It is important to remember that the lens of the camera is acting as the viewer’s eye. So where you place the camera in space in relation to the dancer will greatly influence how the viewer perceives the dancer and the dance.

Low Level

A low level shot places the camera anywhere below the pelvis of a standing dancer and maintains a horizontal plane. This type of vantage point creates a unique perspective that emphasizes movement in the low space. For example, if the camera is placed on the floor to capture a rolling motion of the dancer, the viewer will experience the same perspective as the dancer thus enhancing the movement.

Low Level Phrase

“Professionals us a low mount with out tripod legs called a high hat to mount the head near the ground or on the hood of an automobile or boat. One method of duplicating this effect is to clamp the head to a heavy board, such as a short length of two-by-twelve. This board then is set either on the ground or clamped to the hood or deck. A safety rope is a necessity for this type of operation.”

From Single-camera Video Production by Robert B. Musburger

Mid Level

In traditional filmmaking, a mid level shot is usually placed at eye level. This makes sense as most of the action is communicated through dialogue and facial expression. Since dance relies on the entire body to communicate, it can be argued that when capturing dance, the mid level placement of the camera should focus on the center of the dancer’s body. Daniel Nagrin makes a strong argument for this in his article, “The Art of Videotaping Dance.” He states, “Shooting at eye level, the camera is closer to the head than the feet and by the nature of perspective and the exaggerations of the lens, the head gets bigger and the legs shorter.” Therefore by placing the camera even with the pelvis the human body is presented with the least amount of distortion.

Mid Level Phrase

High Level

A high level shot places the camera anywhere above the torso of a standing dancer and maintains a horizontal plane. This vantage point would be used to capture movement in the high space such as arm gestures occurring around or above the head. High level shots can also be used to creatively emphasize over the head partnering moments and even to illustrate inversion moments in unique ways.

High Level Phrase

Low Level

A low angle shot places the camera low in space and angles the camera upward to create the perspective of looking up at a dancer. If the camera was placed relatively close to a dancer, the dancer’s lower leg and feet may not be seen in this type of vantage point. If used in an extreme manner, camera very low and dancer very close, a distortion of the dancer’s image emerges creating a larger than life point of view.

Low Angle (Hover Phrase)

High Angle

A high angle shot places the camera in the high space and angles down on the dancer. The distortion of a very high angle diminishes the dancer’s presence. Floor work captured from a high angle vantage point is an interesting way to emphasize movement in the low space.

High Angle (Off Axis Phrase)

Canted Angle

A canted shot occurs when you pivot the camera laterally to distort the horizon line as well as the perception of gravity. A canted camera can create the illusion that a level field is a steep incline. It can also add a sense of weight to a dancer’s movement quality.

Canted Angle Duet

Bird’s Eye View

In a bird’s eye view, the camera looks directly down on a dancer. Traditionally it is used to make the subject feel small or insignificant but in dance it can be used to highlight movement in unique ways. Again picture a dancer performing a floor phrase that involves large reaching movements in all directions. A bird’s eye view of this phrase would give the audience a perspective it wouldn’t normally have in a traditional stage experience.

Bird's Eye View (Bartenieff and Quirky Phrases)

Worm’s Eye View

A worm’s eye view looks directly up at a dancer from an extreme low level. It makes the dancer appear as if they are larger than life and imbues them with a sense of power. This perspective can also be a lot of fun to use with jumps and leaps because it exaggerates the distance between the dancer and the floor.

Worm's Eye View (Power and Hover Phrases)

Over the Shoulder

An over the shoulder view is a traditional film technique most commonly used during dialogue scenes. This shot looks over one character’s shoulder to see another character speaking, giving the audience a point of view while creating depth. While this shot is not as commonly used in dance for the camera, when used effectively it can still create a conversation piece.

Over the Shoulder (2 Variations)

Point of View

Point of view, or POV, simply put is the camera acting as the dancer’s eyes. This shot gives the audience the ability to see the world through the dancer’s perspective. POV’s would usually be sandwiched between a shot of the dancer looking and a shot of a dancer responding to what they saw. See Rosemary Lee’s film Boy for some wonderful examples of POV shots being used in a dance for the camera.

Point of View (Foot Phrase and Edited from Floor)