Sunday, October 7, 2012

Making a Dance Show 6

Making a Dance Show 6

This is the sixth article about Making a Dance Show. Please read posts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 first.

Finally, I am ready to choreograph the second song in the show. The song is Oblivion.

Music Management

When I am working on a show I usually select the songs from the library of music I have on CDs or mp3s. Having grown up with tango I have a lot of tango and other latin music. I learned to love blues music in SL, but I don't have many blues CDs or mp3s. When I want to include a blues, rock or other genre of music in a show I usually go to to listen to songs. Often I will search for a song using a keyword that is important in the play. This play is named Sombra which is Spanish for Shadow. The closing song called Chasing Shadows I found in this way.

When I have chosen the songs I want, I add them to my iTunes from my library or I buy them from an online service such as and add them. Here is a picture of my iTunes playlist I made for this show.

Most of you have some type of player for your computer music. I choose to use iTunes for several reasons. First, it is free! Second, it lets me form playlists like the one shown above. Third, it offers a second counter whenever I play a song. This is helpful for separating a song into sections, which I will do in a few minutes with Oblivion. Finally, iTunes lets you play a song over and over which is needed when choreographing. See the number of play counter at 92 for the first song, Quien Sera. I am about to play Oblivion over and over and its count will go up a lot.

I don't use iTunes for streaming music. I will explain how I do streaming in a future post.

When talking about music, I also have to mention the continuing issue of intellectual property rights. I've concluded that using music in SL without permission of the creator violates the copyright laws of most countries. I've written about this before. I see on YouTube that there are a huge number of videos that use someone else's music and the videos are not removed by YouTube. Riddle has made a lot of videos of DANCE QUEENS events that use recorded music and posted them to YouTube. In only one case was the video blocked (I presume for copyright violation). Our use of recorded music in SL is not for commercial gain and I conclude, like the recommendation in the blog post mentioned above, no one seems to care that we are playing in our little SL world. So, at this point I am continuing to use recorded music, always attributing the music to the creator of it. I feel a bit hypocritical about this since I am so tough on people in SL who steal dances and resell them. I guess there is a difference in that I (and I think most of you) am not trying to make money on the use of the music. I know of one SL dance group that has stopped dancing because of this issue, but for now I am going to live with this situation.


I love this song.

Oblivion is a tango by one of Argentina's most famous tango composers and bandoneón players, Ástor Piazzolla. The version I chose for this show is by Gidon Kremer and is on a CD I bought when visiting my RL best friend, Nottooo, in the USA. You can hear it on YouTube. This song has a mystical quality to it along with a soft sense of drama and passion. As I listen to it I can visualize Nottoo and Shadow dancing together to it ... slowly ... apart at first ... then moving closer and closer. I want to capture the emotion I feel in this song along with the sense of the story I have created. I also want to use individual dances that play off one another and use the DanceMaster to move Nottoo and Shadow as needed. This is a lot to accomplish, but for me is just as important as any applause I may get for creating it. This dance will make the show part of me.

Analyzing Oblivion

The first step is to listen to Oblivion and separate the song into its parts just I did for Quien Sera in Making a Dance Show 3. Here is what I found for Oblivion:

0:00 - 000 sec - start - piano only plays 25 sec
0:25 - 025 sec - bandoneón starts - plays 25 sec
0:50 - 050 sec - violin - plays 46 sec
1:36 - 096 sec - orchestra - plays 25 sec
2:01 - 121 sec - violin - plays 29 sec
2:30 - 150 sec - mystical - plays 24 sec
2:54 - 174 sec - violin - plays 25 sec
3:19 - 199 sec - louder - plays 39 sec
3:58 - 238 sec - end

I haven't looked at dances yet, but I am encouraged by the 25-second intervals in the song because that matches well with many dance loop times. Before I look at individual dances I think first about how I want the sequence to look. At 1:36 the orchestra plays what is probably the loudest part of the entire song. This is where I want Nottoo and Shadow to come close to each other the first time only to be separated again until 3:19 in the song. At 3:19 Nottoo and Shadow are close until the end of the song.

Riddle and I fairly often go to clubs to dance. At these clubs I have found the owners generally have done a lousy job of setting up their dance system (INTAN, TIS Hybrid or Henmations Club Control). The waiting dances are awful and the selection of couples dances is generally not good and not organized. Other than Bits and Bobs V3, which is Riddle's favorite, we usually dance at clubs as a couple but each of us dancing our own individual dance. Over the years Riddle has become a pretty good dancer. He has a Huddles with quite a few dances and has even made dance sequences. He likes 'man' dances. I have learned some things from this 'couples' dancing made from individual dances. First, is that the distance between us needs to vary depending on the dance. If we don't pay attention to the distance sometimes we are far apart and other times we are passing through each other. It depends on the movement of the dances each of us use. Second, dances that move your avatar forward can pass through the other avatar. If you offset your avatar 1 m to the right but still in front of the other avatar you significantly reduce the pass-throughs.

I want female dances for this song. In many ways this is Nottoo representing her external self and Shadow representing Nottoo's inner self. One does not dominate over the other ... both are feminine.


