The Act of Creation – Blind & Frozen, #6
Background: a look into my creative process as I build a dance start to finish. See previous posts to follow along if you’ve just jumped in. Welcome to my madness!
WREN HAD IT RIGHT – IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BEAT! umm…sort of
At this stage in creation, I’m spending a lot of time with the music – listening for tempo changes, transitions in the music, the chorus, feelings, lyrics, beat, and anything special – like a sudden trumpet solo for example. Bringing all of this into your choreo as you create can give your dance such an immersive feel, capturing not only the feel of the music but the lyrics and story behind it too. To me, music is like a painting that is heard instead of seen. Choreo can be too, but just like paintings if you focus on one color too much (like just the drum beat), you miss all the other amazing colors weaving together.
I’ve been very fortunate, some music experience RL, but also learning under two different instructors about music for dance in SL. They both took very different approaches to it, neither was wrong in their methods and applying them together works well for me. I’ll try to keep this simple, because I’d hate to explain something incorrectly. The first instructor taught a lot about musical theory – bars, measures, phrasing, counts, upbeat and downbeat, time, and how these apply to dance. In most pop music, there are 4 beats per measure, and 4 measures is one phrase. Lyrics usually also follow along with the phrases, if you listen to the song above you can hear the natural breaks/changes between phrases. Each measure has 4 beats – and each beat has an upbeat and downbeat. Listening to this song, can you feel the beats? 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8?
This instructor created her choreography by listening for and studying the timing, the beats, the phrases, her choreography flowing with it and animations often changing at the beginning of a phrase. I still “count” the beats, listen for them in my head – especially when the music is a bit different and the timing changes in the middle. I think many people do this same thing without realizing it.
What I learned from the other instructor is incorporating the transitions of the music in my dance, changing the tempo of my animations for interest. Feeling my story behind the music and identifying the emotions I want to express. To mix up animations – not be afraid to use a folk dance for a pop song, not to limit myself to jazz animations for a jazz song for example. The other thing he expressed was incorporating the lyrics in the choreography, adding another dimension. If the lyrics include “beating heart”, this may be a great place to use a dance animation the presses the hands to the heart…if it fits.
My belief is sharing what we know, teaching and learning from others, and encourage everyone to grow and adapt that knowledge in their own way. For me, the important thing I’ve also embraced is that this is not a formula. That if we try too hard to always match the animations to the lyrics, always start animations on a new phrase, always choreograph exactly to the beat, always follow a direct interpretation of the lyrics instead of our own ,- this can become algebra instead of art. There shouldn’t be any “always” when it comes to choreography. Ever.
This is the point I sit back, let myself completely relax, and let the music flow over me. See?
I’ve always made notes as I planned out my choreography. In the beginning, I’d print out the lyrics and then drew lines, made scribbled notes, and doodled all over. Now I use TROFF, music listening software that’s designed for training with music. You can set it to repeat the selection, count in (great for choreo – you have a few beats before it starts the music). You can also add labels, notes, and select the different sections to play. This is handy if you need to keep repeating a section for choosing or working with animations.
So, in Blind and Frozen, there is the beginning and the ending that I’ve marked for the special entrance through the book, and the ending coming out of the book. I won’t be dancing in those parts, so I don’t need to choose dance animations for them.
I like to free-write my ideas for a dance, but try not to get too rigid when planning the music. Sometimes the choreography takes on a mind of it’s own and I’ll adjust or flip things along the way. I keep it simple when making the notes on the music – so that I can easily read it and choose the important points and sections. So here’s what my dance and change ideas look like:
This music will definitely be a bit of a challenge because there are three/four very distinct tempos – At 3:55 especially, the music has a slower tempo – a bit emotional? While the song is high intensity which is one of the things I love about it, there are still tempo variations. The non-chorus parts, like when the men start dancing at 0:27 is what I consider the baseline tempo. The chorus ramps up from that tempo. The instrumental change at 3:16 almost takes on a frenzied feel, and the part at 3:35 is slower than the “baseline” tempo. While I’m choosing animations I need to keep these various parts in mind. For some songs, I actually split the music in half and choose the animations separately. I hope not to do that for this one.
