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!