The Magical World of Animations and Choreography

So, you want to dance, to create, perform in this magical medium we have in this world.  For some of us, perhaps we danced in RL.  Some perhaps want to recapture these moments, or to still experience the highs, and the beauty, the creative opportunities.  For others, we just feel it from deep within, and SL gives us the forum to express ourselves in this way.

Ok, ok.  Yes.  I dance in the shower (while simultaneously wondering what I’d do if I slipped and broke my leg).  Yes, I dance while cleaning (and sing too, but that’s a whole other story).  I sometimes even torture my family with my dancing while working in the kitchen (and pray that doesn’t end up on youtube).  Would I dance in public like that?

/me faints

No.  Not unless it was some kind of goofy fun thing and everyone was doing it too – although at weddings, all bets are off.  Yep, I was the one who jumped up, joined a little girl on the dance floor as we danced the “Hot Dog Dance”.  Didn’t even know the song but I went for it!  I blame the SL dance world for that actually….

 

So, now that that’s all established, in the SL dance world we can’t just jump out on the dance floor and do whatever quirky move we want to.  Generally we need to use the animations that are available, and to create a dance we choreograph them together to create something that is unique, expressive, and our own.  I’ll be getting into some info about animations, but first.

Choreography

There are few absolutes in this world, and even some of those absolutes I even periodically question myself on.  There is one that I won’t.

Choreography is *not* buying a pack of animations, such as Abranimations disco, using only these animations, changing up the order and calling it choreography.  You are simply playing animations that the *creator* has put together, choreographed.  This isn’t your own, and it really isn’t unique either.  Just mixing something up doesn’t make it yours.

Yeah, I’m pretty firm on that personally.  Can a performance still be beautiful doing that?  Sure.  Will people notice?  Maybe, maybe not.  But that leads to the question – was it unique?  did you challenge yourself?  did it truly reflect the passion you feel?  I would guess not.

So what is choreography in SL?  My definition:

Stringing a variety of animations together to create a cohesive experience, a unique and personal expression of a piece of music.

The best choreography is when you can “see” the dancers breathe, when you can feel the emotion, understand the dance and the movement no matter what type of expression it is – from serious to uproarious laughter to drool.  When you can feel a piece of the choreographer in the dance.

Personally, my favorite dances of my own are the ones where I give a piece of myself into the creation of it.  To me, creating a dance is like a passionate love affair.  I give a piece of myself over to the creation.  For a while I completely lose myself within it as I weave my thoughts, my emotions within the music, within the beat of it until at some points while I work there is no telling where I start and where the music ends.  I pour my imagination and my effort into the dance as the music and the movement touch me in some way.  When I create a dance, it is almost always because I love the music, I feel it, and I need to create it, and I’m never left exactly the same when I’m done.

Whew…I think I need a fan, or a cuddle now….

Does everyone create like this?  I’m sure not.  Is it “less” that they don’t?  Nope.  Just like an artist painting, dance is the same.  The dancers are our paints, the stage our canvas.  Animations are the colors and the brushes.  How we create, how we paint is our choice and personal.  I can assure you I won’t be cutting off an ear like Van Gogh though (even for a zombie theme dance)

Ok, so I promised this was about animations….

Always buy copy versions of animations!

I had to get that out there.  Sometimes in couples dances you can’t.  Any other time, if it’s not copy I will pass it up in a heartbeat.  It’s not worth the stress or the potential of losing them to buy transfer only versions.

Dance animations – this will generally be your staples, your bread and butter when creating a dance.  There are a number of difference dance animation stores, list of ones I use here:  https://harleyquinadventure.com/2017/03/18/animation-stores-favorites/

I don’t have any real hard and fast rules, but generally I focus on the first few seconds of a dance.  Unless you are using a Spot On Performance Director and layering animations, you will be using the beginning part of the animation or the full animation.

Common questions:

  • Can you start an animation in the middle?  No, unless you are using a Performance Director and layering animations – something you may wish to explore after you have a good foundation in dance and want to expand.  When you play an animation, it is played from the beginning.
  • Can you change the speed of an animation?  No.  While you can change your setting in your viewer to see it slower or faster, everyone else watching will see it at its “normal” speed, because this is what’s stored on the SL asset servers.

