As a professional dancer and choreographer, Patricia Dye often videotaped her pieces to judge what worked. Now a dance teacher at Science Skills Center High School in Brooklyn, New York, she has found video as useful for assessing and promoting student growth as it was for perfecting her own choreography.

 

Current video cameras are inexpensive, compact and make shooting and editing easy.

A growing number of teachers are discovering the value of video in their K–12 classes. Some, like Dye, use it for both formative and summative assessment, allowing students to reflect on and improve their work, while providing teachers an extra reference point when it comes time for grading. Others use video to document classroom success for parents, administrators and donors. As a visual rather than descriptive record, video is an especially appropriate format for dance. But making the best use of it for assessing class progress requires thought and planning. Before you start shooting, carefully consider your goals and how video might best help you meet them.

 

Assessment within the classroom

 

Dye uses video to encourage her students to evaluate their own progress. Final dance compositions are taped at the end of each unit and students conduct self-assessments based on the video. “When they see themselves on the monitor, they say, ‘Did I really do that?’ or, ‘Oh, I didn’t do that step completely correctly,’” Dye says.

 

At P.S. 165 in Flushing, NY, Kathleen Isaac’s students watch themselves on video, identify three things to improve and then make the corrections. Their performances are then recorded a second time so they can watch and reflect on whether they made their corrections. Isaac says one of her goals is to eliminate paperwork because written self-assessments eat up precious class time and a student’s writing isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection of his or her dance ability. “It’s not really a fair assessment of student achievement in dance if I want them to use their bodies to solve problems,” she says.

 

Some teachers, like Rebecca Hill of Randolph IB Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina, show video footage from years past to give current students a clear picture of what’s expected of them. “It lets my sixth-graders see what I want them to look like in eighth grade,” Hill says. Looking at past videos can also aid in the planning process, says Dye: “We look at the previous lessons and say, ‘What can we improve on?’”

 

Sharing success with an outside audience

 

While in-class assessment requires little more than shooting footage and playing it back, creating a video to share with outside observers takes more planning and effort. Think of it as a mini documentary that opens a window into how your students learn and grow.

“A moving image enables you to show product and process,” says Nelle Stokes, executive director of Magic Box Productions, a company that offers video services and training to arts organizations and schools. “You can see someone practicing something and mastering it and hear them talk about that process. If you really want to advocate for what you’re doing, you need to show people.”

 

To begin with, you’ll need to determine who your intended audience is and what your message will be. What moments will best demonstrate your students’ learning? You might chronicle a unit from beginning to end and interview students about the process.

 

That’s what Sharon Scarlata, program manager with the New York State Alliance for Arts Education, did when she documented a recent dance residency with the dance and music performance group The Vanaver Caravan at Glenmont Elementary School in Bethlehem, NY. “Over time you begin to know which angles work best and what questions will help students open up,” she says.

 

How video impacts the learning environment

 

Educators say that while some students may initially find the camera distracting, it ultimately ends up helping them focus. “I’ve seen students, particularly adolescents, be more reflective on camera than off camera,” Stokes says. “It elevates the moment. They are being taken seriously enough to be asked a thoughtful question on camera.” Isaac adds that because video is so central to kids’ everyday experiences, it provides a familiar, fun way into the material. “It’s a good way to challenge kids who would otherwise get into trouble,” she says.

 

In fact, when it comes to shooting and editing, students may be your most valuable resources. “You have a whole roomful of people who probably know how to do things with technology that you don’t,” says Stokes. “They’re excited, they’re eager. Kids are used to documenting all aspects of their lives, good or bad, and sharing them.” DT

 

Equipment and Editing 101

 

 

Getting started

 

  • Most computers come with editing software—iMovie on Macs and Movie Maker on PCs. Both have easy “how-to” instructions.

 

  • Flip Video Camcorders and Kodak’s high-definition Zi8 Pocket Video Cameras are inexpensive and easy to use.

 

  • You can use an external mic with the Zi8 for clearer sound.

 

Shooting and editing tips

 

  • When filming, keep footage short so it’ll be easier during editing to find the parts you want to use.

 

  • Use a tripod to keep the camera stable. If zooming, do it smoothly.

 

  • If using the recorded sound as your soundtrack, limit distracting noises (chatter, fans, chairs moving, etc.).

 

  • When editing, use only the best moments of your footage to keep viewers engaged.

