How we shoot Dance Videos

Dance productions are normally the climax of extensive work during rehearsal and in class. Most dance choreography is conceived, created, and meant to be seen from front center where the audience sits. When the audience watches they naturally move their eyes and focus on interesting areas. The challenge for a videographer is how to best record dance in such a way to preserve the accepted relationship between dancer and audience.

The safe way often used by companies recording dance recitals for schools is to use a single camera and keep all the dancers with most of the stage in view all the time. This results in a boring production lacking much of the excitement and fidelity of the performance. It is like watching the performance from the back of the hall. I call this basic recital videography which is often demanded by the dance studio.

A more interesting result can be achieved by using the zoom of the camera to pick out interesting parts of the dance and to traverse the dance group similar to how someone would watch from the center front. Since most budgets do not allow for attendance at rehearsals to shoot like this takes great concentration and skills, both technical and visual. There is little room for error as you have to take chances and hope there are not too many unexpected moves or odd entrances. We prefer to mix the two techniques and even when using a single camera operator we will leave a fixed camera on the whole stage whilst using the second camera to pick out specific action and zoom in where it feels appropriate. We would not use the second camera to shoot a stagnant corps of dancers particularly when soloists are working. There are also times when only the upper body and face are doing the dancing. In chorus sections where everyone is doing the same step we will zoom in and pan across the stage to capture expressions. We do this with the security of having the fixed camera recording the whole action allowing us to cut to it if we wrongly anticipate the live action or want to give the viewer the whole perspective.

If the budget is available the ultimate way of capturing dance is for a pair of cameramen to capture the action and use third cameras as the fixed stage view. This approach allows us to combine the three views to create a fully professional production.

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