So, next I played Oblivion on iTunes and got ready to look at dances. The speed of Oblivion is slow, so first I took a look at the slow dances in my Barre HUD. As I have said before I rarely dance freestyle and my Barre HUD contains almost exclusively sequences. I have 76 slow sequences and I looked at each one. I made a list of the sequences that seemed to match the feel of the song and reduced the number of sequences to 21. Each sequence contains on average 5 to 6 dances.

When I make sequences, for example the ones I send out to DANCE QUEENS, I often choose dances from the same series. A series is a term I use to mean dances that are produced by one vendor and sold as a package, for example, the Sensual series from MyAnimation or the Cathy series from AKEYO. As I was getting ready to look at the individual dances in the sequences I had chosen, a thought occurred to me. I am not choreographing one dancer and matching the dances to the changes in the song. This is what I had done in Quien Sera (yes, there are two dancers in Quien Sera but they dance identical dances). Of course changes in the song, Oblivion, meant different dances were needed, but I had already defined the distance between Nottoo and Shadow as a visual difference that would occur at changes in the song. Distance provides the contrast I want. At the same time Nottoo and Shadow represent the outer and inner self and I also wanted to show the similarities. This quickly led me to the conclusion that I should choose dances from the same series and match the dances to the distance changes I had defined in the song.

This may seem like insignificant stuff to some of you, but to me it is inspiration. It sets me on a path to accomplish what I had in my head for this song. I had changed how I choose dances for this song based on two dancers, how they interact in distance and how they reflect the same being through similar dances.

At this point I thought about looking at how others have handled two dancers. I immediately thought of Choreography Show II which was held earlier this year and featured couples dancing. Riddle had made a video of the different shows, so I went to YouTube to take a look. Wow! there are some talented choreographers in SL and the way they choose to have the couple interact through dance varies a lot. Although none of the couples had shown couples dancing the way I now planned ... using similar dances and showing change through distance, I realized that the frontier I felt I was pushing back was pretty small. But still I feel good about it, so I decided to go this direction.

I always feel a tension when I am trying to create something. For me this is part of the creative process and I am trying to describe to you how it is for me. Of course we are not all the same and your experience in creativity is probably different.

Choosing Dances for Oblivion

I looked at the series contained in the 21 sequences I had selected and found 6 that seemed to contain enough dances to cover the length of Oblivion for two dancers. The series that seemed to fit the best is the Nightclub series from Henmations. Of course the speed matched the song, but also the movement of the arms in a floating fashion really appealed to me. There are 20 dances in this series.

I played each dance with my Barre HUD looking at the dance from the sides. Remember that Nottoo and Shadow are facing each other and this is what the audience will see. I placed the dances into four piles:


Not forward or backward



So the choreography is getting easier. All I need to do is choreograph each section of the song with the directional decisions I have already made using the dances from the correct movement category. As I was thinking of this I realized that I needed to include in the dance a way for Nottoo and her Shadow to become comfortable dancing together. In the script Shadow is the one showing Nottoo how they can dance together. I decided that initially I would have Shadow dance alone while Nottoo watches, then have Shadow ask Nottoo to dance while Shadow watches, then have them dance together. I needed some standing anims for Nottoo and Shadow during this time and a couple of finish poses.

Choreographing Oblivion

So, I started on the first part of the song. I thought about the different ways I could do the actual choreography. I have several choices. One way is to use my Barre HUD and choreograph each dancer separately, then put the dances in the DanceMaster. I didn't like this because I can't see the interaction of Nottoo and Shadow together. The second way is to use two Huddles HUDs that are mapped to the F keys (see also here). I can make a notecard with the dances for each dancer then use the mapped F keys to control the two HUDs at one time. I rejected this because I can't control the distance changes I will want to make. The third approach is to use the MLDU-5 to control the two dancers, but this approach also does not let me see the distance changes I want to make during a dance. The last option is to do the choreography in the DanceMaster Pro. By default I chose the DanceMaster Pro for doing the choreography. It is the only device that lets me see both dancers simultaneously and control distance and movement changes.

I took the change analysis that I had done for Oblivion and added to each what I would have Nottoo and Shadow do. Here is what I decided:

0:00 - 000 sec - start - piano only plays 25 sec - Nottoo initially stands with her arms folded showing her doubt, but about halfway through the section changes to a more open stand reflecting she likes the dancing she sees;.Shadow dances away from Nottoo never getting closer than the starting point. Shadow finishes the section with a finish pose then a hand movement indicating it's Nottoo's turn to dance

0:25 - 025 sec - bandoneón starts - plays 25 sec - Nottoo takes the offer to dance and also dances no closer to Shadow than the initial space. Shadow stands with an 'I am interested' stand. Nottoo finishes the section with a pose leading to a stand.

0:50 - 050 sec - violin - plays 46 sec - Shadow says, "Dance with me" and both dancers dance still keeping the distance the same. Both end the section in a pose turning into a stand looking at each other ... eyes locked.

1:36 - 096 sec - orchestra - plays 25 sec - Both Nottoo and Shadow dance back and forth AND they enter the space between them. They do not quite touch.

