Ideas & advice from teachers
The mirror is one of a dance teacher’s most prized tools and a student’s best friend. Teachers use it while demonstrating to observe students’ technique and behavior, and students can keep an eye on what their bodies—and those of their classmates—are doing right or wrong. Unfortunately, the mirror is so omnipresent in dance class that students can become too dependent on it.
Dancing away from the mirror is a mental challenge that will help your students become self-reliant performers. Here are three reasons why you should switch up your usual routine once in a while by changing the front of your classroom to a non-mirrored wall:
- Facing away from the mirror encourages students to understand how movements should feel instead of focusing on how movements look, and allows them to develop the kinesthetic awareness and muscle memory required to master steps.
- Changing the front helps students improve their spatial intelligence. With practice, dancers become more spatially adaptable and mentally flexible. This prepares students for choreography that requires them to face varying directions and for performing in venues with stages of various sizes and shapes.
- It prepares students for their performances. During the month leading up to a show or recital, I instruct my dancers to run their dances facing the back of the room. This shows me who really knows the choreography and who has been using the mirror to follow others. Switching the focus to the back a month in advance, rather than just the last week before a performance, gives me enough time to make the necessary adjustments to ensure that all students are confident in the material and ready to hit the stage.
Olivia Mode-Cater is the founder of the blog Dance Ed Tips, where she happily shares her teaching experiences and suggests strategies for dance educators in studios, K–12 schools, and higher ed.