Videodance-making 101

video-diagram300x300.jpgWhen I started making videodances in 2002 I had no idea what I was doing. I was a dancer who had seen a few great dance films by Maya Deren, and decided I had to work in that medium. When I got a video camera it was a process of experimentation and seeing other people’s work that led me to a basic understanding of how to compose movement for the camera and edit it into a videodance. Over the past few years I’ve heard more and more dancers say they want to start making videodances, but they don’t know where to begin.

ghostdance.pngIt’s a daunting leap from stage to screen, and requires a completely different set of skills and artistic intentions. Luckily there are more and more resources out there to help guide the novice videodance-maker. One great development in the U.S. is the emergence of videodance classes in college dance departments. Right after I graduated from CalArts in 1999 my friend and former classmate, Francesca Penzani began teaching video for dance courses there. She has produced a steady crop of videodance-makers whose work I showed on Move the Frame TV show, and has also been featured at various dance film festivals around the world. Ellen Bromberg at the University of Utah was one of the earliest advocates of dance film pedagogy and her program has been at the cutting edge of technology and dance innovations. Another west coast school devoted to this form is UC-Irvine under the direction Dance/Media Professor John Crawford. All of these schools host dance film festivals and expose their students and communities to the best new work from around the world.

For those of us in NYC, not in college and wishing we had access to all that great equipment, information and resources which were only available when we were in school, an amazing opportunity is coming. On Nov. 2nd & 3rd (Friday and Saturday) Movement Research, as part of its Movement Research Exchange (MRX) Program, in collaboration with the University of California Irvine (UCI), will be hosting a free showing and workshop featuring the Active Space interactive media system, at
Baryshnikov Arts Center
450 W. 37th Street
(between 9th & 10th)
New York, NY 10018

Reservations: (212) 598-0551 x1 or

Friday evening at 7pm will be a free screening of dance for the camera and work made by UCI students including a live multi-media performance. Saturday afternoon from 1-4pm will be a free workshop in Active Space, an interactive physical environment that engages participants in a dialog of mutual influence involving movement, visuals and sound. My impression is that this interactive media system is used primarily for creating live multi-media performances, however the technology sounds super-cool, and it could be very instructive in how to work with a video camera to frame a dance.

Another school that is helping to educate the world about videodance is Florida State University through their ChoreoVideo Project. Created by Associate Professor Tim Glenn with Andy and Dionne Noble, is a website that breaks down the techniques and tools for making a videodance and provides super-fine HD video clips as examples. This is a wonderfully simple manual that’s well organized and easy to digest. The site is peppered with inspirational quotes from veteran dance filmmakers, and there is an extensive list of resources for further reading and information.

A great book to check out is Katrina McPherson’s Making Video Dance: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Dance for the Screen (New York: Routledge Press, 2006). This is the first published guide of its kind, and it thoroughly explains the differences between choreographing for screen vs. the stage while providing in depth advice on how to create a videodance from concept through post-production. McPherson, along with Simon Fildes, is also one of the co-creators of the world’s most compact videodance-making production kit called the Move-me booth. Set up in public locations, the Move-me booth is like a passport photo booth, but inside participants are given instructions to dance before a video camera. The resulting video is posted to for everyone to see. Currently it’s touring in Europe, but perhaps a US tour will start up soon!

I’m really glad that there are so many more resources for videodance-makers now than there were just five years ago, and I hope that anybody who has been thinking about working in this form feels more informed and confident to start!

One last word of advice: assist on other people’s shoots. It doesn’t matter what kind of film/video/tv show it’s for. Nothing beats real hands on experience. Even if you are just fetching coffee and donuts, you will learn loads about the production process which will come to bear when you start to plan your own shoot.

How did other people start making videodances? And if you’re just starting, where have you found inspiration and guidance?

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One Response to Videodance-making 101

  1. Anna,

    This post has me very excited! It might just be the information my Dance Prof needs to move him in this direction, as he is a graduate of UC Irvine and if he sees what they are doing, perhaps it will inspire him?!

    Thanks again!


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