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.