Taking On Your Worst Critic

Most of us know we are our own worst critics. Never is this more apparent than when we watch our own performance videos. As tough as the experience can be at first, there is a lot that can be learned and it doesn’t have to be an entirely painful, cringing experience. The first thing I suggest you do is to make a promise to yourself that you will be fair and look for the things you did well along with the things that could use improvement.

I like to view videos a few times with a different objective for each one. Depending on what you are currently working on (specific goals are good) you may choose just a few of these or come up with ideas of your own. If you’re doing more than 2 or 3, try to do it in different sittings. You can use this to evaluate improvisation or choreography.

Here are a few ideas to start:

  • Watch solely for posture. Few things can upgrade a performance as wonderfully as great carriage. Are you starting out strong and staying that way? Are you fatiguing toward the end?
  • Turn off the sound. Watch for a good mix of body variety. Are you using hips, upper body and arms? Don’t get picky on the movement quality on this one, you are looking for mix and variety. Do you use both sides of the body fairly equally?
  • Again with the sound off, watch your floor patterns. Are you using your whole space, however small or large?  Are you coming toward your “center stage” for the impressive and impactful portions of the music? Do your floor patterns have some structure – circles, travelling side to side or front to back?  Did you use any strong diagonals from back toward front?  If you are performing in a round, did you give all parts of the audience some “face time”?
  • Turn on the sound and listen for the phrasing, instrumentation and accents in the music. Did you use them effectively or pass too many of them up? If you did a good job catching your accents, did you do so with variety – some on hips,shoulders, chest, arms?
  • With sound on or off, watch just the arms. Are you keeping them moving from one interesting place to another? Do their positions have purpose (framing, showing direction, etc.)  that enhances the body line or movement?
  • Watch for the technique of each movement. Are your shapes and directions distinct? For example, do your hip ups and outs clearly look different? Are you completing each shape or movement? How is the variety?
  • If you performed with zills (yay for you!!) did you stop and start your playing in places that make sense musically? Is your timing steady? Give your self a pat on the back if you embellished on any rhythms!
  • Watch your face.  Is your expression engaged and fitting to the mood of the music, whatever it is? You don’t need the super-happy face all the time. In fact subtle, introspective moments with soft music can really draw your audience in.  Do you look like you have to think about what’s next? Does your expression truly reach your eyes?
  • On your last run through, pick your favorite moment from the performance – don’t skip this! Did you flash a great smile over your shoulder at the perfect moment?  Did you have one really elegant backbend with great arm position? Whatever it is – OWN IT –  you did it and it’s yours! Ask a trusted fellow dancer to tell you their favorite moment – you may be surprised what they pick!

Performances get better a little bit at a time. We can cultivate that progress by taking an objective and fair look at ourselves.  If you’re feeling down and need some perspective, maybe check out a video of yourself a few years back and see how far you’re come! Maybe make a resolution to tape yourself this January – no one but you ever needs to see it. Give yourself a fair critique and decide one or two specific areas to work on. A few months from now it could look very different.

How do feel about watching your performance videos? How do you use them to progress? Tell us in the comments below…


8 Responses to “Taking On Your Worst Critic”

  1. Habiba Dance Says:

    I don’t like watching videos of my performances and usually wait until a little while afterwards before going back to review the footage. However, I find this really useful way to improve my dancing and a great idea if I’m working on a particular song. xx

  2. Sapphire Says:

    I use the video function on my digital camera to record practice sessions. These videos can be painful to watch when I am learning a new combination or choreography but I can see my progession compared to earlier videos. I also notice unconscious unhabits, arms, hands, facial expressions, etc. This does not have to be a negative experience. When I see something that I don’t like I can make a plan to correct it. For example, one goal I set was to maintain smooth flowing arms while performing sharp hip work. I could then drill sharp hip lifts with flowing arms. Another great use for video is to dance in different costumes to learn which styles work best with the movements and which are less flattering. Fringe, coins and beads can dance with you or against you!

  3. MauraZebra Says:

    A great list for Musicians to use as well.

  4. Nadira Jamal Says:

    “Decide one or two specific areas to work on”

    I think this is the most important part!

    My challenge is that I always want to make a huge “must fix” list. But that’s overwhelming, and makes me want to crawl under the covers and hide. (And not get anythying done.)

    When I do video critiques, I include all my suggestions, but also provide a “top 3” list, so they’ll know where they’ll get the most improvement for their effort.

    I need to start doing that for myself too. 🙂

  5. rashabellydance Says:

    Very useful suggestions, thankyou for reposting 🙂 I remember seeing these when you last posted them, but it’s good to have a reminder.

  6. Gaia Says:

    This was a great article, thank you! I hate watching videos of myself but I know that I really do need to if I want to pick up on things to improve upon. I am printing out this list and will use it when I receive my most recent performance video.

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