Last year, our Dance Company performed a piece to the songs Beautiful by Apocalyptica and Who You Are by Jessie J. (All choreography credit goes to Michelle Leininger.) We affectionately referred to it as “Mirror Mirror.” You can watch the video here. (I guarantee what I am saying will make a lot more sense if you do!) This video of the dance is taken from a practice after a few months of time away from it, so it’s not exactly up to par, but it illustrates the choreography pretty well, so just bare with me! I am the girl in the red shirt and gray shorts.
The piece starts with the instrumental music of “Beautiful.” The dancers are seated on their stools looking into a hypothetical mirror. They analyze every small detail of their body in isolation. The key in this part of the dance is emotion. For the potent message behind the song to come through, each dancer must personally connect to it and expose their genuine emotions. That being said, what is the message? Mirror Mirror is a dance about the pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect. It is about the internal struggle when we fall short of our expectations and how obsessive and overwhelming that becomes.The first day of practice, Ms. Leininger told us (originally there were five dancers and a Company B as well) to sit in a circle. Each of us had to share with the group something about ourselves that we do not like or that we feel insecure about. I was shocked at how bold of a move that was. I had never felt so vulnerable before. Eventually I realized it was that vulnerability that enabled me to pour myself into the dance; it transformed Mirror Mirror into art.
The dance moves become increasingly aggressive throughout the instrumental portion. This represents an escalating frustration with our flaws. “Beautiful” ends with the dancers shivering and slowly standing up. At the peak of our disgust, “Who You Are” starts playing. One by one, the dancers fall backwards and catch themselves right before they hit the floor. The repetition of this movement represents how often we despair over our imperfections and barely catch ourselves.
In the chorus of the song, all four dancers do the same body roll (the one that sort of looks like a scene from the Matrix, for those of you non-dancers!) on the lyric: “Sometimes it’s hard…to follow your heart.” Although I never clarified this with Ms. Leininger, I always interpreted this move as a representation of the openness and confidence required to “follow your heart.” For much of the dance, we are pulling away from the mirror or hunched over ourselves, but in this move, we completely unfold our bodies. The move illustrates how we must expose ourselves to truly accomplish what we want in life.
In addition, Mirror Mirror illustrates the power that friendship can have on confidence. At the beginning of the second verse, we stand in a line and each take a turn obsessing in front of the mirror. The girl behind each dancer swings her away. Right after that, the girl in the green jumps into our arms and we fling her forward. This symbolizes friends forcing someone to get back on her feet and to remember her worth.
At the end of the dance, we all snap, walk away from the mirror, and strike a confident pose. These moves contrast the self-conscious and awkward moves from the beginning of the piece. The contrast demonstrates how the dancers finally accept themselves and their imperfections. With help from their friends, they regain confidence.
If you have any questions about the dance or other pieces that Company did, feel free to ask! We did some pretty cool things with it in my school.