Mirror, Mirror…

April 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve had an interesting journey with the way dancing feels versus the way it looks.

When I first began dancing away from a mirror (in performance, for example), belly dance was still very new to me. When I didn’t have a mirror to look at, I could still tell I was doing a move because I had to put a fair amount of effort and concentration into it.

Later, around my third or fourth year of dancing, I went through a strange transition. Many moves had started feeling more natural, and I could no longer tell how much I was doing with my hips.  When looking in a mirror, I could see the moves were bold and defined, but they didn’t feel big any more.

This went on for the next couple years. When I took workshops without a mirror, sometimes I was told I was trying to make a move too big. Sometimes I put my hands on my hip bones to make sure they were doing what they were supposed to be doing. Perhaps I had developed some sort of mirror dependency, but mostly I think I had reached a point in my dancing where some moves felt effortless, and that was new to me.

There is one instance that the opposite thing occurred: learning continuous hip shimmies (vibrational shimmies, piston hip shimmies, freeze shimmies, etc.).  These are very challenging and I had greater success if I focused only on feeling each hip moving up and down alternately and not on how the shimmy looked.  When I would look at myself, my shimmies would freeze up or stutter.  The mirrors were working against me. Looking back, it may have been a self-conscious, mental block.  Because these shimmies are so challenging,  seeing myself try to execute the move probably just pulled my focus to my not being that good at them and away from concentrating on getting the move to happen.

It’s only in the last couple years all this has resolved itself.  Now, unless I’m doing something that’s really new to me, I can usually tell what my hips are doing and how big, with or without a mirror.

I think a major aspect of learning to dance is a shifting of focus between how a move looks and how it feels, until eventually the two become aligned.  Perhaps that’s one way to define mastering a move.

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