Escaping the mirror

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Should we be dancing in front of mirrors all the time?

– Sixteen year old ballet student, Sydney

Dear Dancer,

In my opinion it’s not good for dancers to practise in front of mirrors all the time. In schools and companies today we depend on mirrors far too much. Mirrors are a wonderful tool when used strategically. But they are rarely used strategically. Instead we face them all day long, distractedly judging ourselves and stunting our expression and movement quality.

I was lucky to grow up in a studio without mirrors on the walls. Nicholina Kuner, my teacher, kept one fold-away mirror which, as senior students, we were allowed to pull out from time to time to assess our progress and check corrections. This helped us develop a good, independent sense of movement from within. As a teenager, I also fared far better psychologically without mirrors.

Yet mirrors can be useful. The visual feedback helps us understand how to make and improve lines and shapes. For teachers, mirrors improve visibility in large groups and can be beneficial when teaching choreography. The trick is to strike a balance so that students learn to look without objectifying themselves and destroying the very point of dancing through seeking a sterile, two dimensional perfection. . . . .

This is an extract from Emma Sandall's regular column, Ask Emma, in the Oct/Nov issue of Dance Australia. Read the whole article! Buy the new issue at your favourite magazine retailer or subscribe here, or purchase an online copy via the Dance Australia app.



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