5 Mar

I took my usual ballet class this morning, but today, every time I looked in the mirror, I was aghast. What in heaven’s name was I wearing? My ballet skirt was too short, my tights ill fitting; I hated my leotard, those leggings! How did I come up with that outfit? I felt ridiculous.

Natalie Portman in "Black Swan" - that mirror!

During the break between the barre and the adagio I switched my leggings, switched my skirt, hoping that might help.  When I came back in the studio I thought I looked a little better – but did I really? I thought to myself, maybe its best when a dance school requires a uniform. Children at ballet schools most often have to wear specific attire – girls in pink tights, their hair in a bun and a red, blue, green, black leotard depending on their age group… maybe that is the best bet – then there are no mirror/reflection clothing issues and you can focus on what’s important – dance.

I ran these thoughts by my daughter who understood my angst. “I feel the same way,” she said. “If I feel ugly at work, I feel gross the whole day and completely out of it. But, when I’m dressed well and look good, I feel I can do no wrong.”

Truth is, the ballet studio mirror should be used for corrections to technique and alignment, not for self admiration or self esteem issues.

Fox Business had a report last month, “Look Good, Feel Good, Get Hired.” The story, by Cheryl Casone, said “A study by Duke University researchers found that CEOs are more likely to be rated as ‘competent’, and actually make more money, based just on appearance. A September article in Psychology Today was more blunt stating ‘despite the sophisticated HR advancement in hiring and compensation practices, it appears your appearance, and particularly good looks, still matter.’”

NBC's "Smash"

In the February 27 episode of the new NBC hit series Smash, Katherine McPhee’s character is taken by her fellow ensemble members for a “Broadway makeover” – they trash her closet, buy her new dance clothes and a new wardrobe, change her “look” – all in the hopes of her getting the attention, and the lead, in the Broadway musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe. Will her appearance make a difference?

For the dancer, the studio mirror tells all. Looking your best in that mirror is definitely a confidence booster, and one needs confidence to dance, particularly at my age.

I think Martha Graham had the right idea when she said, “The next time you look into the mirror, just look at the way the ears rest next to the head; look at the way the hairline grows; think of all the little bones in your wrist. It is a miracle. And the dance is a celebration of that miracle.”

She was right. Next time I look in the mirror, I hope to look at myself differently. The new reflection? Our humanity, the body and it’s miracles, and most importantly, the extraordinary miracle of dance.

6 Responses to “MIRROR MIRROR”

  1. ballettothepeople March 6, 2012 at 7:33 PM #


    You speak so eloquently for all of us over-40’s who are STILL putting on those leotards and standing in front of that mirror. To get myself through class, this is what I see behind me in the mirror: Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; Dave Brubeck and his band; Leif Ove Andsnes sitting pensively at his Steinway; the dramatic and statuesque Adele in front of her microphone… and I think that all these incredible musicians are there just to make ME look good. It’s all about the music… Carla

    • AdriaBalletBeat March 7, 2012 at 5:31 PM #

      My dear, you speak more eloquently than I ever could! I’m glad you liked the post – it’s all about the dancing. That’s what counts! A.:)

  2. Terez Mertes April 12, 2013 at 10:24 PM #

    Loved your comments here, and loved the Huffington Post article! I’m right there, as a 50 year old ballet dancer, there in the classroom and loving [most of] it! (Some of your comments are eerily like mine, at my own dance blog!) Found your site thru Dance Advantage and the “Adult Ballet’s Dark Side” article. Glad you found the same humor in it that I did!

  3. zubiriland April 19, 2013 at 6:43 AM #

    I agree with you. I found your article searching for some information about portable ballet barres, I have to buy some for my studio. I do not know exactly why I arrived here, but I like it!

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