INTRODUCTION TO CHOREOGRAPHY

AN INTRODUCTION TO CHOREOGRAPHY IN SECOND LIFE

BY KLARK HARVY DJAPA
(Ⓒ revised July 2015)

This is written by Klark Harvy, and it is solely his own approach, views and opinions towards  Dance in SL. it does not mean it is the only way, it is one person’s view on what he perceives as the Journey towards performance success.

“SUCCESS IS NEITHER MAGICAL NOR MYSTERIOUS.
SUCCESS IS THE NATURAL CONSEQUENCE OF CONSISTENTLY APPLYING THE BASIC FUNDAMENTALS”

My philosophy for success as a dancer is is to follow 4 basic paths;
Foundation
Participation
Performance
Excellence

So this is easier to follow, I will relate these paths to what we provide through JAPA and Journey Dance, im sure your own dance groups are providing some of these elements, if not all.

FOUNDATION –
The “JOURNEY ACADEMY OF PERFORMING ARTS” is open to everyone, and classes are paid by donation, whatever is affordable, to help support the funding of the SIM, and the time and effort in preparing and delivering classes and workshops.

It provides an extensive and progressive training program through all aspects of Virtual Performing Arts;

Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced Choreography ~ Levels 1/2/3
Stage Management
Set Design and Construction.
Special Effects.
Choosing Music.
Costuming.
Operation of Dance Huds.
Operation of Movement Huds
The Spot On Dance Systems
The Artiste Performance Suite

PARTICIPATION –
The members of JOURNEY DANCE INSPIRED are encouraged to participate in training and performing.
We have some extremely multi talented people, who are flexible and able to offer their skills, and adapt to situations and show needs, as they arise.
We have an established crew in place for each element of performance, and are continually adding members who are successfully moving forwards on their Dance Development Journey, thus improving their skills and adding to their Dance Talent Portfolio in Virtual Performing Arts.
We encourage effective communication within the Journey Group, and welcome participation opportunities from around the grid, as guests and event entertainment.
We support our members in their own Performance Journeys, and  visit shows that group individuals perform in. This grows experience, motivation and self esteem.
We are all Followers and Leaders, Students and Teachers.

PERFORMANCE –
All dancers and choreographers, are given an opportunity to express their Dance creativity, in our Interactive Journey Dance at the Journey SIM, held on the last Sunday of each month.
We also have a touring company, a small group, offering entertainment in dance as a great method for promoting any special event in world.
Our paramount focus is on providing our group of performers the conditions, opportunities and training, to plan, deliver, enjoy and succeed.

EXCELLENCE-
We all strive for this.
At Journey Dance, and within the Academy we are all continually learning new things, and pushing ourselves to our own individual limits.

Excellence is the destination, when the first 3 paths are followed, travelled, and practiced well.

 


 

SOME DIFFERENCES IN CHOREOGRAPHY WITHIN THE REAL AND VIRTUAL WORLD

“IT TAKES AN ATHLETE TO DANCE, BUT AN ARTIST TO BE A DANCER”

Choreography in a Virtual World does not use the same approach as in Real Life.

In real life you can become a dancer by training your physical ability to interpret music in an aesthetic way.

You DO NOT need to have been a dancer in RL to dance in SL, and in some cases this can be a frustrating hindrance.

Basically, in SL you can become a dancer by buying some animations and wearing a hud.

IN SL to become a choreographer you need to either have, or acquire other skills, to enable an audience to “enjoy” your vision.

In SL a true dancer is NOT the person who sits on a dance pad, and is moved by someone else. These are known as dance “puppets”, that the Dance Leader uses to create the pictures they want the audience to see. There is a vital and valuable place for these avatars in a dance or a show, so i am not undermining their contribution in any way, as they too have elements to practice and learn in order to perform their job well within the team.

A true dancer in a virtual world, is someone who has learned to operate the tools to make the movements, either for themselves, or groups of other avatars.

I call these people the choreo/dancers.

A “dancer”, as anyone in SL will, and can, call themselves, is someone who is basically a customer to the animation creators, they simply buy their goods and play with them.

DANCE IN SL IS EXPENSIVE AND TIME CONSUMING.. You will continually be purchasing animations and poses, and it can take many hours to perfect one dance, Do not be under any illusion that it is easy and can be mastered cheaply in a week.

A choreographer in rl is someone who plans and directs the routine for a dance to work.
Within that plan, is considered the dancer’s skill, and physical ability level, and the artistic interpretation and expression are of BOTH parties.

A choreographer in SL, uses the available animations and poses, or makes their own, to creatively interpret the music. They are known in JAPA as the “Dance Leader”, (and there are various names within each dance group for this role) who will also manipulate a dancer or dancers, on a dance hud and/or movers, to make their vision work towards a dance presentation.

A choreographer in SL is NOT someone who buys a set of animations in a particular genre, and links them all with little thought, but because they “go with” the music, then writes them on a ncd and sequences it all.

THESE PEOPLE ARE ANIMATION CUSTOMERS, AND THIS APPROACH TAKES LITTLE OR NO SKILL TO BE ABLE TO DO.

Learning Choreography in any world, takes time, effort, skill acquisition and talent, but more than anything else, like any Art form,  to be special it requires a driving “passion” from deep within yourself, that is transferred to the soul of the dance…  the spark that will alight it.

Like the views of Michaelangelo on his sculptures… “the form is already there deep within the clay… all i do is remove the layers to reveal it”. And so with dance.. the passion has to be there so that it can be revealed when the dance swirls around it.  If it isn’t there , or felt, it becomes… just another dance.

IN SL that passion needs to be very strong, as there are so many distractions and appealing shortcuts.

Many now fail to reach their own potential in the dance world in SL, or give up in the process of trying to do it all, because the “Foundation fundamentals” are rushed as a mere “approach” and not laid as a firm standing for the building blocks to success.

10 years ago, 5 years ago, we had no choice but to learn slowly with what was available when we first started…. basically a dancer chim, then a hud and a few decent animations to choose from. We grew with the tools as they became more available to us.

However, the Foundation that we laid, because of the limited resources in SL back then, were and still remain strong. The Dance World was very small, and we all supported each other. Times change.

New dancers are overwhelmed with all the new tools available now, that they seem to have missed the “grow and discover” process that many of the long-standing experienced choreo/dancers have had.

” YOU’VE GOT TO GET THE FUNDAMENTALS DOWN
BECAUSE OTHERWISE THE FANCY STUFF IS NOT GOING TO WORK”


 

A choreographer uses the tools available, and adds their artistic ability, at whatever skill level, to create a unique dance “masterpiece”, that can be called and owned as THEIRS.

In SL, we are looking at the skills of one person to choreograph the dance, and control themselves and/or a group of people dancing it. This makes the Dance Leader.

If movement around a stage, other than the animations provide, is required, then the Leader may have a lot to do themselves, or require another person to assist, maybe in managing a movement system, or they could choose to use use one of the “Complete Performance Huds” that are now available;

THE ARTISTE SUITE ~ Lat Lovenkraft
THE SPOT ON PERFORMANCE DIRECTOR ~ Martin Yeats

There will be an opportunity, if you wish to learn these systems, through JAPA at a later date, but i suggest you follow your learning Journey through the Fundamental stages first, so you have a rudimentary skill acquisition before you embark on a more complex path.

If more than one sequence will be happening simultaneously, we then require two or maybe three or four huds on the screen at one time, if we run our dances “live”, or again, can still be done personally using one of the Complete Performance Huds created by Lat or Martin.

Numerous Huds on a screen takes up space, and scripts, so, many times, when the Dance Leader and Movement leader are the same person, they can see very little of the actual dance being performed as their screen space is so full, and this will also increase their experience of lag through a show.

The skill of a “Choreo/Dancer” in SL is measured through their use of timing, reaction and focus, alongside how efficient their computer system, viewer and Internet Provider is.

The advantageous attributes for a successful “live” Choreo/Dancer are seeing well, hearing well, and good hand to eye co ordination for speedy responses

That does not mean  that only the people with those attributes can succeed in dance in SL. You must realistically decide where your limitations, abilities, disabilities and best skills lie, and focus on learning and developing the methods, and discovering the tools that YOU need to become a good choreo/dancer in SL.

Anyone can become a dancer. Some can become great “live” choreographers. Some will rely more on their pre-dance preparation for sequencing it all beforehand, and run it through a Complete Performance Tool.

ALL OF THIS IS VERY DIFFERENT TO BEING A REAL LIFE DANCER.

There is not a way to turn off all other distractions in SL.
In RL once on the stage, your focus is easier to sustain.
In SL, the best we can do is attempt to minimise the distractions.
IMs still come in, and notices will still arrive, stuff still happens, and the Choreographer has to focus their attention on that one thing, in that one moment, and it can prove very difficult at times, even if its just waiting to hear a music cue.

 


 

“DANCING CAN REVEAL ALL THE MYSTERY THAT MUSIC CONCEALS”

That being said, how do we put a dance together as a choreographer and not a just a customer?

All Choreographers have their “own way”, and many develop this through trial and error.
It is hard to teach someone how to choreograph using your own personal methods.

However, there are a few fundamentals that do need considering, and you will probably find are universal rules amongst the true choreo/dancers.

There has to be some natural musical ability within the choreographer, to enable them to count beats, understand musical phrases and really be able to “listen” to, and “feel” a piece of music, breaking it down for interpretation, and to recognise and decide what they want it to say in its dance expression.

ALL MUSIC SENDS A MESSAGE AND EMOTION TO AN AUDIENCE IN SOME WAY.

THE DANCE ENHANCES THE MUSIC, AS IF ADDING “ANOTHER INSTRUMENT” TO IT, CREATING  A COMPLETE VISUAL WITH THE MUSIC, WHICH ALWAYS TAKES IT TO ANOTHER LEVEL IN EXPRESSING THAT SAME EMOTION EVOKED.

In SL, we see many dances that are “confusing”, as the dance can sometimes contradict the emotion of the music. We have all seen dances that do not add to the music, or join it in that perfect melody and form, these destroy the emotion in some way.

Always try and remain focused on the true emotion in the music, and your dance will be received well…

This is why some dances can move an audience to tears.

 


 

Here are a few basic steps for beginning to choreograph a dance;

1) Select your music – Remember you can make your impact secure by choosing  well known and liked music that the audience can relate to. Consider age ranges in SL and aim at an era for ages from 35 -65 year olds, this will be an assumed majority.

2) Listen to it repeatedly, until you know it thoroughly, every phrase, every instrument change, every word and every cue. Decide what the music is saying to the listener, what is the message and emotion there? and what it is you want to highlight in the music.

3) Have music playing while  you select what dances you already have to compliment the flow and beat of the music, and list them all on a ncd, then load them in a Dance Hud.

4) Shop for more dances if needed, with the music playing, check out new dances available, until you have around 25 animations to work with. Some dances take more and use poses too, so for me can be anything between 25 and 60 animations.

5) Load them ALL in a hud, and make copies of the hud so that each page can appear on your screen seperately, this will enable you to select your dances and transitions more easily.
(can only be done if you buy copy dances of course)

6) Play the music over and over and select the dances you will use according to how they move and  add variety. Do not just look at dances titled for that genre” try ALL dances,  there is always something that can be used in a dance, and that perfect “hit” often comes from an obscure source.

7) Make a first draft ncd for the hud and load it.

8) drink beer : )

9) Run the music and dances and tweak them around, for best use in music phrases and “hits”, and transition smoothness.

10) Drink more beer : ))

11) Get a final “adjusted” ncd so the whole dance is animated, in an order, and flows good.

 


 

When you start out with Choreography, this process can take many hours to reach the stage where you have a loaded hud with animations that work well with the music. Creating the dance then becomes much easier and can be achieved fairly quickly.

Once the dance is set, it has to be practiced repeatedly to get the timings for transitions, and the special “hits”, in the right place, this can takes several hours, and can be longer if the musical score is more complex.

Once a dance is signed off as completed.  it is important  that the Choreographer does not go back and change it more, as, like a fine painting, they do have to know when to stop, else it becomes overworked and loses its special impact.

This is where, if i was going to sequence a dance, i would do it after all these stages,  so that it is ready to go and i wont forget it easily.

Some people sequence as they create the dance, and that is fine, but this works best for me. I like learning dances to memory, it gives me confidence i can perform under any circumstances SL throws at me, and I remain in control.

 


 

In real life, Choreographers work with real people of course, all of whom are relied on to do their part.

In a Virtual World, usually its one Director who makes it all happen, maybe using a few others as extra hands, and working the technology thats available at the time.

Actual Production Team work is complex, as so many factors can prevent one person in that team from being able to do their part on the day, so back ups for everything possible is essential in SL.

Choreography in Second Life is a continually growing and developing Creative Art.

Just like an Artist uses the blank canvas to express their interpretations on a subject, the Choreographer “paints” the dance that plays in his mind, and performs it to create a complete visual masterpiece.

DANCE IS A LIVE EXHIBITION OF CHOREOGRAPHIC ART.

“TRUE LEADERS DON’T CREATE FOLLOWERS.. THEY CREATE MORE LEADERS”

K L A R K (klark.harvy)
Dancer, Choreographer, Instructor
Virtual Performances in Second Life for 11 years

Journey Academy and Theater

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