Using the Studio Mirror
Does your dance studio have a mirror? If so, you're lucky - and it's about time you put this vital tool to use! When I taught I noticed that many of my students would avoid looking at themselves at all costs, using the mirror to look at the teacher or at the other students, simply to copy the steps. Of course when you learn a step you are going to need to follow, but as soon as you understand how to do it you need to watch yourself. It's not about vanity, it's about getting your body to do what your head wants it to, and you'll be surprised at how you often don't look the way you think you do!
Not long after I left the UK to study in Spain I did some Summer courses in Jerez with a number of teachers, including the wonderful Andrés Peña. In the UK I had never been lucky enough to dance in a studio with mirrors, so had never really thought about them or why they were there. I was used to paying total attention to the teacher at all times and just allowing my body to
mirror their movements. It wasn't until we were practicing a certain arm gesture that Andrés had to stop me and correct me personally - by making me look in the mirror at the difference between our gestures. His arm moved with a strong, clean line - my arm looked like a dead fish. It took me a good few times, performing the gesture over and over again in the mirror to actually work out how to get my body to do what my head wanted it to. And without a mirror? I have no idea how I would have gone about it.
So if you have a mirror in your studio make sure you use it! You'll be surprised at how often your movements don't quite match up with the idea you have in your head. Don't be discouraged, just practice in the mirror enough times to rewire your muscle-memory to perform the way you want to! And if you don't have a mirror in class make sure you practice at home - any reflective surface will do. It might take you a while to get over your self-consciousness, but try to be objective - this isn't about whether or not you're having a bad hair day - it's about analysing the way you move and perfecting it.