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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Photos: Pitiful cameramen!


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I am so angry at the bloody cameramen who film ballets. I just watched the DVD of Peter and the Wolf by the Royal Ballet School kids and Anthony Dowell, and I could just shoot the blankety-blank cameraman.

 

I don't know where they get their training, but it infuriates me when they do that stupid closeup of a dancer -- while s/he is dancing! -- so we miss out on the steps, etc. I am screaming at the TV, I'm so enraged.

 

I know it's nice to have shots of people's faces, but that's not what I want to see. I want to see the steps and the DANCING.

 

Arrrgh!

 

This happens all the time in every ballet DVD I've seen. Even in some of Balanchine's. I can't believe that he would have allowed such disrespect of his dancers and choreography.

 

Sorry. I just had to rant a bit.

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. . .I also despise that.

 

I have an obsession with watching dancers feet. I'm trying to get so I can watch the dancer, but my eyes always go straight to feet. So, when there's a close-up when they're doing some combination, I spaz. Luckily nothing has been thrown at the TV in frustration. Yet. :D

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Shooting and editing for dance are arts entirely unto themselves. While the late Emile Ardolino was alive, things got better throughout the whole business, but now that he's gone, backsliding has happened.

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I am screaming at the TV, I'm so enraged.
Me, too. One of the worst offenders I have in my ballet library is the personal story of Royal Swedish Ballet's Katja Björner, "The Dancer". I remember a particularly infuriating spot where male dancers are performing incredible multiple pirouettes and the cameraman zooms in on their heads, especially their whirling hair. Oh, yes, that's what I want to see during the turns -- an art shot which ignores the stellar ballet technique being displayed in favor of flying beads of sweat. :ninja:
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A bit off the track, but this happens at our end of year recitals too. The cameraman thinks we should see the children's faces in close-up and totally misses whole sections of the dances, so if I ever want to repeat a dance I've choreographed after a few years, I have to rechoreograph whole chunks of it. Also, the patterns get lost because he zooms in on one side of the stage. Sadly the same thing happens as you say with professional performances and yes, it makes me want to scream!!!!!!!!

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It would be nice if a cameraman would read this thread and tell us what on earth they think they are doing!

 

Also, what about twiddling the camera around so that the image rotates - even worse!

 

Jim.

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During the filming of Ballet Girls at RWB Summer School 2005. One Cameraman got in so close to a dancer at the barre that he got kicked where no man wishes to be kicked. He and the camera dropped to the floor. So much for trying to get one of those artsy shots close in.

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I wish the photographers would come in and watch rehearsals, so that they would have some idea of the dances. They seem to focus on one point and then totally miss what's going on somewhere else, which may be the more important thing at the time. Last year I choreographed a ballet where the four girls came in with a diagonal entrance step, so that they finished in the bottom corner of the stage, where they stood doing nothing (but posing beautifully) whilst the boy made his exciting entrance of huge grand jetes. Of course the cameraman didn't realise that the boy was making an entrance and kept his camera on the girls until suddenly the boy came into sight and we'd missed his entrance step entirely. If he'd only watched the dance before and made notes, he would have been prepared.

 

Having said that I do know that when they have filmed a full length ballet by the pro company here, there are four or five cameras in the auditorium filming from all different angles. This leads me to believe that the problem is in the editing of the professional videos. I'm surprised that someone from the company - perhaps the Artistic Director - doesn't go over the shots with the film editor to make sure they have the right aspect.

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I suspect that cameramen, like many others, are not really making the videos for the end users (who are the ones paying for it) but in fact for their fellow professionals. They want to do a good job so that they are judged well by their peers. They want it to 'look nice' by their standards, and if that means that its not informative for the users, so be it.

 

I suggest that if you are arranging your own cameraman for your own event, you absolutely specify what will be done (with no payment if not), or assuming that they have multiple cameras running, one covering the whole stage, you ask for the output from that camera to be made available unedited. I agree that its not just in the original filming, but also in what they choose in the editing.

 

Jim.

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Princess_at_heart

We've had this problem at my home studio. The last few years, they have hired the same guy to record our performances, and they turn out, well, pretty bad. Like others have said, he would focus on one person durring a really complex section with lots of different parts, so the entire effect is lost. But here's one thing no body has mentioned: he will also zoom in on one person's feet. Sure, it's dancing and the feet are important, but, come on! We want to see the dance, not the shoes! We have all brought this up to our teachers, but no one will tell the camera man or hire a new one. It makes reviewing a performance very frustrating!

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he got kicked where no man wishes to be kicked.
Wow--there's a lesson learned.

 

I generally agree that we want to see the dancing and not the make-up job, but with regard to the RBS Peter & the Wolf recording specifically, I think the goal is the interest of young children in the connection of the dancing and characters to the music and individual instruments. The dancing is OK and of course important, but when we shared that DVD with a 5 year old, she really liked to see the faces and costumes up close. She was especially interested because the faces were those of children. For almost any other ballet though, of course we want to see the broader shot.

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Our studio offers two versions each performance danced. One version is more wide screened allowing you to see the whole stage and all the dancing and the other shows close ups of the various dancers and solos. We always end up buying both versions. My dd likes the wide screened version, but we find most friends and family that watch the DVD's like the one with the close ups.

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I wonder if the other thing that comes into play is what directives the camera operator has been given; for example, when one is filming inside a TV studio, there is a hierarchy. The camera operators all have headphones on, and there is a director in the booth that is telling them what to film and how. If you were inside the booth, you might hear, "Camera one pull back wide-screen, camera 2 close-up on center, camera 3 close-up right". So in the studio at least, the camera operators have no control over what they are filming.

 

I wonder if that comes into play when they are filming in theatre?

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dancingbookworm

In one video of the recital at my home studio, the cameraman zoomed in on a girl who was just posing on the side of the stage. Meanwhile, another girl was doing a solo! I would much rather watch a someone who is dancing than someone who is just standing and waiting for their cue!

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At my last dance show, the camera was appauling. The camera-persom decided to change the tapes halfway through dances. On the DVD, Grade 4 ballet is from one of their mum's dress rehersal copy & there is no finale!

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