Students often walk a fine line between a healthy relationship with the mirror and a destructive dependency. You’ve seen it: A beautiful first arabesque distorted due to the dancer—eyes gaping wide—staring at her own reflection. Sure, the mirror can be a great tool when correcting placement and demonstrating complex combinations; but that’s about it. As students advance, they should be able to feel placement and correct alignment without seeing it. This awareness will translate to their on-stage performances; they will develop a greater connection to the audience, other dancers on stage and the space around them.
So how to wean them off the mirror? Janette Sullivan, owner of State of the Arts Studio in Westminster, Maryland, pulls curtains over the mirrors. “When we close the curtains, things are exponentially different. The dancers transform not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally by pretending they’re in the theater.” While curtains may be out of the budget, simply re-orienting dancers in the room will do the trick.