How to Make Great Dance Videos All By Yourself

Check out A Little Lighter podcast #012 for a whole show on how to film yourself dancing.

Don’t get me wrong, for dance performances it’s ideal to hire a videographer or engage someone who enjoys filming. Our videographer Alfred Grunwell has been recording live music performances since the 1970s, and he truly enjoys capturing the spirit of a performance. He shoots video as a bonus for our band while recording audio and then syncs the video with the professionally recorded audio. These recordings are a great tool for improving and promoting future shows. And they are a gift I can give to all performers after the show.


Al made me realize the value of video. We have a history we can hear and see and build on.


But not every dancer has someone ready to record for them. My husband has always been super supportive of my dance and music, but at one point he stopped coming to my belly dance shows. One of the women in my troupe asked him to film the show again, and he got tired of it. He had unwillingly become a purse tree and a tripod. There’s no need for that.


You can become a great cameraman and capture exactly what you want while you dance.


Why you want to film yourself dancing

  1. Video is a teacher. It will show you where you are shining and where you can improve
  2. Your friends want to see you dance and be part of your life. Let them in.
  3. You will inspire others to dance when they see you dance
  4. You can film yourself dancing almost anytime and anywhere. You don’t need a live audience to perform
  5. You will spend more minutes of your life dancing when you are also filming
  6. You can use your dance videos to entice people to promote shows and get more gigs
  7. You know your cameraman will be there and will share your vision…because it’s you!
  8. It’s fun



Is there a little voice in your head regurgitating myths that might be holding you back?


I need a studio to make a movie



I need a $500 camera and $150 lights

Nope. You have a phone and sunlight.


No one wants to watch my videos

Have you ever searched on youtube and started watching something that was really low-tech and noticed that it has 700 views? Someone will get something out of your videos if you share them. Promise.


I’m not savvy enough to do this

Saint of truth moment: This is a limiting belief you are holding on to. That’s all it is. Take responsibility for creating it and perpetuating it, see how it has restricted you and discouraged others around you, and start solving problems with that energy that has been used to make excuses and beat yourself up.


Are you ready? Here are some tips on how to make movies of yourself dancing that you will be excited to learn from and share: 

  1. Be easy on yourself. Some of the best videos are very simple.
  2. Your videos will keep getting better as you shoot them and see what works. Keep shooting.
  3. Use your phone. You do not need expensive gear you will rarely use to make a great movie.
  4. Get the gear you need
    1. Tripods: joby pod that fits in your purse or lightweight full size tripod that fits in your prop bag
    2. iPhone mount: get a couple. They break and they are as cheap as $10. And some fit your phone and phone case better than others
    3. Music player: You’ll be using your phone to film, so a music playing device is helpful
    4. Speaker: water resistant speaker if you’ll film outside. An ipod is often not loud enough to hear over ocean waves, wind, etc.
    5. Phone: charge it, have space cleared for memory, and bring your backup battery charger and cable in case it dies.

Plan a shoot

  1. Ask yourself: What gift are you giving? What will the audience get out of the video? Shoot with that in mind.
  2. Make your playlist (5-20 minutes is ideal for me)
  3. Decide if you will use the audio from the speaker in the background of the movie or add audio later (adding audio later will sound better but takes planning, editing time and some technical skill to match it with the video)
  4. Choose a location
  5. Put it on your calendar
  6. Consider the lighting (time of day, indirect light, set up lights if indoors, etc. You can always add a filter and adjust later, but starting with good lighting always makes editing easier)
  7. Pick your costume
  8. Prep your gear (charge it, clear memory, test it, and pack it up the day before)

IMPORTANT TIME SAVING TIP: Adding a 5-4-3-2-1 countdown track before a song or continuous playlist starts will help you trim the files later and sync music to the video if you want to. You will be starting your own music and filming at the same time. The countdown gives you time to get in place.

  1. Always be ready to shoot when you are in costume or a danceable space. Carry your joby pod and phone mount in your purse or gig bag

Set up the shot

  1. Set up your tripod and phone in selfie mode and take some short test videos
  2. Adjust until the camera is level
  3. Shoot horizontal unless you play to use the video on a platform that defaults to vertical
  4. Limit distraction in the shot. Frame a background that adds to your dance rather than detracting. Remove trash or a plastic water bottle or an unrelated color that may be distract viewers.
  5. Make sure all body parts you want to see are in the shot. Raise your arms up high, extend your toes, etc
  6. Shoot a little wider if you are unsure of the shot. You can always crop, but you cannot add more the edges of the video if it was not recorded
  7. Make sure your costume is how you want it (necklace centered, skirt happy, hair happy, no underboob, etc)
  8. Map out your dance space on the floor or ground. Know where you go out of view
  9. Take up the center third of the shot for most of the video
  10. Take a sip of water
  11. Consider shooting multiple shorter videos rather than one long video. It is easier to delete unwanted parts, transfer the files and edit short videos
  12. Film yourself warming up, watch parts of it and adjust if necessary before you shoot the rest
  13. Do multiple takes, adjusting the camera in between if you are unsure whether it’s a good shot

IMPORTANT TIP: Take photos you can use for thumbnails right before or just after you shoot the video. The thumbnails automatically generated by youtube and facebook are usually not good.

Edit the video(s)

  1. Delete unusable clips
  2. Edit the videos right on your phone and never even have to transfer files to a computer. iMovie is one great option on iPhones, and it’s free
  3. Trim, crop, combine clips, add filters, adjust colors, etc
  4. Or transfer the best videos to your laptop and edit there. Quicktime player on a Mac is simple. You can drag and drop the sound files once you have trimmed the clips. iMovie has more options (transitions, fade out, filters, color balance, text, etc).
  5. Or just hire someone on Fiverr to edit the video for you


Upload and share

At the time of writing this…

  1. Videos uploaded to Instagram are cropped into a center square, can be up to 1 minute long, and can be set up so the automatically share to a facebook page
  2. Videos uploaded directly to Facebook will be easy for your friends to watch
  3. Videos on Youtube will be easier for people who do not know to find if they are searching for something related to what you are doing
  4. Titles, post text and thumbnails help viewers decide if they want to watch videos, so they are worth crafting
  5. Copyrighted music is not legal to reproduce, but if you are not monetizing it…


Save it in a good place

Videos are big and computers crash. Save videos and photos somewhere else. I use dropbox.

Organized files keep us sane. Messy, poorly titled files fuel procrastination, frustration and uselessness

  1. Here’s a path for saving videos:
    1. Dropbox
      1. Belly dance
        1. Videos
          1. Edit me
          2. Already shared
          3. Share me
          4. Keep but do not share

Title videos so they get filed in an easy-to-use order

Ex: 18-12 Qele Lot 10 clip

This means the video was shot in December 2018, the song is Qele Qele, the location is Lot 10, and it’s not the full song. The video files will be in date order. I know exactly what this video is and therefore will know whether I want to use it for something later.

IMPORTANT SANITY TIP: If you haven’t edited and filed a video you took a few months ago, decide whether you should delete it or schedule a time to work on it. There’s no need to burden yourself with a backlog.

Have fun!