Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Making a Dance Show 8

Making a Dance Show 8

This is a continuation of articles on the blow-by-blow of making a dance show. Please read posts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 first.

I have completed the dance show though the first three of the five songs that I will choreograph. I have 71 hours invested in the show and it is beginning to feel like a marathon, but I've done enough shows to have had this feeling before. My recent shows have been simple ones with two or three cast members and, even with relatively small shows, the time investment is huge. Imagine the effort required for a large show perhaps mitigated a bit by sharing responsibilities. If you want to make a large or even a small show, be prepared for devoting a lot of effort to it.

Anyway, I continue on. My enthusiasm remains.

Thinking About the Next Dance

Next up is a blues song and I want to do chair and pole dancing. I love blues and already have decided that I will change the song to What Kind of Woman is This by Buddy Guy. It's a favorite of mine because its so sexxxy and slinky ... just the mood I want to dance to. The challenge for me is that I have never danced burlesque. When I had the club, Not Too Hot, we used to have an event that we called 'Wild and Sloppy' where we put up maybe 20 dance poles and people came and stripped to whatever degree they wanted. Hahahah! But, that is a far cry from the effort and talent that goes into making a burlesque number.

I have been to some burlesque shows at different venues such as Blue Moon, Guerilla Burlesque, MJ's, Shadow's, Marry the Night, Viva la Glam and the Chippendales. I've seen a lot of different shows and I have always been impressed by the work and talent that goes into each performance. So, as I enter into this number I am a little nervous (yes, I do get nervous) that I am really a novice at this.

I don't plan to strip or do any costume change at all. This is a decision I made early in the show design to simplify things, but I still want to be extremely sexy and at the same time show things that I think have not been done before using the movement capability of the DanceMaster.

I often get inspiration when I sleep and a few nights ago after finishing the choreography for I Love Rock and Roll I actually dreamed about this next dance. I woke up thinking about it and decided that I wanted to have Nottoo and Shadow start with one or two chairs with the two dancers alternating dancing and sitting. Then, I wanted to have them move to a dance pole and have the song end with the Sine Wave double pole dance where the two dancers kiss. This may sound like nothing extraordinary to you burlesque dancers and it really isn't, but making the movements look more RL-like without jumping is a major hurdle for this song.

Analyzing What Kind of Woman Is This

By now you know the first step in choreographing for a song is analyzing it for changes.

First, I bought the song at www.amazon.com for USD $0.99, downloaded it, and added it to my iTunes player. The song is 5:17 minutes long. WOW! I had better be good or I will lose the audience on this one. You can listen to the same version as I have on youtube, but the youtube version is 5:23 and has 6 seconds of dead time at the beginning so, if you are following on the youtube version, subtract six seconds to compare properly with the times I list below.

Now that I had the music I played it several times and found the music changes:

0:00 - 000 sec - start - plays 19 sec
0:19 - 019 sec - voice starts - plays 23 sec
0:42 - 042 sec - lyrics change - plays 24 sec
1:06 - 066 sec - voice - plays 23 sec
1:29 - 089 sec - lyrics change - plays 24 sec
1:53 - 113 sec - guitar - plays 31 sec
2:24 - 144 sec - voice and horns - plays 29 sec
2:54 - 176 sec - voice - plays 24 sec
3:18 - 198 sec - guitar - plays 26 sec
3:44 - 224 sec - repeat - plays 20 sec
4:04 - 244 sec - lyrics change - plays 10 sec
4:14 - 254 sec - guitar - plays 58 sec
5:12 - 312 sec - end

I feel pretty good about the change times that were 23/24 seconds since this will fit a lot of dances.

Making the Props

The next step is to make a chair and dance pole that I can use in the song. Since all the dances will be contained in the DanceMaster Pro all I really need is the equipment. No scripted chairs or poles are required at all.

Since I have used red and black I decided that a red or white chair would be visually most appealing. The chair will sit on or near the floor and the audience will see a mostly black background when looking from the front. I feel a black chair will not stand out. So, I made a simple chair. I made it partially transparent (30%) and added a water texture (Waterfall - background layer from the library) to it with a freebie script to make the texture rotate. I also made the chair glow (0.1 glow) and full bright. My idea is to have the chair feel a little alive and ethereal. I made a copy and colored the second one red and took a look.

Hmmm. White it is. The red blends into the background too much.

Then, I made a dance pole using the same textures and scripts. I am not a great builder but I do have a lot of experience. Making the props took me about 15 minutes to get what I wanted.

