Videoing dance class

tl;dr videoing people without their consent is rude. There needs to be clear consent, trust, and understanding of what the purpose of the video is.

October 2015

I once took a dance class where the teacher started videoing us without our consent. He would then review the videos and use it to give us corrections – basically force us to look at ourselves.

First of all, it is important to remember that we never perceive ourselves properly (I never watch videos of myself dancing except when it is absolutely necessary, simply because I look and go “ugh, that’s awful, I should quit and do something I’m good at”, it’s very disheartening and not worth my time).

Second, this teacher did not do it nicely (he also found random excuses to grab my butt, he was a creep). He would show the video to someone (normally female-presenting) and demand they tell him what they were doing wrong. If they couldn’t immediately guess what answer he wanted, he’d shout things like “what the hell!” and “I just told you this was wrong!” Basically, it was a really unhelpful learning experience and I got myself out of it as soon as possible.

Today, I took a dance class, where one of the other students, someone who has not actually been in class until this week (it’s been an ongoing course for about five weeks, it’s a small group of people, so we’ve had the chance to get very comfortable with each other, this person showed up to one of the classes a few weeks ago and then took two of the classes today), took out their ipad and started filming without asking permission anyone in the room and then posted it in the class’ facebook group.

Now, I know she’s not using it to degrade other people in the class like that teacher and I know she’s not trying to make money off of my terrible class dancing, but this still raises the same issues that come up now that we have the power to video dance classes – who can take the videos? What can the videos be used for? How can the videos be shared? Who gets to see the videos?

The advent of phones and ipads and the like is, honestly, the best thing ever for dance. We can video ourselves. “Hey, I think I might forget that really cool step I just learned”, “No worries, I’ll just video you doing it!” And, if there’s a set technical exercise I need to review, I can almost always find it on youtube. And, while some forms of dance are easily notated, some aren’t. Unless we all learn notation (and even then), video is necessary to preserve and remember movement.

Except, quite often, videoing class includes videoing other people and that can cause huge problems, particularly concerning consent.

And yes, these classes where the student took the video do include a waiver. I signed a piece of paper saying I could be videoed and photographed in class for the organizer’s publicity. That’s a really important detail. I did not sign a paper saying anyone in the room could come in and video me. When one of the organizers comes in and starts snapping photos, I know them. We have an agreement.

And we’ve videoed in these classes before. A group concensus of “yes, we really need to remember this combination/exercise, please video it and put it in the facebook group” or, one of the teachers often videos us so she can be sure they touch us the same combination the next week (nothing is more frustrating than the counts to a combination changing every single week). It was even fine one day in ballet when someone was sick and decided to snap some photos and checked in with the other students before continuing.

So what’s different in this situation?

This student isn’t someone I know well. We have no agreement about when, how, and why she takes videos and what she does with them. The obvious answer is that she puts them on the facebook group so that we have a reference for the combination and hopefully don’t forget it. But she never told me that. What if she put it up with the assumption that we’d all use it to improve our own, individual techniques? What if she really keeps them to giggle to herself about how terrible everyone looks in class? What if she watches it to go “oh, look at all that terrible dancing, I’m a much better dancer than all of these people”? What if she shows it to people I don’t know? What if she puts it in a public place on the internet?

She’s a nice person, I highly doubt she has some nefarious or cruel purpose behind her videoing, but the fact remains that I don’t know. And we haven’t come to any agreement about what she’s doing with this video she suddenly has of me.

I did not have an agreement with that first terrible teacher either. He started videoing without warning. He was even holding the phone so low down that i didn’t even realize what he was doing until he started using it to bully people.

I did not need to see these new videos on my facebook feed. I did not then need to see all the other students thank that student for taking the videos so that I then felt like I couldn’t contact her and ask her to try to cut me out of the videos or give me more of a warning next time. Not only did someone capture my image without my consent, I was then forced to watch it (something else I don’t consent to), and then forced into silence through the pressure to conform.

That isn’t ok. Yes, videoing is an amazing tool for dance. But, like any tool, it needs to be used wisely. Someone who chooses to video needs consent from everyone in the video, they need to be clear on how they plan to use the video and they need to create a space in which it is possible to remove or challenge the video.

In other words, we need to be more respectful when videoing other people. Both in making the choice to video and then in sharing and commenting on the video afterwards. Because when students take and post videos without consent of the other students, they are telling assholes like that teacher that we, the entire dance student population, do not mind being videoed, and that opens the door wide open to the bullying that I experienced and witnessed in that class and explains the extreme discomfort I experienced upon finding one of my classmates videoing me without my consent.

[For people, like me, who like scripts:

a great script before videoing would be something like: “Hey do you mind if I video this/could we take a video? I’d like this because it [will help me remember the combination/any other reason]. I can send it to you by [email/post it on a private facebook group/something else] so you can have it too, and will keep it private, so only the people in the video can see it.”

After posting or sharing, maybe add something such as: “Here’s the video! If you’re not comfortable with this, please tell me and I’ll [take it down/cut you out/do whatever works best for you].”]



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