Dance on Screen Questions can be answered in notes section or in a separate Word document.
Dance on screen can be quite different from dance on stage. Choreographers working in film or television understand the differences and will work in a different manner from the way they might work choreographing for stage or a studio space. They need to consider the very different perspective of the audience. Each audience member observing a dance on stage has a different view or perspective of the work they are watching, depending on where they are sitting. It might be interesting to watch a stage performance from one area of the auditorium on one evening and then return to watch the performance from an entirely different perspective on another evening, possibly from the stalls one night and from the balcony another. Audience members don’t usually have that opportunity, however and will make a judgment about the work based on the perspective from which they viewed the dance. When choreographing from stage all members of the audience must be considered. It one is looking down on the stage, then floor patterns will be more important then hey might be to someone who is below the stage and looking up. To those people, it would be important to see everyone on stage and not just the front row.
When working for the screen, choreographers know every audience member had the same view. Dance on screen is two-dimensional. This makes it very important to create as much interest as possible to draw the viewer’s interest. When choreographing for stage the choreographer has to be certain to emphasise an important detail, such as when the character Giselle, from the ballet of the same name, clutches her heart to indicate that she has a serious heart condition. All the focus must be on that particular incident to ensure that the audience gets the message. The dancers are watching Giselle and her mother rushes over showing great concern to emphasise the importance of Giselle’s gesture. No other dancer can do anything that the audience might find more interesting to watch. When the dance is shown on screen, the audience would see the detail right away. The choreographer would ensure that the cameras focuses on Giselle. She could be the only person in the frame and once she had clutched her heart, perhaps there might be a close-up shot showing the expression of pain on her face.
Differences Observing dance in a theatre space is quite different from watching it on a television screen. People go to the theatre specifically to watch the dance they want to see. They will anticipate the start of the program and watch with interest during the performance. As they leave the theatre they will often analyse the performance, going over different aspects in their mind as a reflection of the experience. When watching a dance on a television screen, people may be caught up in other aspects of their life, such as eating and having a conversation. Sometimes television is watched as a meal is cooked or homework is completed. It is possible to focus on specific programs and many people do, but there are likely to be things happening in the room containing the television to prevent full attention being paid to the screen. However, if the dance is being shown on a large screen, perhaps at the movies, then the audience had chosen to give their undivided attention to watching the dance.
Creating interest on film The stage is a limited space where all the action takes place. Dance on film and video can take place anywhere at all. Sometimes the dancers on screen may not leave the space they are in but special effects can transport them to another realm altogether. Micheal Jackson’s ‘Black or White’ dance jumps around in small sections. Dancers from different cultures appear throughout the work. The backgrounds, such as a busy New York street, have been superimposed on the film after the dancers have performed their part. At a different stage on the video, a person’s face is changed many times, from Chinese to Indian, to African American, to male to female and so on. Stereotypical and colourful choices have been made for each of the changes. This is done to create interest and draw attention to the special effect. One person has an extremely huge head of fuzzy hair, another wears a special head-dress. This causes some anticipation in viewers as they wait to see who the face will transform to next.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBAiZcNWecw&feature=relatedClick on the link above to watch the ‘Black or White’ Film clip It is important to draw the viewer in using any techniques possible as viewers can leave the screen at any time, unlike those people who are viewing dance on stage. Films such as ‘Black or White’ are used to sell music. Dance on screen has proven to be the best way of selling modern music. Once a piece of music makes it to a film clip, the CD sales take off.
Advantages Time is real at the theatre. If someone falls or makes a mistake it is possible to observe the event as it happens. Interval allows time for the dancers to recover for the next Act and the audience to refresh themselves after concentrated viewing of the work on stage. Dance on screen had many advantages in the manipulation of time. A dancer can go form one scene to another in less than a second. While the actual dance may have taken many hours in filming, the editing allows the final product to contain only what is important to the choreographer. Dance for the theatre will always remain important as people will want to view a ‘live’ performance, but you should understand the art of dance on screen as technology advances at a rapid rate. Dance on screen is important in its own right and not just as a way of recording live dance.
