This is a common question we hear and a good question! At Urban Studio, we have two dance rooms - one of them is a pole dance studio and the other is a community dance studio. The community dance studio has mirrors and hosts many classes, such as Booty Pop & Clap, Salsa, Burlesque, Music City Burlesque rehearsals and various community events.
Our pole dance studio has ten dance poles, a professional sound system, a sitting area, private restroom and everything a typical pole dance studio has, BUT it does not have ANY mirrors. This is because we are NOT a typical pole dance studio. Keep reading to find out why! :)
While we believe mirrors are important for learning and practicing isolations, comparing similar movements, booty shaking and for competitor-level students, we don't feel they are necessary for pole dancing classes. Classes are more three dimensional now and our methods of instruction must evolve in order to accommodate modern women. This is Urban Studio's approach. Everyone, from beginners to advanced students, can benefit from plain Jane walls. Here's why we banned mirrors (for now) in our pole dance studio:
1. Student-Instructor Connection
We like to face our students as much as possible. It provides a better connection and we can easily see who needs help, who likes or doesn't like the content, who is having fun, etc. You can't hide in the back and hope the instructor won't see you. Our instructors walk around and work with each student - correcting posture and physically adjusting or moving student's body parts to get them into the correct position. We also provide instruction from the back view when needed.
2. Interaction and camaraderie
Not having mirrors encourages students to interact with each other. They give each other feedback and tell each other how amazing the other person looks when they do a particular move. Then they share ideas, their favorite moves, tips, etc. It creates a positive environment and many of our students have made lasting friendships through class interaction.
3. Feeling & Loving
Another advantage of learning without mirrors is that students develop an intuition and sensitivity of how certain movements feel with their own bodies. Students are encouraged to be "hands-on" by touching themselves - putting hands on hips, butt, etc. It gives you a sense of how the movement feels, how your hands feel your body doing that move, how beautiful your body really is and ultimately makes women feel more comfortable in their own skin. It's a huge confidence booster.
4. Physical Sensation and Muscle Memory
Many women focus on what they look like instead of what the movement feels like. Once you know how the movement actually feels, you are likely to remember that movement. Those feelings become more deeply ingrained into your head, which results in better muscle memory and the ability to remember what you learned.
5. Mirrors are a distraction, which can result in:
- Paranoia - Some women feel awkward when looking in the mirror. It's distracting if you are focusing on your larger than normal hips, cellulite or thicker ankles. Dancing should be a positive activity, not a time to compare body types or obsess about flaws.
- Discomfort - Many women feel uncomfortable seeing themselves engaging in awkward new movements. You will feel less ridiculous if you cannot see what you are attempting.
- Competition - When you can see everyone else in the mirror, you may find yourself trying to keep up with everyone else. We encourage our students to learn at their own pace and to listen to their bodies. You should only do what YOUR body can handle. Listening to your body is so important and we can't emphasis this enough.
- Injuries - If you are too busy looking at what you look like, you may not be focusing on what you should be doing or listening to your instructor. We have seen this many times - a student will be staring at her booty shaking or watching herself in the mirror while the instructor is teaching something new. The student wasn't listening because she was clearly distracted. The next thing you know she is attempting the move that she did not properly learn. This results in injuries. Also, if you are upside down doing a tricky move and turn your head to look in the mirror, that could easily cause you to lose your positioning and fall off the pole. Scary!
Did you know walls are a useful tool for dancing and stretching? We utilize our walls every day - from choreography to intense back stretches to splits training. Everyone has walls so we love to teach things students can take home and practice without having to buy equipment.
7. Staring obsession
Have you ever watched a YouTube video of a pole dance and the dancer keeps watching herself in the mirror? It looks silly. Example 1. Example 2. A good dancer doesn't need instant visual feedback.
8. Better Performances
When you are performing on a stage and look at your audience, you can't see your reflection. It can be a deer-in-headlights moment if you are used to watching your routine when you practice. The best performances are by performers that have a strong physical connection with their routine. They work the audience while doing what their body already knows well. This is accomplished by practicing without mirrors.
Those are the major reasons we do not have mirrors in our pole dance studio. We also encourage our students to video themselves dancing. It allows them to see themselves if they choose to do so and provides an easy way to track their progress.
Perhaps one day Urban Studio will get optional mirrors that can be easily covered and concealed. We shall see. It would take some serious convincing. Until then, we are proud of our plain Jane walls and everything they have to offer.
This article describes another studio that has a similar philosophy.