Videotape yourself! I know, I know…it sounds crazy. And it can be very scary to videotape yourself dancing and then turn around and watch it. That’s absolutely very scary but it is also important if you want to elevate your dancing to another level. It’s a great tool to actually see what’s happening in your training so you’ll definitely want to do this at home.
Why wouldn’t just dancing in front of a mirror work? Well, the mirror will not be your friend when you’re dancing. You won’t be able to focus on the mirror and concentrate on your dancing. If you have a camera you can go back and watch it separately from the time that you are doing the dancing. You’ll be able to really see what was going on while you were moving and not stop to focus on the mirror every few seconds.
We are afraid to video ourselves and watch ourselves because there may be a feeling of inadequacy or that you’re not good enough. This voice in your head is bull**** and we are afraid that the video we see might confirm that. I know when I first started videotaping myself it really helped me step into my own and study on my own.
It was one of the craziest things I have ever done but one of the best things I have ever done for my belly dance practice. I would videotape a portion of me dancing and then go back and rewind it and take notes on what I see. The hardest part wasn’t even watching the film. The hardest part was not judging myself so harshly.
I had to stop saying “gosh you’re such a sh** dancer” to myself. It just leads to a downward spiral that a lot of us are familiar with. It was hard for me to stop being my biggest critic and use the video the way it was intended – to give myself usable feedback.
So I get it, it’s scary! It’s going to be a challenge at first but it’s a skill that we can train ourselves in doing so that we can get the most out of our training. So let’s move through our fears and get to the set up of your video.
Setting up Your Video
Make sure your video equipment (camera, phone, tablet, computer) is plugged in. I don’t know how many times my phone has died. You think your battery is fully charged but filming can drain it quickly. The best way to ensure it stays on is to keep it plugged in.
You’ll want to ensure you’re capturing the whole dance area you’ll be moving in. You’ll also want to make sure the video doesn’t cut off your head or your feet when you’re moving around. Check that your body stays in frame when moving around. Consider how far you move and test the video out to capture a small portion to make sure you’ll see the whole range of dance floor you’ll be covering.
One easy way to ensure this is to get yourself a cheap but decent tripod that you can place in the same spot each time or even leave there permanently so you don’t have to adjust and figure out the range each time. If you have a separate recording device you can just leave it there all the time, even better, but just knowing the spot to put it each time will help when setting it up.
If you already have an area of your house that’s designated for your practice then your set up is an easy thing to maintain. I understand not all of us have that luxury of a dedicated dancing space and a set camera for set up each time. Sometimes you’ll need to shift a coffee table and a couch and that’s ok too. Just know where to put the camera to make sure it captures everything. It will save time on set up and give you more time for dancing. On average you could spend about 5-7 minutes making sure the camera, sound and video are all working.
And don’t forget if you are recording on your phone to put it in airplane mode so incoming calls and texts don’t disrupt your recording session.
Something that can be forgotten is to make sure you have enough memory space on your camera to video. After each practice, upload your video to your long term storage so the next practice, you are ready to rock and roll. It’s a poopy feeling wanting to video and then you have to spend your whole practice time uploading your content. Ugh.
How To Review Your Video
Start off by recording just a small amount of video while dancing. You don’t want to record a full 30 minutes of footage. It will be overwhelming to watch, review and then try to use the feedback.
Instead try starting with 5 minute clips to review. Record yourself from beginning to end and then take the time to watch small chunks. Take notes and review what you would want to adjust. The next step is to go back to dancing with this new information and practice again.
You can even do this for smaller bits of time to focus on a certain thing. For example you could record yourself for just 30 seconds working on your arms. Record yourself for 30 seconds and review. You’ll ask yourself “are your fingers pointed out well enough?” Take that information and make the adjustment. Record yourself for another 30 seconds. Then look at it again. Do you think the arms were a little low? It’s ok, you take the information and you go back to practicing and reviewing.
This review process is much like a TED talk out there on Prototype, refine, prototype, refine. I have a video on TED Talks to watch and it’s listed there. The idea is to do what you’re going to do, review, refine the process, and start over. This allows us to make changes slowly and intentionally so that you are able to fine-tune what you are doing in a real time feedback loop.
The point of filming in small chunks is to give yourself feedback on one or two factors to change over time. You’re going to find that it’s way more impactful to make small changes over time. That will make the biggest impact.
While this is a huge leap to get the courage to watch yourself I promise you it will move you leaps and bounds in your development as a person who can train themselves. You’re training your eye and brain to pick up improvements without ripping yourself apart. Treat yourself with grace and as you would another fellow dancer you would critique. You don’t want to talk down to yourself, that’s not productive to this exercise. You’ll leave feeling worse than when you began.
Tips On Being Kind To Yourself While Watching Video:
Pump yourself up – talk to yourself in a positive way. Say something like “let’s have a great day out there.” If you think it’s cheesy, just try it a few times and you’ll feel how great a few small positive words can make you feel.
Look at yourself as a friend on screen – don’t critique yourself, pretend you’re a friend from class looking for help. This will help you talk kindly and as productively to yourself as you would a fellow dance mate.
Make mental checklist – All of the things you would look at for choreography (posture, technique, breathwork) just create a checklist and ask yourself if the dancer on screen is hitting those points.
Ask “What is missing?” – Looking at it from a detached point of view helps when asking “what is missing” or “what more would I like to see from this dancer”. If you see that you’re looking tense in one place, then the question of “what is missing” will bring you to the fact that breathing is missing. If you need more breathing, then that’s the feedback you give to yourself.
Don’t bring back “I look so tense, and constipated.” – Instead, tell yourself “better breathing would make a huge impact on this portion of the dance.” That’s looking at it in a detached way. Then asking “how do I add that in to let it reflect in the dancing and in the face?” will lead you to your action step.
Keep looking back – Once you go back and make adjustments you’ll be able to watch for it again and focus on that change specifically. While this can be overwhelming at first, keep going! And give yourself a major highfive and props for choosing to focus on one element at a time.
Be kind to yourself – Be kind to the dancer on the screen. We are not going for perfection. We are going for progress. Perfection is not important. The process of learning and growing is what makes the biggest difference. There is no good or bad, right or wrong judgment on the dancer. We are just looking for what’s missing and what we can work on to take it up to the next level up.
That is a much more empowering way to look at yourself on screen. And if a bad thought about your dancing tries to creep in, acknowledge it and tell it “NOT RIGHT NOW! I got s*** to do!”
The mentality behind taping yourself, even as a teacher, is the most critical aspect of this type of personal review and growth. I hope these tips help you overcome any negative thoughts or doubts and allows you to see the great benefits of this type of feedback.
I know it’s not the easiest process but it’s definitely worth it. I highly encourage you to do one video so you can see that this is very attainable. If you’re looking for more tips for setting up at home, especially in a small space you can check out this video and blog.
I believe in you!
Let me know, have you wanted to get video feedback on your dancing through video? Have you tried this before or want to in the future? Let me know how I can help by leaving me a comment or question below or shoot me an email.