 

  • When splicing, make sure not to cut the completion of important lines and movements. If the movement’s peak is obscured, choose a different shot.

 

 

Michelle Vellucci writes about dance and the arts in New York City. She holds a master’s in dance and education from the University

at Buffalo.

 

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Isaac.

 

Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine

When choosing music for tap, Jason Samuels Smith encourages teachers to start with classic jazz music. Improvisation, call and response, and syncopated rhythms embedded in the genre and its history, in general, help students to understand the structure of tap, which is different than other styles of dance. "Tap dancers have the responsibility to be more than just a visual artist," he says. "They're an instrument and a sound."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Summit
Photo by Sarah Ash, courtesy of Larkin Dance

Ask Michele Larkin-Wagner and Molly Larkin-Symanietz what sets them and Maplewood, Minnesota–based Larkin Dance Studio apart, and they immediately give the credit to their mom. Shirley Larkin founded the school in 1950 and continued to oversee the growing business until she passed away in 2011. "She put Minnesota on the map for dance training and made other local studios step up to the plate to become as strong as we are," Michele says. "A lot of people's lives are better because of Shirley Larkin."

For Michele and Molly, following in their mom's footsteps was a no-brainer. "I knew I was going to be a choreographer and take over the studio," Michele says. To Molly, seven years Michele's junior and the baby out of six siblings, the studio was always a second home. The two sisters trained across genres but had distinct specialties: Michele found her niche in jazz, musical theater and lyrical, while Molly excelled in tap. In the summers, they'd travel for workshops in Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles. While Michele was in class with jazz legends like Gus Giordano, JoJo Smith, Luigi and Frank Hatchett, Molly was taking tap classes with the likes of Brenda Bufalino and Phil Black.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Summit
Photo courtesy of Gandarillas

In Macarena Gandarillas' jazz class at California State University, Fullerton, a sign in the studio reads, "Never underestimate the power of determination." This simple mantra embodies what has made this self-described "danceaholic" such an impactful teacher.

When Gandarillas came to Los Angeles at age 6 with her family from Santiago, Chile, the language barrier was beyond overwhelming—until her mom enrolled her in ballet classes. Gandarillas found an instant love. "There were no Spanish-speaking kids at my school," she says. "But with dance I could communicate with my body. I'd finally found my voice."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: Is teaching for an after-school program a good way to find a job in K–12?

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Summit
Photo courtesy of Inspire School of Arts and Sciences

It was the morning of November 8, 2018, and Jarrah Myles' first-period choreography students were in last-minute rehearsals for their fall dance concert that evening. "All of a sudden my students' phones started ringing like crazy," says Myles, a teacher at Inspire School of Arts and Sciences, a Chico, California, high school whose dance and theater programs Myles helped establish in 2010. "And once they answered, I saw these tragic faces staring back at me."

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network

abezikus/Getty Images

"Dancers can do everything these days," I announced to whoever was in earshot at the Jacob's Pillow Archives during a recent summer. I had just been dazzled by footage of a ballet dancer performing hip hop, remarkably well. But my very next thought was, What if that isn't always a good thing? What if what one can't do is the very thing that lends character?

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Courtney Schwartz and Jake Mcauley perform a Talia Favia combination at Radix Dance Convention Nationals. Via Instagram

Summer intensives and Nationals make June, July and August some of the richest dance-video months of the year. There is so much fabulous content out there, we can hardly contain our excitement!

We have spent hours down the rabbit hole of class videos this week and thought you should see some of our favorite findings.

Enjoy!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Summit
Photo courtesy of Infinite Flow

While taking class in 2006, Marisa Hamamoto felt a tingling sensation in her elbows, then suddenly collapsed to the floor. She was hospitalized and diagnosed with spinal cord infarction, a rare spinal stroke that left her paralyzed from the neck down. Despite being told by her doctor that she may never walk again, let alone dance, Hamamoto miraculously walked out of the hospital two months later.

Since her stroke, Hamamoto has found a new lease on life. She has channeled her indomitable will to overcome adversity into a dance company that marries her love of ballroom dance with her passion for social activism. Los Angeles–based Infinite Flow is the first professional wheelchair ballroom dance company in the U.S. Over the past four years it has become a torchbearer for social change, performing worldwide and offering workshops and school assemblies to educate audiences about accessibility and inclusion.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox