Here are some of my tips for assessing your performance videos:
- Don't start the process until you have plenty of time. You need to watch your video through three or four times. This probably means allowing an hour or more in one sitting. If you just watch your video once, you will have a very shallow view of your performance. This is a learning lesson, so make yourself comfortable, grab some tea, find a notebook and complete the process.
- The performance you are watching was yesterday (or last week...) - IT HAS PASSED - there is no use regretting, or wishing you could go back in time to make changes. However you can make changes to your future. Critique for notes you can add to your upcoming practice and studies. Wish you had rehearsed more ? - put some extra rehearsal time into your diary. Do your turns look off? - schedule ten minutes of turns into your personal practice time for the next six weeks....
- Watch your video four times:
- First view - Just for fun. Was the camera turned on? Can you hear the music? If its a troupe number, watch the whole picture.
- Second view - Watch as if you are your teacher. Disengage from the video being you dancing, and instead consider it as if you were a teacher being asked to assess another belly dancers performace. If the person you are watching was to ask you for a private lesson to improve her performance, what would you say? The general wisdom in teaching is that people learn best from a "negative sandwich" - that means you construct a sentence with praise, criticism, praise - maybe "Your arms are looking very strong and beautiful, watch out for that wrist twist you tend to do when you are extended, but I love the way your eyes follow your hands and then you extend your view out to the audience." Be the kind of teacher you wish you had. Not the mean teacher who hates everything you do and is looking forward to failing you for the whole semester!
- Third view - Watch as the dancer. Take on the critique offered by your "teacher voice" and look for ways to make those improvements. Watch your moves, your styling, your technique, your performance skills and your costume. What works and what doesn't ?
- Fourth view - Watch as the audience. Was that performance entertaining? Did it have changes in tempo, light and darkness, drama, emotion, fun? Did you use the whole space? Did you include travelling, level changes, different angles to the audience? Were you predictable or unpredictable? Did your costume, music and dance style all match and compliment each other? Did your hair and make up work on that stage? Would you (as the audience member) pay good money to see that show?
- All faces look weird. When we are on stage we tend to sing along, or smile with too many teeth. Don't freeze your video and assess that one weird look - instead look to see if you had a nice relaxed smile, or that you looked like you were having fun through the whole performance. Even if you favor the smoldering darkness in performance, did your face send that message out to the audience?
- Forgive yourself for mistakes that could have happened to anyone. No amount of practice or rehearsal is going to stop every single mistake. However, if you know you skipped rehearsal when a move was taught, then that is probably why you couldn't get it. Remember the 1,000 repeats rule - if you want it in your muscle memory you have to repeat a move 1,000 times. If your veil fell to the ground during that switch turn, be honest about how many times you have practiced it. Maybe you were just not ready to do a switch turn on stage.
- Keep your critique to two or three key points that you can improve over the next few weeks, and two or three you can work on over the next 12 months. If you list all your mistakes, faults and dislikes, you will be overwhelmed and want to give up. Only list those that can be improved. So maybe your next few weeks list is "Practice the opening footwork and smiling through the whole performance" - and your longer term list is "Improve posture and control my arms during turns". Put your new objectives on a note in your dance space to remind yourself to focus your dance practice on these areas that need improvement.
- Every belly dancer can improve. You think that "Miss Famous Name Belly Dancer", isn't doing this exact same exercise today? Maybe some of the critique you have about your performance is more about your level as a dancer than your performance that day. If you want to be as good as the best, you need to work very hard for the next three or four years.
- Don't critique your fellow troupe mates. Unless your group does some form of peer assessment, its not your job to point out to others where they went wrong. Yes, it can be annoying when everyone travels left, when the choreography says right, but this is a moment to clarify with your teacher, not with your troupies. Do they look like they are having fun? - excellent 10/10!! If you really can't work with their level of performance, perhaps it is time for you to look elsewhere.
- Book a mentor to assess your performance. If you struggle with organizing a good assessment of your own performance, ask a teacher or mentor to do it for you. I charge $100 to review a video (four times!!), assess about a dozen areas of the performance (in a negative sandwich), and set short term and long term aims - all over email. Your regular teacher will normally be happy to do this for you and may have a "regular student" discount (as I do), big name teachers may also offer this service, but charge more and have a long waiting list.
- Finally - go back and look at last years performance. Have you improved? Did you work on the points you found in your assessment? Can you see improvements in those area?
Don"t forget, every dancer is on her own journey. There is no competition. Others are looking forward to seeing your video, watching your dance, being entertained and perhaps even looking to improve their dancing by watching your skills. Share and enjoy the results of all your hard work.
Sara Shrapnell's troupe "Neshee Dolu" danced on the cabaret stage at 12.30 on the 8th. Their performance is below.
(Sorry - there was a problem with our video. I will upload it here in a couple of days)
"I'm Perfect for Belly Dance, And so are You!"
"Dealing with Difficult Students"
"Picking out a Troupe Costume"
and "Why Travelling is one of the Best Ways to Improve your Belly Dance"
Or check out my Hub Blogs including:
"Your First Belly Dance Workshop"
The Top Ten Belly Dance Tunes for Performance"
"Finding a Great Belly Dance Teacher"
Sara Shrapnell is a belly dance writer, teacher and performer.
She has taught more than 5,000 belly dance classes, both in the UK and US. She now teaches in Pleasanton, Dublin and Livermore in the SF bay area, as well as workshops world wide. Her classes are known for their humor, detailed breakdowns and cultural context. Students who have studied with Sara have gone on to teach and perform in all styles of belly dance and many have made their living through performance or teaching.
Sara’s first book “Teaching Belly Dance” was published in 2014. Her second "Becoming a Belly Dancer: From Student to Stage", co- written with Dawn Devine, Alisha Westerfeld and Poppy Maya, is a stagecraft handbook for belly dancers of all styles and levels. Both are available on Amazon.