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Episode Info:

 

How video can improve your practice for performance

Several years ago, after one of my stage performances, I came off the stage completely stoked! I thought it was the best thing I’d ever done. I was so sure that I was on fire, that I engaged the audience, and that I had smiled and connected. It felt absolutely fantastic!

I couldn’t wait to relive the experience with the performance video.
 

But when I saw the video, I couldn’t believe it. It was like it was a whole different dancer up there on the stage (and not at all as I imagined).

So I started thinking about what I could do to bridge the gap
between how my performance felt and what it looked like. I decided to try recording my practices to video. Here’s what I learned…

Listen now: Or Read the Transcript...

Several years ago, after one of my stage performances, I came off the stage completely stoked! I thought it was the best thing I’d ever done. I was so sure that I was on fire, that I engaged the audience, and that I had smiled and connected. It felt absolutely fantastic! I got the video of the performance in the mail. I was really excited to watch it and relive that experience. So, I turned it on and started watching. And as I watched, I thought to myself….” who IS that person?” That is not at all how I remember that performance! When I practiced in the mirror, I was sure I had seen myself smiling. It was right there in front of me! I know I engaged my audience (which was myself at the time). My movements looked huge and vibrant. These were all the things I felt while I was onstage. But when I saw the video, I saw a floppy, right hand and movements that were way smaller than they felt on stage. I saw that I wasn’t nearly as engaging and full of smiles as I felt like I was at the time either. I couldn’t believe it. It was like it was a whole different dancer up there on the stage. I started thinking about what I could do to bridge the gap between how my performance felt and what it looked like. I decided to try recording my practices to video. Recording your practice is a great way to advance your dance. It may not be the most comfortable thing in the beginning. It certainly wasn’t for me. But with a little persistence, you can make BIG gains in your performance level.

Let’s talk about some reasons to record your practice… 1) The mirror lies! This is a big one. We think that because we can see ourselves right there in the mirror, that we are actually seeing what we’re doing. But what we’re seeing is a visual reflection. We are not reflecting on our internal sensations and mind-body awareness. It’s much more valuable to get “outside” of your body in order to really see what your body is doing. 2) You’ll find new moves – When I’m coming up with a new dance piece, I put on a short section of the music and make it loop. I play it over and over (and over) again while I try out new moves or sequences. I record this and watch it back. Nearly every time I do this, I see a move or transition that I didn’t remember doing when I was just noodling it. And if I hadn’t recorded it, it would have been lost. 3) That move or veil flourish may not look as cool as you think it does – Sometimes I think I’ve got the perfect move for a few counts of music. But when I watch it back on video, it doesn’t always quite fit. But I see it and I can make a change. 4) That flourish you don’t think is all that great is actually WAY cooler than you thought – When I get a tip from my own dance coach that I’m not really in love with at the time, of course I give it a try anyway. Sometimes it works on me, sometimes not. But when I record it, I know that I’m giving it a fair shot. I get to see why it does or doesn’t work for me. Often, I end up loving the suggestions after all. But if I hadn’t recorded, I might have missed out on those opportunities to grow my movement vocabulary. 5) You’ll see if your moves are ‘saying’ the music – When I make a dance (in the case of choreography), I’m putting moves with music and counts. When I record, I might find that it doesn’t really “say” the music or it doesn’t quite look right. I can adjust it. And sometimes when I record to see how those moves look on the music, I can hear a musical nuance that I didn’t hear before I “saw” it. As dancers, it’s our job to ‘show’ the music. Recording your practice can help you see everything…including the music. 6) You’ll pick up on over used moves and/or stage patterns that you might not know you’re doing – I’m a creature of habit. We all are. It’s easy to get comfortable using the same patterns and movements over and over again. If you record your practice, you’ll see (from an audience perspective) when your dance is too repetitive and where you might add variations to punch it up. 7) You’ll see whether you’re using expression (and if it’s big enough) and whether you’re engaging the audience or not – Practice how you will perform. It’s really easy to get bogged down with the steps and stage patterns, but totally miss engaging with the audience. If you practice without engaging, you’re more likely to perform that way too. When I record my own practice, I can see if I’m engaging and what it looks like. If it doesn’t “show” enough, I can adjust and record again. This helps me make the mind-body connection. When I can SEE what my desired expression and engagement looks like on video, I then know how it FEELS and I can reproduce it on stage. 8) Watching it back can help solidify your choreography and show you what your improv looks like – This is kind of a no brainer. Basically, the more you see or do something, the more ingrained it becomes in your mind and muscle memory. When you dance into the mirror, you only see a smart part of yourself at a time. You can check your lines, where your hips are, your expression, etc. But with video, you get to see the whole picture at once. You’re “outside” of yourself while you’re watching. You can watch yourself from an audience perspective. That’s really valuable!

So why wouldn’t you record yourself? Yeah, you might be thinking that you hate the way you look on video or that it’s too hard to watch without beating yourself up emotionally.

