I’ve spent years of my life warming-up at ballet barres and dancing in lines in the center floor of ballet studios. What every one of those studios has in common are mirrors on as many walls as possible. Dancers learn to correct their technique and their artistry in part by observing what their bodies are doing.
Mirrors are a wonderful tool. But mirrors can be a hindrance, even an enemy. When I take a ballet class I sometimes forget that I am not the image I see in the mirror. I have to force myself to return to my own body space and observe what the movement feels like inside and on my body. My skin, bones, muscles, and cells create the reflection in the mirror–not the other way around.
When I become mirror-dependent I don’t dance well. I look at the image and judge it as fat, ugly, or clumsy. More than once I’ve missed the delight and challenge of the movement because I was so busy rejecting the person I saw in the mirror. My self-image tanks and so does my dancing. More than once I’ve been tempted to quit dancing altogether because of a bad-mirror day.
In one of her books (I can’t remember which) Madeleine L’Engle talks about a “self-image” (either good or bad) as undesirable. We should not seek to have a “self-image,” she says, but a “self. ” This reminds me that I am not the sum of my over or under-inflated self-impressions. I am the self which God created and restores. “What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it – we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are.” (1John 3:31 MSG)
Today in Zumba class, I was lucky to have an unmirrored spot in the room, right in front of a brick wall. There were no reflections, no judgments, no self-images–just gratitude and joy for the well-used sinews which allowed me to be a dancing self and not just an image in the mirror.
Sybil MacBeth ©2010