves. What happens when the reflection becomes so important that we start becoming dependent on it and stop feeling the move? It is important to correct our dance technique but equally important is listening to the music and letting the body flow naturally into a dance rhythm.
Here we examine the importance of mirror for a beginner as well as a professional.
FACING THE MIRROR
Everyone wants to dance but most people feel shy or are insecure. Even in a dance class, some students prefer to stand behind a person or in a corner of the room. I once had a beginner student who booked a separate time slot to learn Bollywood dance. Before we began, she closed all the windows and door because she was so shy and did not wanted anyone (maybe not even a fly) to see her dance. People are shy of making mistakes.
A mirror in a dance class shows not just our reflection but also tells us the truth - as we are. We start learning dance by imitating our dance teacher. The mirror helps us see how the movement should be done and after the class the student is required to remember the dance step and practice before coming to the next class. What we see in the mirror and how we feel can be two different things. The first feeling after shyness that we need to confront is our struggle to feel comfortable. Dance only becomes fun once we start feeling good about the way we move.
While training to become a professional dancer, listening to each and every detail of your dance teacher becomes a natural habit. The mirror is like a silent assistant that guides dancers towards growth through correction. The mirror shows how physically perfect a dancer should be in his/her dance technique. The selection process and constant vigil of dance teacher also keeps dancers ambitious to show their best dance technique.
However, one of the most important dance technique which is often overlooked is expression along with characterisation. Physical technique shows your flexibility however while exploring other angles of choreography like moving through space, partner-work, flooring, aerial, etc, a dancer cannot always look towards the mirror. Trusting your partner while doing partner-work or understanding spacing in a group dance, doing complex contemporary dance choreography - a dancer is always challenged to leave the mirror and discover other dynamics of dance.
A selection of a dancer in an audition depends on how new his/her moves are and if the dancer is able to express the emotions in a correct way. This is true of both classical as well as western dance competitions. The mirror can show what you are NOT doing but it can never show what is to be done. Dance teachers always have a list of things that can help you win a competition and apart from dance stunts it is very important to express emotions in your dance theme.
VARIATIONS OF REFLECTION
As a professional, when a dancer is trying to understand the choreography, visualisation plays a pivotal role. There are some modern dance choreographers who cover the dance studio mirrors because they want their dancers to simply ‘feel the move’ rather than become obsessed with physical technique and own image. When we are left with no mirror, the other option left is to visualise the movement and that can only be done either by closing our eyes or just letting the music guide us. Losing the mirror becomes a technique to find depth in our movement. The mirror helps us understand how to follow and as a professional dancer we understand how to follow one’s moves without the restraints of physical space or a focal point like a mirror.
Some dancers may agree, and some may absolutely disagree about the importance of mirror. Reflection is a hint of us but maybe not our true self. A human body is made of habits and a dancer moves in a certain way. The way of one moves can be in a calculated manner or just random. The way dancers move is magic and there will always be a new way of learning how to reflect on ourselves as a dancer - with or without the mirror.