Thursday, November 5, 2009
EEK! IS THAT ME? USING VIDEOTAPE AS A DANCE TRAINING TOOL
Watching your own performances is probably one of the best learning tools possible for your continuing dance training. When you watch a videotape of yourself in rehearsal or performance, everything you are doing becomes crystal clear, from blatant mistakes to wonderful moments of perfection. By monitoring your own performances on videotape, you can clearly and objectively see your “dance truth”. In other words, it will enable you to see exactly what is right-as well as wrong- with your artistic practice . Sloppy technique, missed cues, personal tics, and every little mistake you make during your performance become illuminated. Things you may have missed or not “heard” in class or during a critique are quite obvious on videotape…but then, that is precisely why you are doing this to begin with!
Oh, it’s not easy to watch yourself. Many professionals with years of experience still find it uncomfortable to view themselves on film. When reviewing your own performance, try to avoid negative self-criticism, or comparing yourself with others…because the main reason you are doing this is to improve. Often, we are toughest on ourselves, and sometimes even merciless. Don’t beat yourself up or try to match yourself against others. Know that there will always be dancers who are more talented, younger, prettier, more technically gifted, or who own more lavish costumes than you do. This is a given. Why compare yourself to others and take the joy out of something rewarding and artistic that makes you happy? Competition can be healthy, but setting unrealistic goals about the many things you actually cannot change is harmful, as is denigrating yourself for no valid reason. As an individual, no matter who you are, you have many truly unique things to offer. If you seem to be having a tough time mastering a step or feel like you are not progressing the way you think you ought to be, take a deep breath and realize that you are your own worst critic. Others will never, ever see you or judge you in the harsh way you see yourself! Strive to be the best that you-and you alone- can be…and then cut yourself some slack.
For years, I cringed every time I watched a recorded performance of my own. Now, even after releasing numerous instructional and performance DVDs, it’s still hard for me sometimes, but I have learned to become neutral, almost like a casual third party observer. I go through a taped performance or rehearsal a few times and observe what I did, and then as objectively as I can, take notes the way a director would, observing what was good, and what wasn’t, what stays in the performance or what needs to be removed or re-worked. I evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in the performance and then assess what can be improved. Often during this process, inspiration would hit me like the proverbial lightning bolt, and I thought of completely new ways of interpreting music I had been working with for ages. Seeing myself dancing on tape taught me things about my dancing that no teacher could, and it will be invaluable to you for clearly discerning both the flaws and the strong points as you develop in your individual dance growth.
There is an upside to this, too. Often you will notice great things about your dancing that were never apparent to you when you were dancing. You will find that you might have mastered a perfectly executed a combination which you never thought you’d get, or that you have a dazzling smile, beautiful evocative gestures, or made a wonderfully quick and seamless recovery from a mishap. Sometimes, there are even moments of sheer magic-you might well see yourself doing something amazing onstage that you never, ever would think you’d be capable of!
Viewing yourself dancing on videotape becomes much easier after you have done it a few times, trust me. After a while, you may even look forward to analyzing your performances. So bite the bullet, and give it a whirl.