Elements of Quality Video
There is no substitute for quality video footage. The quality of the finished video program, whether it be archival or promotional, can never surpass the quality of the source video. Similarly, the nature of the dance event or the economic means of the company may allow only one opportunity to videotape a performance, and footage created during that shoot will serve to represent the dance event for the historical record. Creating quality video footage at the outset of a documentation project insures strong building blocks for the compilation of the final video product. In its reformulation of dance preservation techniques, the LADD Project chose to focus on this first, most important step of video documentation.
Responding immediately and decisively to the challenges posed by the preservation crisis, NIPAD identified the use of more than one camera as critical to quality documentation and mandated a multiple camera approach as a condition of the grant. Moving from one to two cameras imparts a critical additional dimension to the visual record, not merely improving the quality of the video footage, but advancingit to the next level of art, professionalism and historical legibility. A dance video is not a copy of a dance performance, but a representation of it. No amount of communication between the videographer and artistic director before the performance can allow the artistic director to inform all the choices that must be made by the videographer on the fly during the live shoot. The two-camera approach decreases the number of decisions that the videographer must make in situations that preclude consultation with the artistic director. The resulting documentation, then, includes more than one point of view, and the record captures an intimate glimpse of representative details while simultaneously portraying the entire range of the performance's action.
The Two-Camera Equipment Package
Communication and Collaboration
Merging two mediums such as dance and video requires a learning process. It is imperative that the videographer achieve a close knowledge of the performance and respect for the artistic director's intent before shooting begins. Towards this end, the artistic director must provide the videographer with cultural and artistic direction and should be willing to learn about the technical and aesthetic characteristics of video as a medium in order to ease the transition from stage to videotape.
Aesthetic components of a dance work that must be conveyed in similar terms on video include form, content and context. Form is the physical manifestation of the work. Under the rubric of form falls the movement vocabulary, the choreographic structure, staging, props, sound and costume. Content is the "story" the work tells; a story can be narrative, abstract or simply the form itself. Context encompasses the work's historical, artistic and cultural roots, referring to the traditions upon which the creation or presentation of the new work draws. The traditions that inform context include the performance environment, as well as artistic and cultural influences. In ethnic dance in particular, the context can determine a dance's form and content; that is, form, context and content are inextricably interconnected. Moving from the three-dimensional space of live performance to the two-dimensional screen of video is a process of translation that must address form, content and context alike if the video is to become a "true" historical representation of the work. The smooth execution of this translation requires the videographer and the artistic director to work together.
Practical Applications for Quality Video
With quality video footage as a building block, not just one but many applications are made possible. Footage can be preserved in the long, unedited format, portraying the performance in its entirety, or it can be fashioned into a short promotional piece. Investing in quality video footage engenders increased choices in the decision-making process and places the following practical applications well within reach:
Creating video archives
Video archives of dance performances allow us to remember work done by those who are no longer living and to preserve cultures and traditions that are fading out or under-represented. In the history of performance, videotapes, which encompass sound and movement, are the most comprehensive artifacts that a work can leave behind. To create a moving record of the history of dance will make it possible to trace where the discipline has been and to look ahead to its future.Improving booking potential
When cost issues make it difficult for presenters to travel across the country or the world to view new work, a well-crafted performance video can be relied upon to convey the spirit, content and composition of a work more clearly than reviews, stills, or verbal recommendations. Video helps not only to secure bookings, but also to aid presenters in promoting the company in the community. A professional performance video becomes the proverbial foot in the door that gains dance companies entrance to national and international venues. Educating presenters about work with which they are less familiar can provide underrepresented artists and forms with increased opportunities for touring.
Enhancing funding applications
In a competitive market for contributed support through funding agencies, funders and panels increasingly rely on quality, full-length performance video to cull award recipients from large pools of applicants. Investing in quality video improves a company's past funding status by making available clear and meaningful representations of a dance artist's work. Educating decision-makers improves fundability and visibility in the contributed income market.
Contributing to the artist's process
Video is a valuable tool for evaluating performances, restaging work or designing technical elements. A performance video can be viewed many times, with high and low points demonstrated visually to the dancers. If an artistic director chooses to restage a dance from the company's repertoire or if a company wants to reconstruct another artistic director's work, video will visually convey the quality of the dance movement, the overall choreographic structure and the relationship between dancers in ways that dance notation does not offer. Additionally, lighting designers and technical directors use videotapes of dance works to aid their design process and to make the scripting of cues simpler.
Invigorating the research and education market
Video aids historians, critics, ethnologists and writers in composing in-depth analyses of dance styles and choreographic development. Fast-forward, rewind and slow motion allows performances to be viewed repeatedly and enables the viewer to isolate movements or sections of a dance. Video allows researchers to produce more objective analyses than allowed by relying on their memory of a performance or by dancing themselves. Teachers of dance composition, dance history or world dance likewise utilize video in the classroom to observe and communicate critical dance issues and concepts pertaining to those subjects. In current research and educational contexts video documentation is an important key to historical dance research and cross-cultural comparison. Video is also a learning tool for young or emerging choreographers and artistic directors.
Accessing television broadcast markets