I decided to listen to the song again at this point to visualize the movement I was designing. Yes, I could see it in my head. But, rather than have Nottoo and Shadow again separate in the following sections only to come together again at the last section, I decided to try using dance stops to heighten the effect. I don't know about RL dancing at all. I've never had a dance lesson in my life so I am a complete noob about RL choreography, but as I listened I felt one dancer stopping then starting while the other keeps dancing would provide a punctuating effect to the sections of the song from here on. Creativity can strike at any time and maybe I am unknowingly doing Dancing 101, but it's exciting for me. So, I decided to use this dance stop idea for the sections until 3:19 of the song.

2:01 - 121 sec - violin - plays 29 sec -
2:30 - 150 sec - mystical - plays 24 sec
2:54 - 174 sec - violin - plays 25 sec

3:19 - 199 sec - louder - plays 39 sec - Nottoo and Shadow dance closely together with touching but (hopefully) not pass throughs

3:58 - 238 sec - end
By now you are thinking, this Nottoo is crazy to think so much about choreographing one song. Yes, remember my name ... Nottoo Wise. But, this is fun for me. It's how I see the artistic expression of dance in SL. I love club dancing and bar dancing ... all that sultry sexxxy stuff, but I also love the art of choreography and the expression that SL dance can offer.

By this time I have spent 4 hours planning the dance and I haven't choreographed a thing, but now I really am ready to choreograph. I have the dances I will use. I have stands available for projecting the standing images I want (all from Kuso), I have a selection of finishing poses ready (from Amimation), but I do not have the hand movement that Shadow will use to signal Nottoo to dance. Well, maybe I do. That same hand movement that I mentioned I made in Making a Dance Show 5 for Razon de Vivir may fit for this move. I will try it to see. Otherwise I need to make this animation.

I completed the *DM dances notecard, the *DM formations notecard and the PCL notecard for Oblivion

.section 25  \\Nottoo and Shadow dance to Oblivion

then I looked at the dance sequence using the DanceMaster.

BATTLE PLANS ARE THE FIRST CASUALTY OF WAR ... and choreography plans are the first casualty of actually doing choreography.

The dances were okay, but the transitions were awful, the timing was not right and the change in formations caused huge jumps. I won't go into the gory details, but big changes were needed. I went step by step through the song making changes. Sometimes I just used the Barre HUD to see a dance, sometimes I put the dances in the DanceMaster Pro to see the dances, positions and movement. It took about 20 hours of work to get to a dance sequence that I liked. When you are doing choreography it is easy to get frustrated because you can visualize the movement you want, but being able to reproduce it with the animations available and the control system limitations can be quite challenging. Creativity meeting reality equals frustration. Hahahaah. You have to have perseverance.

This is the hardest choreography I have done because of moving two avatars at once and making the whole look how I wanted. In the end I did away with the stops and replaced them with landing animations. This maintained the punctuation effect between the song sections and was more flowing than the stops. I was fairly liberal with matching music and dance changes.

Here is the new part of the *DM dance notecard:


Here are the new formations that I added for Oblivion:


Finally, here are the PCL notecard additions:

.section 25 \\Oblivion
formation LNSFace2Face\\Shadow dances ... beginning
.wait 0.25
.wait 8.75
.wait 11
.wait 1.3
.wait 1
.wait 2
.wait 1.7

\\Nottoo dances at 26 sec
.wait 0.25
.wait 20.75
.wait 1.3
.wait 1.7

\\Shadow says 'Dance with me' at 50 sec
.wait 2
.wait 0.25
.wait 28.39
.wait 14.36

\\Nottoo and Shadow advance at 1:36 (096 sec)
formation LNSFace2Face1
.wait 1.0
.wait 23

.section Part 26\\Both turn right and Nottoo and Shadow circle and exchange positions at 2:01 (121 sec)
tran 28.78 1 line
formation LNSFace2Face2
.wait 1.0
.wait 27.68
.wait 0.9

\\Nottoo and Shadow circle back at 2:39.28 (149.28 sec)
tran 14.62 1
formation LNSFace2Face2B
.wait 14.62

\\Nottoo and Shadow separate at 2:54 (174 sec)
tran 25
formation LNSFace2Face3
.wait 1.0
.wait 24

\\Nottoo and Shadow are together at 3:19 (199 sec)
.wait 1.0
.wait 38

\\Nottoo and Shadow finish at 3:57
.wait 8

\\Nottoo and Shadow stand after Oblivion

I was happy with the end result. Here are a few pictures. You will have to wait for the actual show and follow-up video.

I have described exactly how I did this choreography. It's important to have a vision of what you want to accomplish, then be flexible in how you reach your vision. This dance sequence is now a part of me, AND, after listening to Oblivion 87 times, I still love it.

Final Thoughts

The art in dance is the choreography. The creative process of doing choreography probably differs from person to person. I've described my approach in detail complete with mistakes, misdirection and accomplishments.

Now there are only three more songs to work on. I feel like we are over halfway to the end. So far I have about 38 hours spent on the show.

More posts will follow as I next focus on the song Rumba Negro and couples dancing.