Creating Dance for the Camera

[This is a guest post by Denise Wade, Associate Professor of Dance at William & Mary. In it, she talks about how her Rich Media Grant project turned out.]


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I have been inspired by so much more than my own project in this round of the Rich Media Grants. I am astounded by my colleagues’ innovative ideas and look forward to incorporating some of their successful ideas into course work as well as proceeding with my own work intermingling technology and dance.

With my Rich Media Grant I purchased a MacBook Pro and basic editing software, Adobe Premiere. In the course of this project I discovered that I need more sophisticated software to do the sound and video editing for my future dance on screen projects; however, this was a great start.

I created a new study for my DANC 401 Group Choreography course (which was fortunately quite small last semester!) tasking students to use the choreographic skills they had already learned in solo and group dance composition to create a three-minute advertisement/commercial using dance as the sole communicator to sell a service or a product on screen (video/film).

The filming process was completely foreign for most dance students; therefore, there was a good deal of preliminary study necessary regarding both film terminology and basic process. The project included selecting a service or product, scouting a location, creating a story board for the advertisement, choreographing the movement, creating shotlists, casting dancers, filming, and editing both the video and sound for the project. For this first film project, my husband and I acted as cameramen for the project; for larger classes, I would hope to be able to collaborate with students in Film Studies, or have the students work in teams. Handling all aspects of the project side by side with the student was a great collaborative effort, but truly would not be possible with a larger class.

Personally, I learned quite a bit about filming (first – that even while set at the same setting the white balance on two different cameras will not necessarily be the same!), and about the editing process. The Swem Media Center has a great staff, all of whom were quite patient with a beginner’s questions!! I think that this new choreographic study — made possible by the Rich Media Grant — really highlighted the process of creating dance for the camera; it took students beyond merely creating the choreography and teaching it to dancers. Student response was quite enthusiastic and the feedback was such that the project will become a standard part of the Group Choreography syllabus. I have always used video as an archival tool for my choreographic research; however, I hope that this is just the beginning of incorporating media and technology into my dance courses as well.


  1. Absolutely! Being behind the camera was a new experience for me – and gave me a much greater appreciation for good cinematographers! The myriad possibilities for manipulating movement through the lens of the camera excite me, particulary the ability to hide and/or reveal dancers and choreography, to present movement in unusual or even “impossible” ways. In a theatre the audience sees the full stage and selects which dancer(s) to watch and when; with film, you can direct the viewer’s eye more specifically. However, it also means that you have to make many choreographic/artistic choices before you film, and have a fairly good idea of what you are trying to do, unless you have limitless resources of time, talent and funding!

  2. Evan Cordulack says:

    Hi Denise,

    Thanks for writing this! Did learning some new technical skills change how you approached, or understood, choreographing for the camera?