I get it. I felt that way too in the beginning. It felt really silly to record myself practicing. I had these great recollections of my performances and they were completely dashed when I saw them on video. I was beating myself up because the “video me” didn’t live up to the “mirror me”.

The truth is, is that we are our own worst critics. It’s natural. But if you just get over yourself and try it, I can almost guarantee you that you’ll become friends with your camera in a very short amount of time.

Now, you might also be thinking that it’s hard enough to practice, let alone record it. I hear you. I used to record using my fancy video camera and then transfer it off to my computer to watch on a larger screen. And if I wanted to upload to YouTube, it took forever. I don’t do any of that stuff anymore.

The quickest and easiest way for me to record is to use my cellphone. The picture and the audio quality is great. I use a small, flexible leg tripod and set it up on top of my computer. If I need to record from a higher vantage point, the flexible leg tripod is handy for putting my phone on top of a room divider or I can wrap the legs around a tree branch or whatever. I’ll put a link to a tripod in the resources on the episode page. I upload my videos as unlisted videos to a YouTube channel that I keep just for practice videos. That way I can delete the videos from my phone after uploading and keep a record of my progress too. I just use the YouTube app on my phone. Uploading a 1-2 minute video segment takes about 2-4 minutes. So, it doesn’t have to be time consuming or hard.

Let’s talk about some ways to use practice video recordings in a productive way. 1) First, I recommend just recording small segments of your practice at a time. Maybe just the verse or the chorus of your song. It keeps the videos short and it’s not overwhelming when you watch it back. 2) Next, when you watch a video back, resist the urge to pick it apart mercilessly (yet). Identify 1-2 aspects that stand out to you as things that you want to adjust or change. Maybe you see that your arm carriage isn’t as strong as you’d like. Or you have one expression during the entire piece. Or it could be that you see you’re not quite finishing one move before starting the next or it doesn’t match the music. 3) Then run through that section again a few times without recording. Focus on the 1-2 things you identified for adjustment and try to connect how the adjustment feels in your body. 4) Record again implementing your adjustments and compare video 1 and 2. Then do a happy dance because you’ll see a difference. 5) Lastly, and this is totally optional, upload those videos to your practice YouTube channel so you can see your improvement over time. You don’t have to show them to anyone. These are just for you if that’s the way you want it.

Now, let’s explore what NOT to do with video –

• Video can lie too. Don’t rely on performance videos to gauge your true level of stage presence or expression. If you’re on a large stage far away from the camera, video will most likely NOT pick up the true emotion and energy of your show. A show that feels fantastic and got an enthusiastic response from the audience can come off looking flat. Your practice videos, however, are likely to be recorded much closer in than a performance video. If you’re focusing on joy and emotion, practice videos will give you a much better gauge of how you’re doing on that score. • Don’t use video to beat yourself up emotionally. Recording your practice is a tool that can show you where you are in your dance and help you grow into where you want your dance to be. • Don’t make your videos too long. A short segment is much quicker and easier to record and work with. If it’s too hard or time consuming, you’re less likely to do it. • Don’t try to adjust or change too many things at once. That can be overwhelming. Just pick 1-2 things to focus on from each video and take it one step at a time.

In summary, video is a simple tool that can help you improve nearly every aspect of your dance. Recording your practice can help you identify new moves, too much repetition and things you just can’t see when you watch yourself in the mirror. Record in small, 1-2 minute chunks and just choose 1 or 2 aspects of your dance that you want to do differently. Don’t beat yourself up with negative talk. It can be a little scary in the beginning. But be kind to yourself and know that you are taking control of the direction of dance practice. If you want to feel content and confident while standing in the wings offstage just before your next performance …consistent practice is the key. And recording your practice can help you grow by leaps and bounds. Now, when I get ready to do a performance, I feel so relaxed and happy to get up on that stage. I know this comes from the preparation, the practice and actually SEEING what my dance looks like because I record my practice. I know how I want my dance to look. And because I record, I know how it FEELS when it looks the way I want it to. I can reproduce the look by reproducing the feeling.

If you’d like to learn more about how to objectively (and kindly) self-critique your practice and/or performance videos, check out Torture Free Critiques at Bellydancegeek.com/critique

Affiliate link – Camera tripod for phone https://amzn.to/2CU6qeS

 


  Your Turn Have you ever recorded your practice with an eye towards improving your dance? Why or why not?

Do you have trouble watching yourself on video?

Got a question or topic that you’d like us to talk about on the show?

We would love to hear from you.

Leave a comment below, or better yet, leave us a short voice message. Maybe we’ll even play it on the air!

 

Want More?

If you’d like to learn more about how to objectively (and kindly) self-critique your practice and/or performance videos, take a look at our Torture Free Critiques product.

Check It Out

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The post The Mirror Lies! appeared first on Belly Dance Geek.

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