Camera Shots The following section will provide you with information on the different camera shots available to you and how they can be used to create the effect you require. Extreme long shot (ELS) These shots produce both width and depth in the field of view. The camera takes in the entire playing area. The main subject or subjects are small in relation to the background and tend to compete with their surroundings for the viewer’s attention.
Long shots (LS) These produce a slightly closer field of view than extreme long shots but the subject remains dominated by the much larger background area. Fred Astaire insisted that all of his dances were filmed in long shots as he wanted all of his body to be seen at all times. Long shots are often used in dance.
Medium shots (MS) Here the subject becomes much larger and more dominant. The background is still important but now shares the video space with the subject. A medium shot would also be important when videoing dance. Medium close-up shots (MCU) This is a most popular shot used extensively in television. The subject’s head and shoulders make up the MCU. A good starting point for framing the MCU is to include the first button of the open-collar shirt.
Close-up shots (CU) The subject becomes the primary focus of interest within the close-up shot. Only a small portion of the background is visible. This is an excellent way to focus on one aspect of performance, such as the dancer’s feet or hands. Extreme close-up shots (ECU) The subject virtually fills the screen and is clearly the central focus of the ECU shot. An extreme close-up on a subjects face is sometimes called a ‘pack shot’ because the shot is so close that it literally shows only a portion of the face (eg. The eye).
Overhead shots (OH) This is a shot where the camera is above the dancers and looks down on the floor patterns from above. Busby Berkley is a famous choreographer who, during the Golden Years of the Hollywood musical in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s, created many famous dance sequences using this camera technique. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtLGtRwOUYk Click on the above link to watch a Busby Berkley clip Low angle shots (LA) This is a special effect that may be used to give a different impression of the dancers. The dancers will appear larger id the camera films from below their bodies. This can be used to make the dancers look powerful. When employing a low angle shot you should also indicate what type of shot it is, such as MS, MCU or CU. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8V1uE1-wTPs Click on the above link to watch a clip from the television show ‘Scrubs’.It demonstrates the power of low and high angle shots.
Camera Movement The camera will not always remain static. Experiment with panning across the shot or move the camera from bottom to top of the shot. There are many variations you may use, but the camera must remain steady and move slowly enough to allow the viewer to take in what is happening. If you have access to a trolley or something with wheels, on which you can mount the camera attached to a tripod, it would be fun to film the dance as the camera trolley is slowly pulled across the room. Click on the link below and navigate your way through the examples under the heading Camera Motion. http://www.choreovideo.com/page0/page12/index.html
Task 1 (12 marks) Under the following headings outline your favorite shot. Outline why this is your favorite shot, describing how the camera moves and what your eyes get drawn to specifically. Axial Movement Locomotion Craning Advancing and retreating in the Z-axis Freeform Motion comparatives
Length of Shot You must not allow your audience to become bored. In advertising, shots jump quickly from one image to another and almost barrage the sense at times in order to gain attention, however, in dance from screen the viewers need to have time to absorb what is happening. The dancers keep moving, unlike television drams where people are often still when speaking. Any one shot may take at least ten seconds, especially the long shots. Task 2 – (2 marks) Using YouTube find an example of a TV commercial that jumps quickly from one shot to the next and an example of dance movement on film that demonstrate long shots (in terms of length of time) .
Considerations for Filming A number of different shots are assembled to create the sequence and it is up to the director and choreographer to choose the shots that will create the most interest and give the desired effect. Task 3 - (9 marks) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceHbv0B1kxQ Watch the experimental dance film. Outline 3 different shot types used. Identify what movement/s the director/choreographer has chosen to highlight. State why you think this shot was effective or not effective.