The best dance animations are “mocap”, or motion captures.  Animations stores generally work with an animation company who hires RL dancers.  Just like in the movies, the dancers wear sensors to capture their movements on a computer.  These are then converted to animation files.  The ballet animations you just purchased from Abranimations?  That was a RL dancer who performed those.  This is what gives animations the realistic quality, the subtle shifts and smooth movement.  This really hit home when I was talking to a retired professional dancer in SL and she was able to point out some of the weaknesses of the ballerina that performed for a set of ballet animations available in one of the animation stores.  Does that make them bad?  Nope.  Would anyone else notice?  Almost certainly not.  It did give me a whole new appreciation of mocap animations and the dancers behind them though.

You will often find that older non-mocap animations are jerky and may have very unrealistic body movements.  (No, a leg doesn’t generally move like that unless it’s broken…or they’re a contortionist…).  I do sometimes use non-mocap animations though, sometimes they just “work” within a dance.

I generally look for animations with expressive movements, but also mix in others that are softer, more subtle.  When expressing a dance, you usually want to mix in different styles of animations, and like music, lift your audience into a crescendo, a peak, then soften it.  I like spins a lot too…always looking for great spins and jumps within an animation.

If you are new to dance, build up your inventory slowly.  Don’t go crazy buying whatever animation is out there, no matter how tempting it is.  I personally like Abranimations for their quality, cost, and because of how well they link other animations together.  Their animations tend to flow smoothly into other animations and out of other animations.

My recommendation if you’re first starting?  Choose a piece of music, listen to it over and over again.  Go to the animation stores and choose a few animations from each that seem to ‘fit’ with the music.  I would personally recommend choosing a pop/club style piece of music first.  They’re generally easier to choreograph, fun, and the animations you choose would work well freestyling in a club too.

Do I buy packs?  Occasionally.  In a pack you’re generally buying all the animations for that genre at a discount.  You must decide if there are enough unique animations in there to make it worth it and how likely you are to use all the animations.  Occasionally animation stores will have their packs on sale too.  (Reminds me, I should start saving for the Thanksgiving sales – they do happen in SL too).

AO Animations – don’t overlook AO animations!  Walks, turns, stands, spin, hover, fly.  There is such variety with these animations and they can add such interest in your dance.  It is possible to choreograph an entire dance out of AO animations, especially swimming/mermaid dances.

I love Kuso for their AO animations which include fun gestures, flips, spins and all kinds of things.  Don’t look past your own AO either!  If your AO is copy, detach it, rez it to the ground, right click and copy contents to inventory.  You now have a bunch of AO animations to also work with!

This also includes fighter AO’s, mermaids, and any others you can think of too!  Wait!  Don’t go…I saw you itching to head to marketplace and look up copy AOs…..  smh…

             

Poses – to me, poses can add such impact to a dance.  Consider the opening pose and the message it conveys.  I almost always finish a dance in a pose also, unless continuing to dance is part of the message (like when I left my dancers dancing in the asylum as the fade screen faded back in).  End your dance with something that communicates your message and fits the style of dance.

Poses can be so much fun to shop for.  Nantra is one of my favorites, and they also include mirror poses so that you can have a pose facing left, or the same pose but facing right.

Poses can also be integrated within the dance for impact, at a point of reflection or when you have other dancers and want them to be the focus.

 

I highly recommend exploring different venues around the grid watch a variety of performances, different venues, different choreographers.  Study their dances and how they use animations.  Evaluate for yourself what “feels right”, what added impact, spoke to you.  This is part of learning too, and we are all always learning.

 

I have a feeling I’ll be expanding on this in the future…but for now I think I’m going to do the hot dog dance then relax a bit.

~ Dance as if no one is watching ~

Eva

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One Response to The Magical World of Animations and Choreography

  1. Pingback: This Week & Dance Resources Index | Madness, Matter, and Rambling Thoughts

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