Mirrors in Zumba. Mirrors in Church?

Oct 26, 2014

I love my Zumba® dance/exercise class. Zumba® class is one of the few places besides the shower where I stop worrying and just enjoy the moment. (This sometimes happens in prayer.) “Ditch the workout; join the party” are the intro words from the Zumba® website. The Latin and hip-hop moves and music send my mind and my body to a playful place.

My favorite Zumba® classes have mirrors. Like many women and most dancers, I have a mixed relationship with mirrors. In ballet class they help me to see whether my placement, technique, and movement are correct. But they also say to me, “You’re too old, too ugly, too fat…. Why are you still here?”

In Zumba® I don’t have time to stare at myself in the mirror. The class moves too quickly. Instructions are nonverbal; students learn the steps in a “follow-the-leader” manner. With the help of the mirror I can see all 360° of my instructor and catch the nuances of the steps. Even if I’m in the back of the room without a good view of the teacher, I can see the other dancers in the mirror and follow them. But besides the instructional benefits of the mirror, there are communal ones. The mirrors double the number of people in the room. They transmit a contagion of energy. When my instructor is bouncing and throwing his whole self into the movement, I want to join in. The entire class seems to be swept in by the corporate atmosphere of rhythm, movement, and fun.

So why don’t we hang mirrors in church? Mirrors at the front of the nave would double the number of people in the congregation. With all of those people facing me, the atmosphere would feel less like a lecture series and more like a gathering of disciples and seekers. If I’m confused about the liturgy in the church I’m attending, watching others could help me to feel comfortable and to learn the patterns of worship. (Churches built “in the round” experience some of these benefits.)

Seeing other people’s faces and bodies helps me to get in the spirit of worship and increases my energy. It only takes a few excited people to change the whole environment. Now, I’m not promoting a “happy-clappy,” perkier-than-thou congregation. I’m not interested in phony cheerfulness–just vitality and attention. My pew behavior would probably improve with mirrors. When I arrive, as I sometimes do, in my smug “I dare you to teach me something today” mode, I might notice my snotty facial attitude in the mirror and be appalled. The mirror could work as a corrective. It might also call my attention to the face of someone in the congregation who is looking distressed or sorrowful. Maybe mirrors would make the church feel more like the “Body of Christ” rather than just a collection of people waiting for the designated leaders in the front to impart their wisdom and knowledge.  Just a thought….

For an awesome Zumba® class in Memphis, visit deefitway. Deejay is a terrific teacher, energizer, and community builder. Thanks to the Monday/Wednesday 10 AM class for allowing me to photograph them.

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