Long, long ago at a dance show far, far away, legendary dancer Diawa Bellic invited a new friend to come and see the show. He was a talented builder, and she wanted to show him what some of the dancers were doing with his creations in their sets. He came, he saw, then he set out to learn this craft and push its boundaries to the absolute outer limits. His name is Royal Shippe. If you have seen one of his dances, you will know his name. He is one that people ask, “Who is that guy?” Many people are curious about him. Few know anything about him. He seemed to appear from thin air, like magic. He has been known to vanish just as magically… then reappear. Yet for many, he remains an enigma. Perhaps this interview will help solve some of the mystery that crowns the Royal One.
Blessed with building skills and a gift for texturing, plus with a very busy real life, what made him decide to open the Pandora’s Box of SL dance? “I wanted to try and expand the world of SL dance. Show what performance dance can be, and there is so much more you can do. Let your imagination go wild, sometimes you may need some guidance and advice.” And that is how Royal started in SL dance… helping others. He became the ‘go to’ person for choreographers struggling with sets. Those who needed something special built, or some new eyes and fresh ideas for a set, started IMing Royal, asking him to please come have a look. He was eager to do so, extremely helpful, and generous with his toys, touching up, enhancing, and even fully building sets for dancers all over the dance community. Amazing, intricate highly-detailed sets. In time, he learned animations, dance HUDs, and mover systems, and finally debuted as a choreographer in his own right, widening eyes and dropping jaws on every stage he graced.
Royal shared with me how he approaches dance creation. “Always start with the song – I usually gather a bunch and mix them together. It sets the mood and theme, from there I start the build, all I really pay much attention to is the background, everything else in the build flows from that. I hardly even think when I build, I just let it happen. Then comes the dance and movers, and lastly costumes and particles.” He has created a lot of dances in the past year, all of them huge, astonishing acts, which earned him the title “The George Lucas of Second Life Dance” from Diawa. He works fast, he works thorough, and he works in excruciating detail. He says he doesn’t have a favourite dance. “I’m honestly a little bored – when I find reason to finally push myself all the way is when I will know my favorite.” Has he ever done a dance he was not satisfied with? “Not really, no, because I never really pay much attention to the sets once they are finished.”
So what is it about dance that he finds fulfilling? “I like building and creating, but it doesn’t have to be tied to dance. I just build for fun.” Royal loves to build, but there is nothing he loves more than challenge. What would seem an obvious dilemma is, someone with his skills may find it a challenge to find something that challenges him. Does he still learn new things through dance? “I’m sure there are things for me out there to learn, but I like to rather discover it myself. I have to admit, I like to be challenged. I remember when Diiar Vader used to tell me, ‘All you do is Dubstep, is that all you know?’ I told her, ‘You have no idea what I am capable of, lol!’ She asked me to prove it to her, and I did, and beyond that. She always tells me, ‘Babe, I’m your #1 fan!’ which creeps me out. It always reminds me of that movie Misery. LOL! Anyway, always tell yourself, ‘There’s nothing you can’t do if you put your mind into it.’ You can do this, piece of cake!” *smiles :)*
Let’s take a look at some of Royal’s past challenges. In addition to performing for various troupes as a regular member and a guest performer, he is famous for doing mega-shows. He had an influential hand in the creation of the sim-wide production SuperMetropolis. He did the build for the much-loved sim-wide show Christmas ExtravaDanza. His work on Fantasy Faire last year was heralded as revolutionary. Then there was the sim-wide production of ExtravaDanza‘s Imagine!, a hugely popular show that featured the audience being flown from set to set on a magic carpet. What are his thoughts on some of these past mega-events?
“Fantasy Faire 2015, I was mostly there to support Aelva, but performed one original routine – the Dragon Lords, which was a lot of work but I think it came out really great. It was a big task on a tight schedule though.”
“Then we did Imagine! which was a massive full-sim production with 10 acts, but it was so rewarding to see people react to the creations and dances. There was a genuine joy about that show that you don’t get to experience often. Just people reliving their childhood memories.”
“After Imagine! I took a break, and I literally had just come back when I was hijacked into the Macabre Halloween show from ExtravaDanza. Before I knew it I was on stage, performing a brand new set haha.”
“The last big show was the Christmas ExtravaDanza 2016 where working with Diiar on our joined set was fun… and still is… for now.”
Is there anything about SL dance that Royal dislikes? “Drama! Crazy people who do their best to spread poison in other people’s SL. Somehow dance attracts a lot of these.” When speaking of changes he would like to see in SL dance, he said that he would like to see people get out of their comfort zones and put more effort into their creations, to make something truly see-worthy and memorable. “And I wish people would stop sugarcoating. It doesn’t help anyone, it only makes it harder to see one’s faults and know how to improve. Instead, tell them the truth on what you really think of it in a friendly way, and make some suggestions. I understand about not hurting people’s feelings, but there are other ways to say it. Help them get better, and I am sure they would appreciate you deep down. Every one knows about their choreography/dances. if they did good or not, deep down. Sometimes, I’d feel that way.”
All this dance and building! All this SL! When does this workaholic sleep? I suppose being a workaholic is, like most things, subjective. Royal does not think he is a workaholic. “I’m not really a workaholic haha! People think I am, but I spend most the time slacking off. If I focused when I build, I would be done in no time – could definitely do weekly shows, but where’s the fun in that?! Mass producing sets like that is boring – even at my pace can get boring. I dance to give my friends support more than anything.” And how does that impact his real life? How does he keep two demanding lives in balance? “RL always takes priority, but when my friends in SL need me, I will make time for them!”
And does Royal have any SL hobbies or interests in SL aside from dance and building? Well, yes, one very big interest. Diiar Vader! The couple have been in a dedicated relationship for a year, and enjoy creating dances together.
Royal’s advice for people new to dance is, to never settle for less, assuring them they are better than that. “Whatever you show on stage, it shows what type of person you are, so make sure you can vouch for everything you do. Always push yourself, always get out of your comfort zone, push yourself and you can do it. If someone teaches you something – always look for more, because there IS more out there, there’s always more and better out there. It’s true, not everyone has a natural born talent, but it can be taught! If you work hard and put your heart into it, you can achieve anything! And use your eyes – you can see who is better – ask! Seek the help you need! You would be surprised how many are willing to help. Ignore the gossip, it’s not always the truth – you have to make your own impressions, and if people only knew how many out there have things to teach and are willing to do so. Don’t ever get jealous, that jealousy will turn to hate and there’s nothing to gain from that – if you see someone that’s better than you, compliment them! And ask how it was done! Don’t be shy to do that, because after all, we want this little dance community to be better – and it can be!” Royal adds, “One last thing – SL dance will not make you famous. And it doesn’t matter, because in the end SL is tiny and no one really cares what goes on here in the bigger picture. And NEVER forget or abandon your RL – that is always more important.”
“For those out there teaching, it’s great and that’s awesome! Keep doing what you are doing. Don’t take this in a hard way, but teach them the basic and what you are really good at. Do not try to teach them something you are not capable of, because it will become a habit of that student which will be really hard to break later on. Learned this a lot from experienced. Instead, recommend them to someone you know that shows potential. We want SL to be full of AWESOME choreographers.”
What are Royal’s plans for the future, what is he up to? And where can you check him out if you have not yet seen his performances? “I’m pretty busy! Early April, I’m participating in ExtravaDanza‘s newest production Exodus. There will be four shows: April 1st, 2nd, 8th and 9th, on a full sim designed by SexyS Quintessa. Then I’m going with The Monarchs to the Fantasy Faire, doing a full show on a number of dates throughout the Faire. I will be designing the sets and various members of the troupe will choreograph, and we’ll all joined by some great dancers and friends! I’m really excited to show the people of Fantasy Faire that we are not just dancers we are also creators!”
In closing, Royal has a message for the entire Second Life Dance Community. “I wish everyone could get along. After all, most are probably misunderstandings. Of course there are always going to be individuals that are out of control. Never judge people on what you hear, because that is creating and feeding drama – most people simply gossip out of jealousy and hatred. If you just get to know the person you will most likely be surprised!”