Friday, September 21, 2012

Making a Dance Show 1

Making a Dance Show 1 (120921)

I am now working on my third show using the DanceMaster Pro as the means to control avatar positions, dance sequences and movement. I want to do a show on a split sim and will schedule time on Una Milena's LunaMar Performing Arts Center to perform when I have the show ready. A split sim, as you probably know, helps reduce lag in a performance with a relatively large audience.

I thought it might be helpful for those of you learning to put on shows to follow the details of how I do it. Of course, there are many more prolific show creators in SL, but most do not use the DanceMaster Pro and I thought it might be helpful to see the details of how I use it. So, I plan to publish a series of articles about developing the show. If you do not plan to use the DanceMaster Pro or won't put on shows, these articles will likely be more than you want to know.

Planning for the Show

I've written before about all that is necessary to put on a show. For this show I wanted something simple that I could perform completely by myself. I love all kinds of dance shows, but for the ones I make I like to have simple backgrounds, an emphasis on dancing, and a simple plot or story.

To get started first I visited the LunaMar Performing Arts Center's LMPA Stage 1 and Stage 2.

LMPA Stage 1

LMPA Stage 2
Visiting the venue helped me with several things.

First, both are split sims with the capability to handle large shows. The area for the stage is 64 m wide and 60 m deep. My two-person show will be pretty small on the venue, so I thought about making the area around the stage relatively large. The actual audience seating area is about 40 m wide so I decided to make the stage and surroundings that I would use a total of 40 m. The actual show will be in a small area but audience members will be camming so that won't be a problem. I also decided to put the stage a little away from the audience maybe 10 m.

Second, I preferred Stage 1 only because it has a more modern look and has my three favorite colors: black, red and white. My show will feature those colors and will match the audience area better.

Third, I noted that the audience is south of the stage. This is important for setting up the DanceMaster since changing the orientation of the DanceMaster after creating a show has been a problem for me previously. I will make the stage and the show orienting the same way as where I will perform it. The stage will face south.

Fourth, I also looked at the x, y, z coordinates of the stage area. I decided to create my show on my sim at exactly the same coordinates that I would use for the venue at LunaMar. This would make moving and setting up the stage easier. I used my avatar to determine the center of the stage area of the venue to be at 32, 30, 1749.

Ater visiting the venue, next I went to get a new DanceMaster Pro. I TPd to the DanceMaster store. The sales items are just inside the door on the left. I previously have used the DanceMaster Pro 6. There are other sizes that are larger and more expensive but I only needed two dance slots. Bryndyn Burton, the creator of the DanceMaster, had previously suggested a DanceMaster Mobi, but I knew enough of the Pro series that I didn't want to relearn anything. So, I plunked down my 2500 L and got a new DanceMaster Pro 6.

Purchasing a DanceMaster Pro 6
The Pro 6 can handle up to 6 dancers.

I prefer to use a new DanceMaster for each show I create. It's a bit expensive but when I am done I have the entire show in one device. I often use over 100 animations per show and the cost of the DanceMaster relative to the animations is pretty small. You have to have a financial commitment to put on a show.

So, after a little break swimming and dancing with Riddle, I set up a platform on my sim at the exact coordinates of the LMPA Stage 1 on Una's sim. I chose to put a floor of black and white tiles spaced 1 m apart.

My Platform for Making the Show (Facing North)
If you want to visit this space, you can see my progress at any time. Once I finish making this show, I will leave the empty platform there and anyone can use it.

So, now I had what was necessary to go on to the next step of designing the show.

Designing the Show

I believe there is not much really new that is invented. Most things that are creative are based on things that others have done with a twist of some sort. I have already said what I wanted in a show:
  • simple backgrounds
  • an emphasis on dancing
  • a simple plot or story.
As I thought about what I wanted to do, several things came to mind. First, I love to have the dancers as outlines on a relatively plain background. If you look at the video of the show Riddle and I did for the Choreography Show II you will see I used a black background with white, almost transparent dancers.

I really liked this effect, but I had already used it. Next, I thought about a show that I saw with Slappy Doobie and Ellie Criss in which Slappy danced in the headlights of a car and Ellie was the shadow. It was really visually effective and I liked how they did it. Then my mind went to a video that Bryndyn Burton had told me about by Jo Ellsmere called "The Mask: a synchronicity." In this video the dancers are all positioned at the same x, y, z coordinates and the movement is quite striking. Finally, I thought about the set of videos that Florine Writer had made of MaHal dancing burlesque. I particularly liked the visual effect that Psyche Lunasea designed of a solid colored dancer in red on a solid black background.

So, out of this came the idea of dancing with a shadow. Of course, shadows are black so a black background would not work, but a black shadow against a red background would give me the visual 'pop' I wanted. Dancing with my shadow gives me plenty of material to work with. It provides something that I felt had not been seen previously. It has that visual pop. It let's me dance individually and as a couple using the full capabilities of the DanceMaster. Finally, it offers an opening to a story line of dancing with one's shadow.

I wanted a show of 20 to 30 minutes. This would let me perform the show as a stand alone or in a format like Zhaza Zerbino's Variety Shows. I decided that I needed perhaps six songs in the show with dialog and an opening and closing.

I use sequenced choreography when I make a show. The DanceMaster demands it since the dance animations are located in the DanceMaster. I also like to use animations during the dialog and those also have to be built into a sequence. For me it is most fun to choreograph to a song I like. For me that means latin music, blues and rock. So, I began to listen to some Latin music with the idea of shadows and a simple story. It didn't take long for me to develop the idea of a plot of a dancer, named Nottoo of all things, working with her Director. The Director has the idea of using a shadow for a dance performance and this is when Nottoo first discovers a shadow. I thought about ways that Nottoo could interact with her shadow and decided to find a way to get Nottoo alone with her shadow, then strike up a conversation. I felt I could weave a little bit of the inner self into the simple dialog along with the dancing. So I started writing a script. It took about three hours of writing and listening to music to come up with the following script. Of course the name fell out right away ... SOMBRA or Shadow in Spanish:

===== SOMBRA Script =====

** INTRO MUSIC - Tambour D' Eau, Batterie

** 40 seconds into the music the script begins; the Director is not visible; Nottoo is off stage to the right (Stage left)

DIRECTOR - Hey Nottoo, are you ready?

** WAIT 3 sec


DIRECTOR - Nottoo, can you hear me now? Are you ready?

NOTTOO - Yes, I am ready

DIRECTOR - OK, come on out and let's practice that last number once more.

** Nottoo walks from behind the right curtain and stands at center stage facing the audience

NOTTOO - Here?

DIRECTOR - Yeah, that's fine.

** WAIT 2 sec

DIRECTOR - The music starts in three seconds ... 3 ... 2 ... 1

** MUSIC - Quien Sera ... 5 seconds after starting music stops

DIRECTOR - I'm sorry, Nottoo, I forgot that for this dance we want to try something new.


DIRECTOR - Yes, turn on the special lights ... see the switch just off stage to your left?


DIRECTOR - Well please walk over there and turn the lights on.


** Nottoo walks to the right of the stage behind the curtain. There is a thump and the stage is illuminated.

NOTTOO - Is that what you want?

DIRECTOR - Yes, now come back and let's finish up.

** Nottoo walks back to center stage and her shadow follows

DIRECTOR - For this dance I want you to have a shadow.

NOTTOO - Shadow?

DIRECTOR - Shadow .... 'sombra' in Spanish

NOTTOO - Oh, a shadow.

** Nottoo turns and looks at the shadow, then turns back

NOTTOO - I have never seen a shadow in Second Life

DIRECTOR - Well, don't get too attached to it. It's just for this number.

** WAIT 2 seconds

DIRECTOR - Okay ... 3 ... 2 ... 1

** MUSIC - Quien Sera - Nottoo and shadow dance. at 1:28 into music the phone rings twice ... music continues

DIRECTOR - Hello! ... Yeah ... OK, I'm coming
** NOTE This must be done in 4 seconds or less

DIRECTOR - Nottoo, I've got to go home... See you tomorrow. Turn off the lights when you are done.
** NOTE This must be done in 7 seconds or less


** MUSIC finishes, then Nottoo walks to the right curtain, but the shadow stays. When
Nottoo disappears the Shadow speaks

SHADOW - Wait ... please

** Nottoos head appears poking from the curtain

NOTTOO - Wh-who said that?

SHADOW - Me ... your shadow

** Nottoo looks at the shadow, then walks on stage and Nottoo and Shadow face each other

NOTTOO - I didn't know shadows could talk

SHADOW - I am part of you ... but only when we are alone can we talk.

SHADOW - We can even dance together.

NOTTOO - Dance together?

SHADOW - Let me show you.

**MUSIC - Oblivion by Piazzolla

SHADOW - Dance with me. (NOTE: determine when to ask this)

** MUSIC ends

NOTTOO - Why have I not heard you before?

SHADOW - You hear me all the time, but only from the inside. We argue in your head a lot, but this is the first time I have been outside you in Second Life.

NOTTOO - Why do you speak English so well when I can not.

SHADOW - Ha ha ha. In your head you hear yourself speaking perfectly in English.

SHADOW - AND I know all about you, because I am part of you. For example, I know you like Cuban music ... like the RUMBA

NOTTOO - Yes, but ...

** MUSIC Rumba Negro (Spanish Stomp) Count Basie

SHADOW - Come dance. It's like masturbation of the soul.

** MUSIC Finishes

NOTTOO - I like other kinds of music too ... like blues

SHADOW - I know that. We can even dance as one or separately. Let me show you

**MUSIC - Where's My Woman Been - Muddy Waters

NOTTOO - This has been a surprise for me, but now I am getting tired. So, one more dance and I go to bed.

SHADOW - Let's do Ne Me Quitte Pas or Do Not Leave Me
(NOTE: pronounced ne as in net, me as in met, kitty, pa)

NOTTOO - Ha ha ha, OK, my shadow ... I won't

**MUSIC ends, Shadow is inside Nottoo and she walks to the stage on the right. There is a thump and the lights go off. Then a door opens and closes.

**WAIT 5 seconds

**MUSIC Django Reinhardt & Stéphane Grappelli - Chasing Shadows




As I was writing the script I was visualizing the dances that I wanted and how Nottoo and the Shadow interacted. I wanted to have them dancing side-by-side, dancing as a couple and dancing overlapping. As the show progressed they would get more intimate visually. You may have noticed that I also like to choose not only music I like but songs that in some way reflect the story. It's a little fun I have.

I will stop here for today and continue this series of articles as I make progress in putting the show together.