Home > David Elsewhere: Looking Elsewhere > Looking Elsewhere – Mirrors and shadows

Looking Elsewhere – Mirrors and shadows

This is an entry in the David Elsewhere series where I analyse his training methods and philosophies. The quotes are derived from his myspace post. In this entry, I discuss the following quote.

Using a Mirror – I have found that using a mirror is extremely helpful when practicing because it gives instantaneous feedback. I know exactly how my moves look and can immediately critique myself. The only thing I would advise against would be getting so used to the mirror that you can’t perform well without one. To prevent this I try to practice just as much without a mirror.

Videotaping myself – I try videotaping myself once and in a while. It is just as helpful as using a mirror to me. The only drawback is that it’s not instantaneous feedback; you don’t see what you’re doing when you’re doing it. Videotaping has several advantages over a mirror. You don’t have to pay attention to your reflection thus allowing your mind to concentrate on just dancing. By recording yourself you, are able to observe things that are difficult to see in the mirror, like spins and ground moves. Videotaping yourself also gives you the opportunity to see what your moves look like from a variety of angles.

David Elsewhere, source

Many of the illusionary tricks of popping require a lot of practice and trial-and error. Most of the movements required to perform such tricks are unusual and essentially unnatural. Your body requires a lot of time and repetition to memorize these movements.

Take waving, for example. It requires you to isolate certain parts of your hands, wrist, shoulders, and chest, but to do so in a rapid and smooth fashion. Or take strobing, where you need to perform a rapid series of stop-and-go movements that have to be performed at a constant rhythm, every movement equal in distance from the previous one.

While there are many dance teachers and friends who can provide you with invaluable tips, you need to rely on yourself to criticize your performance and judge what you need to do so as to get where you want. That’s why it is necessary to perform in front of mirror. You can gain immediate feedback by watching yourself perform an arm wave and being unsatisfied with the result. This is particularly important when you first start practicing. Most likely you misunderstand how to perform an isolation or a dime stop, and only seeing yourself in the mirror will point that out. This allows you to try something different, find out what you misunderstood, what you need to work on.

Be aware of the drawbacks, though. Looking at the mirror means you are not fully concentrating on executing a move. It’s difficult to perform a move and concentrate on how it feels if you are looking at a mirror. Another possible drawback is that you may get used to performing in front of a mirror but are unsure how to dance without the aid of one.

Then we have the most simple negative effect: It can be disheartening for anyone to try to execute a move and failing hundreds of times, particularly in the beginning where you will almost certainly fail at everything you attempt.

Therefore, it’s necessary to divide your individual sessions into separate blocks. In the first half, you will practice your moves without a mirror, simply focusing on the sensations in your body as you perform them. Then you can practice in front of the mirror to see where you have improved and what you still need to work on. Spend more time performing without a mirror, but check your progress  with a mirror in every session.

At some stage your own shadow can replace the mirror as your toughest critic. First pointed out to me by Otis Funkmeyer (who learned it from Tyson Eberly), you can detect the effectiveness of your isolations and dime-stops more clearly with your shadow then your mirror reflection. I suppose it’s easier to focus on the movements of a simple silhouette than a distracting mirror reflection, and I guess that the blown-up size of your shadow helps you detect every unwanted movement, no matter how small. In fact, it’s infuriating to see how clearly your silhouette reflects the imperfections in your dime-stop or in your wave. That’s why I’m advising you to switch to your shadow only after achieving some success in your training (let’s be easy on ourselves at the beginning, after all). But I was surprised at how quickly it helps me to improve technique. After you convince your shadow, you’ll convince everybody else.

What about taping yourself? There are drawbacks here also. It isn’t instantaneous feedback, and you can feel even more self conscious with a camera than a mirror. Nonetheless, it helps you see focus on more than just one move, allowing you to judge your dancing as a whole. It also allows you to see the effect of your dancing from different angles. Better to tape yourself dancing once in a while so as to judge your dancing from a fresh perspective.

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  1. October 23, 2010 at 9:15 am

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