The Establishing Shot Establishing shots are used at the start of the sequence to let the viewer know what the dance is all about. This is similar to a writer beginning a book quickly establishing what it is writing about. The author will not generally make this obvious and write “this book is about a girl who gets involved with the wrong group, steals and ends up being caught.’ instead the author will establish character, time and place and leave many things unsaid so that they may emerge as the story progresses. It is the same when creating a dance on screen. You need to let the viewer know what the dance is about in your establishing shot and then go on to develop the dance and create interest throughout the work. The establishing shot is often an extreme long shot or a long shot, giving an overall impression of the character, time and place. Often the time period can be judged by the appearance of the place and the costume of the dancer/s. this shot will allow the viewer to take in all this information and have some expectation of what is to come. Of course, the director and choreographer may not go on to provide what is expected: they may get the viewer comfortable and then introduce a surprise element. This is one of the many ways that choreographers and directors create interest.
Establishing shot continued…. When choreographing ‘Lust’ from Seven Deadly Sins, Graeme Watson, an Australian choreographer, employed a series of close-up shots to establish the scene. One dancer took a bathing costume from a peg on the wall and pulled it on with her back to the camera. The camera focused only on the part of the dancer’s body that came in contact with the bathing costume. The viewer would immediately assume that the dance was about swimming and the dancer was taking the bathing costume off a peg in a dressing room or bathing shed. The black and white tiles on the wall suggested an indoor pool and an approximate period. The close-up shots were unexpected in a dance video and immediately created interest, with the viewer wondering what was coming next. Task 3- (4 marks) Watch the first 30seconds of the dance film ‘Threshold’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-DJhIZOC2g&feature=related Outline the type of establishing shot used. Describe what you see in the shot. Hypothesize as to what this film may be about. (2 sentences)
The storyboard When choreographing a dance for screen each shot is written on paper before it is videoed. This is called storyboarding. It is not necessary to be a artist to draw picture on a storyboard. Stick figures or basic outlines will give a clear indication of the shot required. Dance on screen requires the number of counts for each shot to be written below the storyboard (e.g. ‘ELS 4 counts’ with a piture of the actual shot draw in the storyboard box). Above is a example of a simple storyboard. A storyboard has detailed pictures to illustrate the scene, camera shots and angles and notes to describing the scene.
Quiz Questions (6 marks) What type of shot makes a street scene look like a map? What type of shot can make a person look more powerful? Which shots are generally used as establishing shots? What is an advantage in choreographing dance for screen as opposed to dance for stage? Discuss how time can be manipulated in a dance on screen. What is an advantage of dance on stage?
Monitoring the shots http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwWvWr96s24 Watch the above dance film ‘CUPIDITA’. Use the table below to tally the number of specific shots used. You may need to watch the film several times to identify them all. (Note: no official mark will be given for the tally) Number of ECU shots Number of Low angle shots Number of LS Number of MS Number of CU shots Number of overhead shots Task 4 Write a paragraph outlining any patterns you may have found in the film, and discuss the impact that these shots had on the success or otherwise of the dance. (4marks)
Analysing the video (18 marks total) Watch the video again. You make need to watch it several times. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwWvWr96s24 Answer the following analysis questions. (100 words minimum per question) Describe in detail a 3 different specific shots. Outline what movement occurs in the shot and why you liked it. (9marks) Describe why this choreography would be less effective if performed on stage. Do you think a live audience would view the dance differently? Why or why not? (3marks) Attention to detail is important when choreographing a dance for screen. Describe fully a section of the dance where the focus is on detail. (3marks) What did you find interesting about this video? Provide reasons and examples. (3marks)
Acknowledgements and Links CUPIDITA - Short Dance Film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwWvWr96s24 Grant Corlett - Blog http://ssttiiggyy89.wordpress.com/2009/03/03/quick-storyboard/ ‘Threshold’ – a dance film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-DJhIZOC2g&feature=related 'Drive', an Experimental Dance Film (Part 1 of 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceHbv0B1kxQ ChoreoVideo – Website http://www.choreovideo.com/page0/page12/index.html ‘Scrubs’ clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8V1uE1-wTPs Busby Burkly clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtLGtRwOUYk Michael Jackson ‘Black or White’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBAiZcNWecw&feature=related Book – ‘Dance, Count me in!’ – Barbara Snook - 2004 Text book for dance students from years 7-10