Thursday, November 1, 2012

Mirrors: An Excellent Tool

Originally published Aug 2008. Some minor tweaks before this republish 4 years later.

Right after finishing a dance at a local club, someone said to me, "Wow, your last partner dances great and looks really sexy! But she would look so much better if she didn't do that 'funny turn-out thing' with her feet. That would be so easy for her to fix, I wonder if she's ever seen herself dancing?"

My first thought was, "I doubt it, most social dancers don't learn salsa in a location with mirrors." I also noted that I didn't notice the “feet thing” that was mentioned, probably because I don't normally watch my partners’ feet during a dance.

All I remembered was a great dance. But it did make me think about mirrors and practicing.

Most women take a limited set of lessons before they simply dance, refining their following skills by dancing with a wide set of leads. Many take some classes at the clubs before the social dancing, and mirrors aren’t a normal part of the club scene on the dance floor.

Guys are even less likely to learn in a room with mirrors. The vast majority learns by watching other guys at the club, taking a few club lessons and/or viewing clips on the web.

Foundational dances like jazz and ballet are almost always learned in rooms with mirrors. Those dancers see themselves in the mirror every class, often weekly for a few years, seeing their moves and the lines they create with their bodies.

Social dancers should consider doing the same at points. Classes held at dance studios are almost always in mirrored rooms, so taking some classes at a studio is a win for most people. Or get a mirror at home you can use for practice.

(Last year I discussed mirrors at home in this article: “Practice Space and Spousal Upgrades”)

Most of us quickly realize that moves that feel good to us don’t always look the same from the outside. With minor tweaks they can be much, much nicer. Often just being aware of the issue allows you to enhance the move on the floor next time, especially if you've been dancing more than a few months.

If you want to refine your look and feel quickly; it's mirrors, video or both.
Without the visual feedback, it's easy to overlook simple things that everybody else sees from their outside perspective. Getting your smiling face in front of a mirror every so often can make a huge positive difference in your dancing.

That way people can say “Wow, you looks great” and leave off the comments about the minor issues you already fixed. Just seeing yourself allows you to make the adjustments before someone else points them out.

Let me know about your personal experiences with mirrors (and/or video).

Related Articles:
Video Yourself Often but Be Kind
Practice Space and Spousal Upgrades
Suggested Videos:
Music4Dancers: Free YouTube Musicality Series (by Don Baarns)

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  1. Mirrors are an excellent tool, especially for those needing specific work on tough moves.

    I recommend to all my dance clients that they practice in front of a mirror from time to time or even to use a video camera as you suggested in your article.

    John F. Bello
    Ritmo Bello - San Diego's Guide to Salsa and Latin Dancing!
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  2. Hi Don,

    I started out typing a comment here several times but each time I did I kept on rambling.

    So instead of writing a comment here I ended up writing a post explaining why I prefer video.

    Would love to hear what you think.


  3. Walter,

    Great article and I totally agree.

    My only minor nit is for most people, it shouldn't be mirror "OR" video, it should be both.

    The mirror is always set up, it doesn't need any disk, tape, editing or review.

    It's real-time feedback, although I agree it's not perfect.

    It allows me to see things during my micro-practices (less than 5 minutes) and sometimes I don't want to set-up/review the video if I'm just doing a few minutes.

    I wrote an article similar to yours last year:
    Video Yourself Often..."

    Check it out and you'll see we totally agree on the value of video.

    (I put an nearly identical comment on your blog.)

  4. Yes, I usually use iphone-camera to check my move after I memorize the whole move set. Surprisingly, my eyes will always tell me loudly which parts should do some minor adjust. And usually those are the parts when I try "too hard" to do that move. Very similar to playing an instrument...doing too much is not elegant...iphone camera and eyes are my great teachers in this journey. :>


I love feedback. Your thoughts, feelings and comments are appreciated. Civil disagreements and other points of view are always welcomed!

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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero