Friday, May 4, 2007

Video Yourself Often - But Be Kind

If you want to tear up the floor sooner rather than later, video cameras are your best friend. They're also a brutally honest critic. My direct experience is that the video camera is among the best tools for refining my moves. It shows me my good, bad, and "maybe I should just kill myself now" moments.

While refining your dancing, the camera greatly accelerates your learning by providing that needed outside reference point. Too much mirror-watching while dancing can be fatal, but during the playback you see it all happen. You notice that strange finger motion, your inappropriate shoulder shrug, or that pointed foot that looks out of place. Your progress is also obvious when you compare tapes over time.

You should consider taping regularly, both your practice and club dancing. Performers always use video to refine their movements.

Sometimes I hate it, because in my mind's eye I’m just amazing, while on tape it’s obvious I'm a major work in progress. I also get these glimmers of “Hey, that doesn’t look too bad! And it's certainly a vast improvement over last month.”

Be careful not to be discouraged. Most people are self-critical at a level that is borderline-insane, and the only other videos they watch are of pros. That's a very difficult standard, since the pros have years of experience. It’s just an unfair comparison.

The camera takes your best and worst and puts it right in your face. Most dancers should video their dancing at some regular interval, view the playback once or twice, and then delete the tape if they find it bothersome. The point is to use the tape as a tool to see your progress, not to constantly beat yourself up. Be sure to pat yourself on the back as you see improvements. It’s easy to focus on the weaknesses, but you need to see both sides or the tool becomes too painful and you fall into the dreaded, "I guess I should just go play ping-pong instead."

Everybody should also use mirrors, but that's another blog.

I tape ALL my privates so I can review and remember the finer points of the lesson (and recommend my students do the same). I won’t take lessons from someone who says, “No taping.” I will sign a document that those tapes are for my private use ONLY, so I can remember, review and learn. No instructor wants to see their lessons given to others free or posted on public sites.

I did a contest a couple years ago, and it's still painful for me to watch the video. We came in 3rd place, but when I see the playback, I realize how immature I looked compared to the vision in my head. We had plenty of positive feedback from the audience, but I hated the tape since it was so brutally honest. On the other hand, that view gave me a very clear focus on areas that were ripe for improvement. Over time, my taped reality gets closer and closer to my internal vision.

Video is one of the secrets of the pros. They see themselves on tape regularly and they can fix/refine or remove stuff that they don’t notice while dancing. They take their best and do more, and refine out the weaker movements.

Bottom line: It’s a great tool, and you should use it to your advantage. Soon enough you’ll be tearing it up and you’ll have the tape to prove it.

Tape yourself a few times and let me know how it works for you.
You know that look women get when they want sex? Me neither."
-Drew Carey

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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero