Yesterday I led a workshop on Introduction to Dance and Choreography, specifically designed for those new or interested in being a choreographer, and those who want to build upon their foundation in dance.
This workshop changes because interaction is highly encouraged, almost expected, and each time is different because of it. I think too, sometimes our minds are in tune with different ideas, open. One of the most amazing things I find about teaching is that I too am a student. I learn by the questions people ask, their unspoken communications. Comments, opinions. I am always in a state of self evaluation and growth.
What’s below are excerpts of the tutor notes for this workshop, which I provide to anyone attending. During the workshop, I realized that some of my beliefs are still limiting. I am extremely choreography focused. To me, choreography is the most important piece of the dance. You can’t have a dance without choreography, right? To me, this is still true, that focusing on the “wow” of sets, costumes, effects, and not investing time into creating good choreography can really effect the impact of the dance. Make it less than it could have been. Have I done this? Lost focus on my choreography…definitely. Did people see that in my finished results? …most definitely.
I often say that effects shouldn’t detract from a dance. I do believe they shouldn’t obscure the dance, but who decides what detracts from a dance? Isn’t this subjective? Leading this workshop yesterday, I couldn’t get my mind off these words.
Make a conscious decision
In this workshop, I focused on the keys for building a strong foundation – and I stand by those. It is when you have the knowledge that YOU decide how to apply it. This is YOUR dance. There are no rules. Don’t use particles to mask weak choreography. Focus on building your choreography skills, then use particles to make your dance whatever you want it to be. If you DECIDE you need many particles during your dance to express your message, do it. The same basic considerations will apply, your satisfaction with your dance, and also the audience experience. You are creating for yourself, but the audience has also taken their time to come and watch. Some will get it, some won’t, and that’s ok too.
Throwing a heap full of trees on your set – probably not a conscious decision. Building a forest on your set to highlight the dancers – that’s a conscious decision. Doing things just because you can, not so much of a conscious decision. Doing this because they enhance the performance, fit into your goal and your happiness in self expression, THAT is a conscious decision. Adding particles just because someone told you to, not a conscious decision. Adding particles because YOU see how they will enhance the dance? Conscious decision. There are no rules, no formulas.
The same with dance in SL. What is it? There’s no one authority that can truly describe what dance is and isn’t in SL, there are all these flavors in between and most likely a venue for that type of dance creation. There is art, imagination, creativity, practice, innovation – all brought together to create a dance in your own voice. Each venue has its own style, own niche, own expectations for dances performed there which there should be. This does not define or limit your dance, merely where you perform it.
Some venues prefer a more traditional/broadway/theatre style production. This is one style of so many. Find your own, what works for you. Never forget – this is your creative outlet. Don’t let anyone dissuade you, discourage you. Create from that spark within you. To me, it is the act of bringing my vision to life that is the most amazing feeling of all. As Polonius says: “To thine own self be true…”
What is Dance in SL?
Dance in SL the overall experience created by connecting music, movement, and environment together. It is an expression of creativity and feeling.
- music: the music chosen for a dance. Could be simply wind blowing, a top 40 hit, or a lyrical classic symphony. Possibly no sound at all.
- movement: movement is expressed through animations played in a series, and can be further enhanced by the use of mover systems to add additional turns and movements across the stage.
- environment: environment is created by the costumes worn, the stage that surrounds the dancers, any props, lighting and effects used.
The creator may use many different tools to explore and to create in their own way. Some love building sets, or putting together choreography. Maybe they use audacity to create custom music files, or put together unique costumes. Others enjoy working with Photoshop to create textures and pictures for their sets. Others like the challenge of scripting and creating special effects. Opportunities for growth and vision are almost endless.
There are no hard and fast rules, there are different opinions on everything, and very few absolutes.
Types of Dance in SL:
Freestyling – on your own or with friends, go to a club or turn on the music at your sim and just dance! Wearing your animation hud, flick through those animations and create your own unique dance on the fly. Nothing saved, just enjoy the music and the movement. An excellent way to get to know your animations and help find your own style!
Small Performances – generally a solo, may be performed on a small stage, pit stage, or platform. In most “small performances”, the focus is you, your choreography, and the music. Generally few if any moves using a mover system. These can be a lot of fun, less overwhelming than a big full stage production, and can provide a very “intimate” and close experience for you and the audience. Think of this like a jazz singer performing in a jazz club compared to a full arena concert. Generally one song with a variety of performances by different choreographers. There is generally not a director overseeing and managing creative choices and development. Examples: TerpsiCorps Pit Shows, Inanna, potentially Club Image except for themed productions.
Performance Art – A different type of expression through dance. May be more subjective, encourages the viewer to feel, think, challenges their understanding and pre-conceived notions about what dance is. Often combined with an art creation/art piece. May be purposely inflammatory, often strives for a reaction.
Full Stage Performance – for this I mean a full stage set, generally at a larger venue. May be a solo dance or have many dancers. A full stage performance is generally one song, on a large stage, with a variety of performances by different choreographers. There is generally not a director overseeing and managing creative choices and development. Examples: Phoenix, Moonshadow, Elysium Cabaret.
Full Show Productions – a full show production is generally a themed or cohesive show that is planned and structured to express a story and/or a full experience. There will generally be some type of continuity to tie everything together – the set design, the story, the style. There is generally a director involved who will oversee all aspects of the production and the creation of it. Examples: Monarchs, TerpsiCorps, Spirit Light Dance Company, and Club Image Productions such as Tarot.
and everything in between!