Hall of mirrors


I’m kind of a mirror junkie — I joke to people that the reason I do ballet as my sport / activity / fitness regime / pastime is that (1) it has good music and (2) I can look at myself in the mirror for an hour and a half straight. There are always big, generous mirrors in ballet classes.

I joke about the vanity angle, but in fact, although I am vain that way, I really watch the mirror in ballet in order to correct myself as much as possible on my own. As I’ve said before, my cognitive understanding of how something should be done never seems to translate well into my physical execution of it. I may feel like I’ve got my ass tucked, shoulders down, stomach in, fingers smooth, etc., but nine times out of 10 I will look in the mirror and see that none of those efforts are going as well as they should… sometimes they’re not even happening.

And often when I’m learning something new, I need to see the correct placement in the mirror first so I can then "turn inward" and memorize the physical feeling of holding that position. Right now, for example, there’s an angle U. wants my torso at which I cannot reproduce without looking in the mirror. Even to be off a quarter of an inch makes my whole upper body look weird, and I can’t seem to find the correct angle without turning sideways and looking in the mirror. (I will memorize it eventually, I have no doubt about that — I’m just really, really slow with these things because of the dissonance factor.)

So I always, always maneuver to get a good mirror position in class, for both the barre and the centre work. I will ask others to move a little to the right or left if they don’t realize they’re blocking me. Some people won’t share a barre with me because they can’t be bothered to switch sides just to look in the mirror (and I’m thinking, "Why would you waste that opportunity to see what you’re doing???" There are thankfully very few of those people, though).

I’ve cracked a few mirrors, too. Seriously.

Once in F.’s class when we were in the "studio" above the optician: I air-quote "studio" because it was put together by the optician (his wife taught Highland), and he was a much better optician than carpenter. Things were not very well finished in the "studio." I mean, I think that instead of making sure everything was square and true, the optician just force-nailed warped floorboards to an uneven floor and force-riveted a warped mirror panel to an uneven wall. The floorboards were always popping up and tripping us, and there were some large, splintery gaps between the floorboards that were quite hazardous. Honest to god, you really did need to know how to dance around swords in order to be safe in there.

Now, I do take some responsibility for cracking that mirror because you are not supposed to touch the mirror in a studio ever, and I did stumble into it. But it was the lightest brushing of the mirror with my arm you could ever imagine — like, the barest touch — I’m sure I left no DNA on it — but the whole panel cracked instantly as though I’d thrown a bowling ball at it.

The second time was in J.’s class in the studio on James North, and I’m not sure if I’m to blame for that one or not. We were at the barre, no less — I wasn’t leaping or spinning around drunkenly. But we were doing grand battement à la derrière, and I was the last person in my line as we did the left leg. As I made the first kick backward, my foot caught the underside of a three-legged stool and I basically flung it into the mirror on the wall behind me. Luckily, it was just a little kid-size stool and that studio was solidly fit and finished, so the impact made just a crack. (If it had been the optician "studio," there would have been flying glass and multiple injuries, I’m sure. ) But I don’t know why that happened… I mean, I knew the stool was there, but I didn’t kick it when we did the right leg, and I certainly don’t have better extension to the back than I do to the front. And, really, it shouldn’t have been there — J. should have seen it and moved it long before. But, there you go.

All this mirror business comes to mind because, last night, when I got to class I was just in time to do the second side of the plié if I rushed, so I simply took up a position on one of the unused portable barres at the back and plié’d away with no mirror. My intention was to move into the class proper between exercises. However, because no one ever dances in that area, there was no rosin on the floor —  the floor was absolutely smooth and fast and oh-so-easy to move one’s feet on. So I stayed there and enjoyed the luxury of no resistance for the whole barre. It was such a pleasure.

I felt a bit blind without the mirror, and U. kept inviting me to move over, but it was so nice to just skim along for one class. ::happy sigh::

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