Want to improve your dancing with technology?
It All Starts with Video
February 14th 2005. Do you know why that was a significant date?
No, it has nothing to do with Valentine’s day. It was the day that YouTube was launched. Little did we know how the availability of online video would impact our lives. Video has helped push West Coast Swing in front of more people and helped bring inspiration to us all.
We’re thankful for YouTube it’s allowed us to share videos with dancers all over the world with our WCS Online YouTube Chanel
Being Inspired by YouTube Videos
Take a minute to watch Robert Royston and Trendylon Veal’s J&J finals dance at MADjam.
It’s great WCS, it’s musical, and it’s unbelievably entertaining. It’s an amazing video but there is more to be learned than meets the eye….
Dances like this are brilliant.
But, it’s also important to recognize that it’s a unique magic moment, and really, really good un-choreographed dances won’t always have that moment.
The one in a hundred dance
In a lot of ways, our expectations for un-choreographed dancing are distorted because we only see the jaw-dropping ones on YouTube.
How many dances does a pro have over a weekend?
Let’s say 100.
How many of those dances end up on video, either because they were on the event DVD or someone was recording a social dance?
And how many of those get posted to YouTube?
If that pro had a truly magical dance, they might have one posted from that weekend, but it’s common to have weekends with zero videos that get uploaded.
YouTube is full of rare magical moments
So, if you are watching a video of a pro on YouTube, you are watching a dance that was, at most, a once-in-a-hundred moment.
The videos that get thousands of views of YouTube have yet another layer of exclusivity.
The point is that YouTube dances are anything but typical.
They are so exceptional that you’d have to watch a hundred dances by that pro in order to see something magical like that again. But on
YouTube, you are only seeing those one-in-a-hundred dances, and so you begin to think that every pro dance is mind-blowingly magical.
The point isn’t to take anything away from Robert and Trendylon—if anything, it’s the opposite.
The lesson is that you should recognize that a dance with magic moments like this is very atypical, even among the champion level of dancers.
Many dancers try to force this kind of dance in their competitions or social dancing, and they end up looking out of control, making their partner uncomfortable, or just being frustrated.
These magic moments can’t be forced. If they happen, by all means enjoy the ride.
4 Ways to Improve Your Dancing with Technology
By now, most people in the WCS community have embraced video as a teaching tool.
Heck you might already be a member of WCS Online
First of all, use it for inspiration!
There are amazing routines and social dances that are literally uploaded each week.
Make a YouTube channel and keep a list of your favorite dance routines of all time.
That way you will have your favorite routines there anytime you want to keep you motivated.
Search for actual teaching videos. There are some great teachers online that are sharing their info on YouTube.
I was actually inspired to West Coast Swing Online after getting such good response from the videos I was posting on YouTube.
Invest in an iPad
Seriously how many times have you tried to learn a move or watch yourself dance on your iPhone. The screen is too darn small for serious learning.
Invest in an iPad or iPad mini and keep it dedicated to your dancing.
Buy one with enough memory so that you have enough space when you need to video something important.
Periodically clean out the videos that you are not using.
Do you really need every workshop you’ve ever taken? Probably not.
Get a tripod
If you are like me and you are practicing you might want to video yourself.
If there is no one around you might find yourself propping up your phone or iPad trying to point it in the right shot.
Invest in a simple tripod for your phone or iPad. It will dramatically increase the quality of your video angle.
A quick search on amazon will pull up a number of good choices.
Get the Coaches Eye App
This one is pretty slick. Coaches eye app is an inexpensive app $4.99, that allows you to do a lot of cool things to your practice video. I use it every day in my studio!
You can watch in slow motion, draw lines and circles on your video and best of all compare 2 videos side by side.
As a teacher, I use it to show students clear before and after videos of themselves. It has proven to be an invaluable tool.
I have found that actually being able to see the video was more useful that trying to explain the changes.
A picture they say is worth 1000 words.
Pro Tip: Use the ‘compare’ feature in the app to watch a side by side comparison of yourself. You will be able to see the before and after of you dancing.
- Become a Member of West Coast Swing Online
Is this a shameless plug? Maybe. Have we worked hard to create really helpful resources for WCS dancers? You bet!
So, if you’re interested in becoming a member of the site or buying a course we won’t complain 😉
If not no worries.
Keep enjoying the free move of the week videos we send out every other Tuesday.
And keep dancing some West Coast Swing!
Watching Yourself on Video
There are few domains of dance practice and performance in which video is not used.
Football players go to the film room to prepare for their opponents. Track athletes use slow motion cameras to analyze the minutiae of their stride. Even teachers will record their classrooms when getting feedback from a mentor.
As a dancer, you can take advantage of this tool to improve your own performance. This post is intended to give you some guidance and inform you on what no one tells you about using video effectively.
What should you video?
The answer is simple. Video what you want to see.
If you want to improve your social dancing, video yourself doing a social dance.
If you want to improve your arm lines, film yourself as you try a number of different arm movements.
When working on a routine, you may video any chunk of the routine in order to troubleshoot a section or refine the look.
Of course, video isn’t the only way to watch yourself.
Dance studios have walls with mirrors for a reason.
It’s valuable to see yourself immediately as you perform a move. While video is less immediate than a mirror, it has definite advantages.
First, video is great for looking at yourself from the audience’s (or judge’s) perspective.
If you’re drilling a specific motion, you can stand square to a mirror. However, if you’re at an angle (because of where your slot is, where your head is facing, etc.), your perspective may be distorted. Using a video camera can help you see what the movement looks like from the “right” perspective.
Second, video can be played over again and slowed down.
If you need to refine a motion or need to check something subtle; the ability to pause, rewind, and play in slow motion, make video superior to mirrors.
Finally, video can be preserved.
Whether you want to show an instructor what something looks like, or see how far you’ve come, video provides a record of your performance.
How often should you video yourself?
The answer to this question depends on what you are doing.
If you are looking for a general overview of your dance, taking a video once every six months is plenty.
If you are extremely focused, you can even video once a quarter. The reason you don’t want to video yourself every time you practice is because you need time to see the progress in your dancing.
Think about how parents can be blind to their child’s development while the relatives who see the child once a year remark how quickly the kid is growing up. The parents see the child every day, and therefore don’t see how the little changes add up over time. Viewing your dancing is similar.
You need to give yourself the distance to be able to appreciate how far you’ve come.
If you are recording yourself for a specific purpose (e.g., to see how a routine is coming together), it’s ok to video yourself more frequently. In this case you are focused on particular details.
Use your judgment about whether it’s more valuable to do another repetition for the camera, or whether you should use the repetition to drill the performance element.
Watch yourself in pieces.
When watching your dancing, cover up parts of the screen so you can focus on specific elements.
It can be helpful to watch a video once with your hand covering your body above the waist, a second time with your hands covering below the waist and above the neck, and a third time with everything but the head covered.
Most people are more critical of their own image than others, so covering parts of the body can help you focus on the look rather than the fact that it’s you.