Dance Videos and Self-Instruction – is this Promising the Imposssible?

Are self-instructional dance DVDs basically conning the customer? Well, any adult who has never had any experience and is hoping that a DVD will help him move like Fred Astaire clearly has highly unrealistic expectations.But there are many positives to using this method of instruction. It is certainly a great improvement on just using a book the only option to live classroom experience which was possible until recently.

Video allows you to watch in your home surroundings when you have both the time and the inclination. If you so wish you can create your own day long workout. Repetition is one of the keys to learning. Repeatedly viewing the moves on the video for a period of time seems to imprint them directly into one’s muscle memory. The content can also be viewed in many different ways. It’s possible to watch in slow motion, pause when you want to, rewind, fast forward or make written notes at the same time. These are things you cannot do in a class. If you play a DVD on a computer you can chose to bookmark specific sections so that you can locate them quickly.

If you are attending regular studio sessions it makes it easier if you have some prior knowledge of the steps. A DVD is also a good way to perfect technique while practicing.

In some areas there are no teachers for certain dance styles. A studio offering classes in, for example, ballet, tap, contemporary or jazz may not be difficult to find. However, if your interest is in African or Middle Eastern (Belly Dance) it might be quite a different story. In the United States of America some Belly Dance schools only accept students aged 16 or over due to the liability clauses in their insurance policies. So younger people may have trouble finding a class.

In such cases a DVD may be the only option. The cost of a self-instructional product is far less than that of private or group classes. Get friends round to dance with you. Start a video library so that you experience different instructors whenever you feel like it.

If you are anxious to make fast progress videos can be a great help. Group sessions may proceed at a slow pace and there may be only one class a week scheduled. A video enables the student to improve faster. A “how-to” DVD is especially helpful when learning more complex advanced steps.

Through video and DVDs you can study, experience and enjoy a variety of styles and many different creative approaches to the dance and instruction.

No matter which dance style you want to learn there is no doubt that if you have had no previous experience it really is best if you have a teacher to look at what you are doing and to correct your mistakes. The way in which a performer hold his or her body can be difficult to workout and master without a teacher. This is a fundamental point and important for every dance style. Without a teacher how will you know if you are doing things correctly?
As with most things in life the budget will influence both the form and content of an instructional DVD. It will decide the length of the product. When this has been decided the teacher must try and include as much information as possible. Each move might be filmed from a number of different viewpoints and explained in various ways. But the moves are dealt with rapidly and everything moves at a fast pace. If that same teacher was in a classroom situation she/he would have allowed time for pupils to practice the new steps and corrected them on an individual basis.
If you are learning with a DVD you must decide how you should arrange your time in a practice session. You need to warm up, have a review of what you have already learnt,followed by a period for working on new material and finally a cool down.

Don’t just work through the video from beginning to end, trying to do each move.
Make sure there are no distractions in the room before a practice session. Take the telephone off the hook, banish pets and fellow human beings. Set aside an hour if that’s possible for you. Try to aim for at least one practice session a week. The longer the interval the more you’ll forget as we know all too well from our schooldays.
As with anything else you need to be clear about what you want to achieve. Your goal could be fitness, increasing your step vocabulary, improving technique or absorbing some specific choreography.

Don’t be in a hurry, the brain can only absorb so much new material and muscles too need time to adjust.
Carefully watch each section four or five times. If there is a group of watch them all in turn. You might notice something new. Pay special attention to the teacher’s posture and how she distributes her weight. Listen to what the instructor has to say as sometimes she will mention something that is not obvious from what you can see. Pay attention to details such as the placement of the arms and the head.

There are literally hundreds of dance DVDs teaching every style imaginable whether you want to learn ballroom, hip hop, Latin, Middle Eastern or African dance you can purchase a video. But remember always to have fun as you learn a new form of self-expression!

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