This is the dance/music brainstorming I did in post #4 and is still my rough plan.
Blind & Frozen (Dance plan):
extend the sound in the beginning of the song, open the curtain to present day, a book opens, light shines out. Move closer, during the long note disappear into the book.
Background/story behind the dance – multiple lifetimes, love, passion, strength, give and take.
Land in a castle type room, open, chandeliers, candles, dramatic lighting, set to midnight, very specific and ornate pieces – these will carry back at the end. I land in a kneel, two other female dancers are with me. Three male dancers are the focus, I am a bit disoriented at this point – expressed through slow walk, slow pose, the women and I moving into place – closer but separate from the men. My costume has changed – hopefully through fades so that it’s instant.
[note to self – for other dances – change it up, not all intense story lines like this and Riddler!]
Dancers: me, two other women, 3 men. All main costumes are medieval yet still modern. My starting and ending costume is present day – must change really fast. Men’s are strong, black/earth colors. Boots. Women are in dresses – must flow well, show legs during dancing…no stretchy mesh. Shoes – boots. Male & Female costumes mesh together.
dancing starts – men. while they dance, men approach the women, I back up behind other two women. During chorus men turn and move forward to front center stage, main male dancer turns – doing a different animation and looking at me. During the chorus, women start to dance, not right at the beginning of the chorus but more subtle, not sultry but not as strong as the men.
During the long note, women move forward, use the power of the instrumental beats to take center stage. Men move back and to the side. Offset formation? At this point, I’ve “transitioned” from current time to the past – like previous life memories. Women are the main focus, men dancing secondary. At the start of the chorus, the men come forward and we all dance together, very strong – single animations. Use formations – don’t want it to feel all partnered at this point.
what if the castle seemed old after falling through the book, then begins looking like it did in the past during the dance? Shedding cobwebs, copies of props that are darker – maybe use a script to change the tint from darker to white in a slow transition, maybe even some shine?
At I would die – men and women in pairs turn and dance in opposition. Cut out guitar solo or most of it? Is it worth the work for 25 seconds? Is there something I can do with it?
At 3:16 and quick instrumental changes, add a lot of mover movement across the floor, wild dramatic dance moves and formation changes. This lasts for 40 seconds.
Music slows, change into couples animations for slow part and chorus? After chorus switch to single animations. At end note, dancers disappear, set fades, and the original set in present time appears. I appear kneeling on the floor, light effect out of book dims and the book closes. Special objects in the room glow as they fade in – these are heirlooms from the past that appeared in the castle. Also include a pile of old letters – have them spill out of the book? Or a particle out of the book? Maybe even a key?
At the end, leave it hanging – did they rekindle their love or did she walk away? Have a dramatic pose and pause where you’d expect her to turn to him…leave it unfinished.
During the change in the music….the set starts to fade out in pieces before everyone’s eyes leaving little but me and the lead dancer. During those last beats of the music, I’m falling back out of the book.
According to my roadmap chart below, I lost a little time finishing this piece. I should be able to pick that back up by finishing the picking of animations tomorrow. My key is making sure I DO do it, and that I also spend the right amount of time to pick the right animations – not rush it and think of the deadline before the dance.
I guess I should get out of the hammock now, eh?
Blind & Frozen Timeline
Start date – 6/2
Performance date – 7/13
|1||6/2||Choose the music||6/2|
|1||6/2||Buy or download the music||6/2|
|2||6/3||Write up an outline for the dance, background, the story, ideas, feelings, how many dancers, etc.||6/3|
|4||6/5||Edit the music (if needed)||HOLD|
|4||6/5||Pick a costume, or something similar to what will be my costume||6/5|
|5||6/6||Listen to music for dance and change ideas||6/8|
|14||6/15||Work on choreography and record|
|22||6/23||Create style cards for dancers|
|25||6/26||Plan out movers and create routes|
|27||6/28||Test and adjust movers and choreography|
|30||7/1||Test and adjust|
|31||7/2||Pack up set|
|33||7/4||Make any final adjustments|
|33||7/4||Take a copy of set and movers into inventory|