Making Video Dance: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Dance for the Screen

By Seton, Mark | Australasian Drama Studies, April 2008 | Go to article overview

Making Video Dance: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Dance for the Screen


Seton, Mark, Australasian Drama Studies


Katrina McPherson, Making Video Dance: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Dance for the Screen (London and New York: Routledge, 2006)

Making Video Dance certainly lives up to the claim of being the first text, designed as a workbook, to follow the entire process of video dance production. There have been other texts that have considered how one might document a pre-existing dance performance using the medium of video. But what makes this book unique and a valuable asset to anyone either making videos of dance or teaching others to create dance for the screen is the author Katrina McPherson's belief that dancers, choreographers and film/video makers can both learn from and teach each other about their creative processes. Furthermore, the book is premised on an understanding that making dance 'work' on screen - TV or projected - requires a different methodology from attempting to document a dance work that has been originally choreographed for stage and audience.

The title itself offers some alternate readings of what might be on offer. Is it about making dance 'videos'? Is it about making video 'dance'? In the 'Introduction', McPherson spells out the hybrid nature of the form, video dance, that she advocates is 'not a dance, nor is it a video of a dance, or even for that matter simply video' (xxx). According to , '[a] definition of "video dance" is movement-based work that is conceived and/or choreographed for viewing on a single screen - be it a TV, monitor or by projection - and that exists as a work in its own right; i.e., it is not part of a live performance'. She cautions against two distractions that can occur while working toward this hybrid form: firstly, that the choreography emerges as an after-thought, rather than being at the centre of the work; and secondly, that narrative expectations imply that there be clarity and closure upon a single viewing of the video dance work (xxx, xxi).

Furthermore, in the first chapter she invites a distinction between the co-creation of dance, interwoven with video, and the possibility of re-working a choreography, originally created for the stage, through interaction with particular video parameters (11). Here again, this is explicitly not about addressing the 'best' coverage of a preexisting and non-negotiable choreographed work. One intriguing contrast she proffers between stage dance and video dance is that the former, when watched by an audience, tends to be experienced as two-dimensional, as the audience members remain fixed in their perspectival viewing of the work. But dance video, on a twodimensional screen, has the potential to evoke a three-dimensional experience in viewers as the movement of the camera enables the viewer to be 'in' the dance rather than apparently passive onlookers (12). This is very dependent on what she describes as the 'fluid' use of the camera and the choice of lenses (45, 68, 69). However, her account of the role of the camera in Chapter Two tends towards its reification, apparently disregarding the embodied operation, by the cameraperson, as crucial to the necessary awareness of dancer-cameraperson interplay that she advocates elsewhere in the text. Nevertheless, her description, and the accompanying graphic of an imaginary rectangular cone extending in three-dimensional space from the camera towards the dance subject, is a useful reminder of how moving bodies will be framed and subsequently appear on screen (26-7). …

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