In Conversation with Ashli & Loren: Creating Dance Promo Videos

by | Jul 3, 2023 | Warm Note

Creating dance promotional videos is a big part of what we do at Nel Shelby Productions!

I love making fun, snappy promos set to specific music. Working with our dance clients on these promotional videos helps audiences get excited about their upcoming performances and events.

Why make a promotional dance video?

The real reason to make a promotional video is to let people know what you’re up to, what the show or event looks like, and to give them a quick taste of it all.

Recently, I went live on Instagram with two of my brilliant team members, Loren Robertson (Assistant Producer & Editor, NSP’s West Coast collaborator) and Ashli Bickford (Assistant Producer, Videographer & Editor) to discuss the process of creating and editing promotional videos for dance clients.

First, we discussed the three main buzzwords that are tossed around when describing promotional videos: Sizzle, Promo, and Trailer. I asked Ashli and Loren what these words meant to them. Ashli said,

“A sizzle, to me, is short and super snappy, and as fast moving as possible. A promo is a wide variety of things: it can be longer and covers the full breadth of what the original video is about. A trailer is giving you a sneak peek into something that’s longer.”

Prepping for a Promo Video

We also talked about our different processes of creating dance promo videos together. For me, I love when you look at everything together: footage, music, and start to pull out those best moments.

For Loren, it’s the prep work, which starts with music:

“…figuring out my music and selecting footage. That’s all preparatory and then you sit down and assemble. We all have dance backgrounds. We all have been in choreography, we’ve made choreography. My dance education has continued to express itself through editing, specifically through promos. It is its own choreographic process. In that same vein, I start with the music, it’s hard to edit without it. Musicality drives the creation process!”

And for Ashli, it’s breadth and diversity of footage.

“Say it’s [a promo] for Vail Dance Festival: seeing the whole lawn, the whole amphitheater, close up of dancers on stage, then an audience member… touch on every aspect of what you’re seeing.”


Music, On-Screen Text, and Beginnings and Endings

We received a question from Danica Paulos, a dance photographer we know and love! She asked if promo video music is typically chosen by the editor or by the client.

The answer is: it’s a collaboration. We ask the client, “What’s the vibe? What are you looking for? Is this an exciting, super energetic piece, or a more serious piece?” We try to get the client to describe the work in as much detail as possible so we can make an informed decision about the music.

Loren added, “When picking tracks I’ll listen to the end and the beginning, because that’s what really matters!”


The beginning and end is most important to me, too.

Norton Owen, Director of Preservation at Jacob’s Pillow, has taught me so much about finishing a promo and not leaving it hanging. My biggest pet peeve is when the music fades out at the end, it makes me uncomfortable! I’m always trying to figure out the beginning and end of the music before I even start.


Considering the on-screen text in a promo is also really important.

Working with our clients and creating content for social media has taught us that starting with something exciting right away is essential (not a logo).

“People are scrolling. You have to think about what’s going to stop someone and get them to watch it,” Loren included, “it’s kind of depressing.”

But this is what makes our work so fun and challenging!!

Eye-Catching Shots for Every Platform

“It’s very satisfying to do very fast, exciting, dance sizzles. We film SO many talented dancers and so pulling out their most virtuosic moments is really exciting to put it back to back.” – Loren

I agree, and I especially love those moments cutting from a turn to a jump. I also look for my ending moment pretty early in the process. I want to make sure there is excitement at the end!!

It’s also important to consider social media (Instagram) formatting versus Youtube or Vimeo formatting.

You can show more of the work in a horizontal format, and then you can go and figure out how to show it in a vertical format. And on a platform like YouTube, someone is more likely to be watching the video with audio, while on Instagram, there’s a good chance they aren’t turning the volume on.

Like Loren said, “we tailor for the platform. We always go back to thinking about what the goal is.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!!! Thank you so much for going live on Instagram with me, Loren and Ashli!!

Nel Shelby is Owner & Filmmaker for Nel Shelby Productions, her New York City-based company dedicated to dance videography and editing. Nel shares her mission to preserve and promote the art of dance with her husband, Christopher Duggan, a dance and wedding photographer. They collaborate on projects with dance companies of worldwide renown, up-and-coming choreographers, dance educators, dance schools and more. Nel is Video Producer at Jacob’s Pillow and Vail Dance Festival and is also the proud Director and Producer of PS DANCE! — a New York Emmy-nominated documentary about dance education in NYC’s public schools.