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Misguided ideas about dance film: Angelo Silvio Vasta

For years I’ve been a member at a site called NoFilmSchool – short form – NFS. Originally the online workbook of aspiring filmmaker Ryan Koo. Gradually Koo’s film projects (Vimeo) took him away from writing NFS and publishing standards have fallen.

1. They steal content from more reputable writers and re-post it as “click bait”
2. Judging by the brief and easily agreeable copy it’s easy to tell that the newer writers barely understand what they’re writing about nor do the writers even watch some of the tutorials/case studies they post anymore.
3. Ryan Koo, Robert Hardy and Joe Marine don’t write enough. And when they do it’s half-assed. They are this blog, and they are dropping the ball.
4. Quality over quantity has been lost and the reputation of the blog is suffering as a result. The basic idea of “think before you speak” could really benefit some of the writers here.

Gordon Robert’s critique is pretty much right on.

Frin Opus Jazz: Dance Filmed Right: Exciting, Dynamic

In this context of deteriorating standards, Lauretta Prevost recently put together an off the cuff clickbait article about dance film, based on the work and opinions of a certain Angelo Silvio Vasta.

showreel 2016

showreel 2016

Angelo Silvio Vasta dance showreel 2016

Based on his uninspired and dull showreel, I wouldn’t take any of Angelo Silvia Vasta’s advice on shooting dance. In particular, Vasta dismisses dancing with the dancer and handheld footage.

“Don’t try to follow the action directly with camera movement,” Vasta advises. “If the dancer is going left to right to left to right, don’t do the same with the camera. That’s disturbing.” You don’t want to be so directly connected, but move around the space. “There’s this idea of ‘dancing with the dancer’ some people prescribe to,” Vasta says. “I don’t think it is so directly connected.

Evidently Mr Vasta is unfamiliar with the steadycam. Dancing with the dancer is harder but it can yield exciting dance footage. Removing depth of field from dance (everything in focus) is another cardinal no-no which Mr Vasta blithely advocates. The goal with dance film is not to chronicle the spectacle (that’s the craft of shooting theatre archives) but to capture the inspiration and movement.

Here’s a counter example, Althea Frutex.

Althea Frutex

Althea Frutex

Althea Frutex, Alec Kinnear, D.A. Hoskins, Kristy Kennedy

Vasta goes further recommend eliminating depth of field:=”

Pro-tip: Camcorders are best for dance, with a limited depth of field. Never shoot below a 5.6 aperture.

Here’s a modern dance video in HD which breaks every rule in Vasta’s book (depth of field, camera movement) and is hence intrinsically exciting, Wendja Regentanz.

WENDJA - Regentanz (Official Video)

WENDJA - Regentanz (Official Video)

Wendja Regentanz Music Video

If you’d rather see dance which is not part of a music video, take a look at Opus Jazz. Here’s an extract on PBS, Passage for Two. Breaks every rule in Vasta’s dull book and is hence absorbing.

Jerome Robbins - NY Export : Opus Jazz (extrait du DVD)

Jerome Robbins - NY Export : Opus Jazz (extrait du DVD)

Opus Jazz – Passage for Two

Here’s the trailer in HD (start watching at about fifty seconds as before that there’s no movement):



Opus Jazz Trailer

Dance film can be exciting. And should be exciting. Camera should move with the movement. Every effort should be taken to create an almost 3D effect. Dance is movement in three dimensions.
The only bit of Vasta’s advice with which I can agree is to attend dress rehearsals. Before you film dance it should be at least your second time seeing that piece:

One important tip Vasta offers is to attend the dress rehearsal and make notes on lighting changes….Vasta shares that at this stage in his career he’d be uncomfortable filming a live show without seeing a dress rehearsal.

If you are a dancer and thinking of creating a video record of your dance, whatever you do, do not take Angelo Silvio Vasta’s advice on how to shoot dance. You will bore your audience to tears. If you are an aspiring dance filmmaker, find another mentor.

This was originally a much shorter comment under the article but Lauretta Prevost managed to get my comment blocked and banned so I posted my comments at greater length in an article.

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