hillary-marie

tap dance artist

official website

So You Think You Can Film In Class?

What a shocking sight it was to see… dancers taking class with phones in their bras and pant pockets, whipping them out to film a teacher’s break down moment with a trembling fear that there may not be an invited filming breakdown at the end of the class. Even wilder, I’ve seen people walk into a class they weren’t taking, and film it! At what point in time did it become acceptable to 1. Bring your phone into the studio and 2. Film a teacher without asking?


I’m not saying that phones/cameras should be entirely banned in the studio, as many teachers are kindly willing to do a video recap. I know I’m one of them. However, filming in the middle of a class without a teacher’s consent is disrespectful to the teacher and distracting to the other students. The optimal learning environment is one where we have respect for the teacher, their material and the other dancers who have paid for the class.

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Artists spend so much time honing their craft as well as their teaching philosophies and they have every right to protect their material and choose how it will be shared with the world. I’ve heard teachers who say, ‘of course you can film, I have no secrets’ or ‘yes, please film and tag me on Facebook’ and others who say ‘no, I don’t want you to film because the union protects me from that’ or ‘no, you cannot film the piece but you’re welcome to buy my DVD that breaks it down’ or ‘no, I don’t want you to film, because I said so’. Every single response listed here is justifiable.


We need to adjust our in-studio etiquette and ask ourselves the following questions before filming. Did the teacher give you permission to film? Where is that footage going? Did the teacher give you permission to share the footage, or is it for your eyes only? After you’ve walked through the basics of permission comes the next level. How much is this technology helping you? Is it possible that you’re hindering your education by filming all the time?


Growing up dancing in the NJTAP Ensemble, our director Deborah Mitchell told us since we were kids, “If you have to film it, you don’t deserve the gig.” I was raised not to film choreography or rehearsals and be it as a result of this lack of filming, or maybe just the dance Gods being on my side, I remember just about every piece of choreography I’ve ever learned. It may take me a minute to dust it off, but my retention skills are sharp and I truly feel I owe it to Ms. Mitchell for creating a no filming precedent. But let me clarify – this ability didn’t come naturally or comfortably. It came with ferocious focus, endless effort and persistent practice. While recalling some pieces was as simple as playing the music before bed and again on my way to the next day’s rehearsal, there were days that I would learn a piece of choreography so intricate, that I would literally do nothing else that day but think about the repertoire, running through it in my head until it sank into my bones, putting it into action again the following day at the next rehearsal.


So is throwing the camera away the solution to retaining class material? Not entirely. But removing the phone from our hands allows us to be present in class. Be engaged for the entirety of the class, get a dance journal, write corrections, ideas, and a recap of lessons. Enjoy the moment. Absorb the art through your eyes, rather than through the screen of your phone (a concept that can be applied both in AND out of the studio). Breakdown footage may give us new footwork, but our time in the studio with a teacher gives us the opportunity to absorb an experience that a video cannot capture. Taking class gives us a chance to absorb a teacher’s energy and their vibe, be inspired by the things they say, learn from their stories and bits of history they share and more.


So what can we do about this as a community? I suggest the following:

  • Teachers can cover this topic in their etiquette discussions with their students.​​​​​​​
  • Event organizers can protect their artists who refuse filming in their classes by helping to enforce the policy.
  • Artists, maybe consider clarifying at the start of your classes if filming is unacceptable or welcome, and if you do allow it – at what time.


And I ask the following questions:

  • Teachers, what is your filming policy?
  • Students, have you found it distracting to see other dancers filming during your class? Or are you by any chance the videographer in question?


Please share your thoughts and experiences!