As a dancer, studying Classical Ballet from an early age (5) and
doing monkey stuff dancing even before it, the mirror has always been a companion. My first boyfriend. A good one.
It serves many purposes: correcting movements, fixing or exploring lines, brainstorming with my partner (the mirror itself) on potential new combinations, using it as a memory support, kissing it and allowing it to watch me crack up under pressure: crying my wounds out, ripping my hair off (I can´t do this; I´m not talented/skillful/capable enough!), being my full – vulnerable – self.
Only my maternal grandmother was ever allowed to watch me in this naked ritual with The Mirror. In no other occasion, not even in my most intimate moments with the men I´ve loved, I´ve been more exposed or fragile. Love – CHECK! Sex – CHECK! Intimacy – ´never been there, more exotic and scarier than the Amazonian jungle.
Once upon a time, my mum stepped in my dance room while I was working with the mirror. I was still living with my parents and the territory borders were clear: DO NOT ENTER THE ROOM WHILE I´M DANCING/REHEARSING/CHOREOGRAPHING. She knew how forbidden that territory was for outsiders – aka everyone who was not me or my grandmother, my only guest. VIP.
She knew but she should have known better. I turned to the door – my body covered in sweat, twisted into a pretzel, tense and arched, a girl or a thunderbolt?, fur growing on the palm of my hands; my hair, usually tied into a dishevelled bun (a thousand times fixed; a thousand and one times ruined, or freed), rose up. There was a Growl:
-Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummm! – I yelled; no, I howled.
My mum froze, a victim striken by a dancing Medusa. Daughters aren´t supposed to growl at their mothers; daughters – good, civilized daughters with A grades and polite manners – don´t get fur on the back of their hands or sharp, long claws under their manicured pale pink nails.
-Why didn´t you knock? – I kept howling, a wolf calling for a lover on a full moon night or a pack of wolves caught by the haunter in the middle of a carnage after starving season. My eyes – a glittering yellow painted with rays of red, maybe blood, maybe passion, maybe rage – were on fire. My mother would later recognize the same wolf – in me; in her – when my favourite cat, Love was its name, died.
-I didn´t know people could howl like wolves. – She´d tell me, half scared and half proud, on these two occasions.
-Well, we know I can.
My grandmother was different – she was the mother of my mother, a condition that elevates motherhood, and its elastic compassion, towards untouchable heights (so I like to believe). Maternal love taken to a higher octave, purified by a generation, washed by two lives
mirrors made of sacrifices, the typical martyrdom I´ve always rejected, and life experience turned into Wisdom.
She´d sit, in utter silence and focus, and watch me do my thing. She smiled and nodded at something I was never able to define. Did she understand what I was doing? I worked with the mirror – good, silently howling, girl performing her duty; she rarely looked at me through it. She´d look straight where the goodies were.
Let me deliver the key: my grandmother wasn´t a dancer but a peasant and she would remain so until her transition (physical death). She was a woman who woke up with the sun and went to sleep with it; a womb that expanded and shrank with the moon and the tides; two bare feet aware of seed and harvesting season; a soul that had given birth next to a river, struggling on a moist piece of land, exhaling the scent of olive oil and rain, under a lemon tree. That´s probably why she got me
the wolf. Somehow, she got it the wolf. And enJOYed watching me the wolf, getting lost, like Narcissus sister, inside that piece of reflective glass.
Yes, the mirror has always been my friend, probably because I am my friend. Being a goofball who doesn´t take herself too seriously helps; appreciating myself – body included – for all the amazing things I´ve been able to accomplish also helps; (instinctively) knowing that Dance, as Life, is more than what I see in a mirror definitely makes the trick.
Let´s understand this: the mirror, in itself, doesn´t exist – it´s just a reflexion of the person staring at it. It´s like darkness – it doesn´t exist, it´s just the absense of Light.
As I travel the world – to perform, teach and lecture – and get in contact with increasingly large numbers of dancers (and people, in general), I can see how mirrors terrify the majority. Most people don´t even dare looking at themselves in the mirror and, if they do, sadness and self-hate/pity arise from the deepest parts of their Being.
Professional dancers, in particular, suffer from this malady. I can see it in their eyes – the dread, the self-critical silent attacks. And I ask myself why, why, why? Why don´t they see the Beauty I see in them (can I see the Beauty in me; can I?)? If only they saw what I SEE in them.
Kiss the mirror – dare! That means: kiss yourself. Bring your grandmothers into that room and, instead of letting them watch (just watch), take them by the claws and have them dance with you.
Kiss the mirror: kiss yourself
the wolf. Then invest into it, crash it, break it until it´s impossible to glue it back to its initial form. Howl out loud, for GrandMother´s sake. Forget all about the 7 year curse; forget all about what others think you´re supposed to look like and be. Forget. Just forget. Forget yourself inside of those tiny pieces of broken mirror, allow yourself to be cut by them; let yourself bleed and cry and maybe even celebrate because births, all sorts of births, should always be celebrated. You´ll finally be born. A baby wolf , wrapped up in blood and placenta, rediscovering the world, once more, still aware that mirrors – as life – are just a reflection of what you bring to the world.