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“Mirrors,’ she said, ‘are never to be trusted.” ― Neil Gaiman

Mirrors – you will see them lining the wall of every dance studio you enter. Dancers are taught from a young age to fight for a spot in the studio where they can see themselves.  Teachers use the mirrors as a teaching tool  – they allow the teachers to face the mirror when demonstrating a combination, while being able to watch and monitor the students at the same time. Teachers teach dancers to use the mirror to determine if their legs and arms are in the correct positions, to determine if they are dancing in unison with other dancers, and to help determine where they are in space.

Mirrors are a valuable teaching tool for dance. But, is it possible that dancers can rely upon them too much?

Constant reliance upon the mirror can cause dancers to grow too mirror-focused. When this occurs, dancers tend to stare at themselves constantly rather than use their heads as part of their instrument to complete lines or to spot appropriately during turns.

While some may argue that mirrors are invaluable tools for teaching combinations in class, several studies have actually shown that better learning occurs without the use of the mirror. Moreover, reliance on the mirror can also cause dancers to watch others when executing combinations. If the dancers are able to see others all the time, the mirror becomes a crutch, and dancers may not learn the combinations completely for themselves.

The mirror may also become a crutch for balancing. Dancers typically rely heavily upon somatosensory information to help them maintain balance when executing movements and combinations. Somatosensory information is feedback that is received during physical activity from our muscles and joints. This information helps us determine where our bodies are in space and is also known as proprioception. Over-reliance upon what a dancer sees will compromise the dancer’s ability to develop his or her proprioceptive sense of balance.  A recent study published in the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science had dancers perform exercises in class with their eyes closed. The researchers found that when vision was limited, dancers were forced to rely upon proprioception, and balance  improved.”

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Sourced from: The Healthy Dancer