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Everywhere I go nowadays, I see people with video cameras. These little babies have come a long way since first hitting the American market. First, came the big bulky Beta/VHS camcorders, then came the smaller Video 8/Super 8 cameras, followed by the Digital 8 recorders and finally the digital video camera. Theyve gotten so small you can almost hide the damn things in the palm of you hand. Yet with all the good these little technological wonders are able to create, they still can be used for ill-gains. The purpose of this little essay is to point out both the advantages and disadvantages of video taping, not to attack or point fingers at anyone. Mostly, I would like to explain why some dancers find video taping abusive or intrusive.
Wow! What a wonderful training tool! - The Pros for Video Taping:
Non-consensual taping or the Quick Steal: The Cons of Video Taping:
The 3 examples mentioned above dont sound like a big deal to most people. I would even say that they sound downright harmless. And Im not suggesting that the individuals taping in these circumstances are bad people or criminals in any way. From my prior experience, these dancers are usually harmless fanatics who are thirsty for knowledge. To them the video camera is a quick device meant for memorizing, storing and recording dance technique and skills. They fail to understand why, or have a hard time comprehending why, someone might protest to being recorded. Better said, they dont realize that they could be abusing anyone in anyway.
The Other Side of the Coin:
Why Instructors Could Have A Problem Being Video Taped:
Why Social Dancers Could Have A Problem Being Video Taped:
When a person tapes without the decency of asking their intended victim for permission, they could be cruis'in for a bruise'in (depending on the person being taped and the mood they find themselves in that day). But for the most part, many dancers are like me, we dont mind sharing stuff as long as you ask us. I know that this is how I learn new things. When I see something I like, I ask the person if they wont mind showing me how to do it. In return I try to give them something back (i.e. a shine, a turn pattern). Its this consensual exchange of knowledge that partner dancing is all about. Its personal, its clean, its fair and its up-front. This may not seem like a big deal, but there are some days when I feel like were dancing in the middle of a news conference with cameras all around. There was this time at one of Jimmy Antons Social Dances when I saw a video camera pointed in my direction. "No big deal", I thought, let me dance myself away from it. I soon maneuvered away from one camera when I realized that I was in the path of a 2nd camera. "No problem", I said to myself again, let me dance away from it too. As I made my way to a 3rd position I saw that the person with the 1st video camera had maneuvered himself next to a 3rd video camera. It was not that I was the best thing dancing at the moment. It just seemed that I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Regardless, I had had enough. I stopped in mid-turn-pattern and kindly signaled these three people to stop taping, then informed them that if there was something they liked that I would more that happy to share it with them. But I firmly reminded them not to tape me again without my permission. What can I say, I guess it was just one of those days when I wasn't in the mood to be in front of a camera. I'm sure everyone goes through days like this.
Why Dance Company Directors Could Have A Problem Being Video Taped:
Few people realize the amount of work that dance company directors/choreographers put into creating a number. The end result is an artistic creation that represents their uniqueness. An Eddie Torres number doesnt look like a Santo Rico, Addie-tude or even a Salsa Brava number for that matter. These are all examples of very good dance companies, yet each has their own specific trademark choreography stamped onto their numbers. When a company performs a number, especially when the number is new, directors have a desire to restrict video recording because they are trying to protect their creations. It may be one thing to capture and practice a shine or a turn pattern and incorporate it in a new number, but its something entirely different to "borrow" (a.k.a. "steal") blocks of moves in one routine and place them in another. Believe it or not, this has happened. I witnessed one team at a "salsa convention" perform a routine which used a NY "On 2" floor shine routine I was familiar with, with an L.A. turn pattern sequence I vaguely remembered seeing before, and a Miami "Casino Rueda" pattern. Maybe it was a new concept to mix these 3 variations into a new number, but never asking for permission from the groups they "borrowed" it from was definitely wrong. I guess its pretty much like grabbing the words from one song and shamelessly putting them into another. I have even heard stories where people have gone out of town and have witnessed groups performing numbers created by other dance companies. The material apparently was shamelessly copied from a video recording. People usually say that imitation is the best form of compliment. But its only natural for a creative artist or performer to get offended when someone takes from them without their permission.
How To avoid these problems:
The Bottom Line: Video taping is like a double-edged sword, it can cut both ways. Its an excellent training tool and a major reason why mambo dancing has been able to spread and grow so rapidly over the last few years. Yet it can be used to steal at the same time. The important thing to remember is not what you do, but how you do it. Be courteous and respectful to your fellow dancers by asking them for permission before taping. Besides, the true foundation to all dancing is based on personal contact. Never forget that what we do is all about the sharing and free exchange of information between individuals. Its personal hands-on instruction and social inter-activity. In the end, what makes it so much fun is the challenge of learning how to read signals and sign language between two people dancing together (following and leading), and no video camera can ever substitute that.