Positioning the Props

At the end of the previous dance to I Love Rock and Roll Nottoo and Shadow are standing facing each other 2.5 m apart. There is a small amount of dialog between the end of I Love Rock and Roll and the start of this song What Kind of Woman Is This. Here is the revised script:

** 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 - What Kind of Woman Is This - Buddy Guy

There are a few seconds to move the two dancers to the start of What Kind of Woman Is This, so it is time for me to decide whether I will use one or two chairs. Although this is a long song at 5:12 minutes, there is a lot of movement. I have to get one dancer seated, while the second dancer dances, then reverse the chair dancing. Following that I have to get them both to the pole and have them dance together. Also, I have to decide how to make the chair(chairs) and pole appear and disappear. I decided to make the song in three segments:
  1. Nottoo sits and Shadow dances
  2. Shadow sits and Nottoo dances
  3. Both pole dance together
With the transitions between the segments this left about 1:30 minutes or 90 seconds for each segment. I listened to the song again and decided that there were a couple of places where the change was really obvious, 1:53 and 2:54. I will use these as transition points to separate the segments.

I had thought about two chairs, but now I think that is too much rezzing and derezzing and the second chair would be about where the pole would appear. Two chairs felt too messy for me. I also had thought about using one chair and switching positions, but that means more of the same type of dancing ... audience boredom. One thing I know is that you have to keep a dance lively or the audience loses interest. By this I don't mean speed, rather I mean you cannot just run the same or similar dances for the full song. So, I thought instead of sitting on the second segment, why not have Nottoo dance on the chair and Shadow sit on the floor. I really liked that idea since it makes the second segment more of a platform dance. But, as I thought about how to choreograph it with the DanceMaster I couldn't see a way for the two to be at different elevations. I think Bryndyn is working on this for the next version of the DanceMaster. So, I decided why not have Shadow sit on the floor and Nottoo get up from the chair and dance in front of her. This would provide the variation I feel is necessary. This makes Shadow almost disappear since she is black against an almost black background, but perhaps I could orient Shadow with her back to the audience and have her facing Nottoo. This would make Shadow outlined at times against Nottoo dancing.

Since Nottoo and Shadow are 2.5 m apart at the end of I Love Rock and Roll, I decided to move them close enough together that Shadow could give a snap of her fingers to rezz the chair then give a little push on Nottoo to have her sit down. Then, I could have Shadow walk behind the seated Nottoo and use the Henmations or Abranimations two-person chair dances. Although I've talked about chair dancing previously, this was in reference to one dancer alone. Here I have two avatars, but I suspect that the off-centerpoint starts for the dancer will be similar. Hopefully, once I get Shadow next to the chair this should be fairly easy to choreograph.

In the second segment I needed to get Nottoo to stand from the chair and signal Shadow to sit. Moving Shadow to a seated position is easy to do and this segment feels quite easy to do.

For the third segment, I need to get Shadow to stand and I want to rezz the pole near her. Once Shadow is pole dancing, maybe this is where I can use the line I eliminated from the script previously:

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

At this point Nottoo walks to the pole and dances with Shadow.

At the end of the song I need for both to hop off the pole.

As is always the case transitions should be the most challenging especially since chair dances and pole dances start off the center point.

With the three segments I need maybe 2 m between the two dancers to start, so this is what I will set for the beginning. With this start I can figure out exactly where to put the props, the chair and the pole.

The DanceMaster has the capability to rezz items from the PCL script. I have never done this so some reading will be needed to make this work, but I have done it with the XPOSE, Huddles and Barre and I expect it will be a similar approach. I considered the alternate of placing the chair and pole below the floor and having them rise through the floor to the desired location using a modified sliding door script. This has the advantage of no rezzing time needed. I am hoping for a quick rezz and using the split sim should allow that to happen. The disadvantage of using the sliding door idea is that it's one more thing to do at a specific time in the show. If I am having some problems, it's the last thing I want to have to do. I opted for using the DanceMaster to rezz the props. I know a lot of groups with more than one person split responsibilities. When Riddle and I have done shows, we did this and he took care of things like rezzing props and running the title screens.

Choreographing What Kind of Woman Is This

I added the simple steps to move Nottoo and Shadow from the position at the end of I Love Rock and Roll to facing each other 2 m apart. I used the existing formation LNSFace2Face for this and again used the same walks and standing position I had used previously for both. The only change was in the PCL notecard *SOMBRA:

.section Part 40
\\Nottoo and Shadow move to positions for What Kind of Woman Is This
tran 1
formation LNSFace2Face
.wait 1

While Nottoo and Shadow are facing each other there is a brief conversation about liking blues. During this conversation I am going to rezz the chair. I read the instructions for rezzing which mainly involves putting the location (x, y, z) and orientation of the chair relative to the current formation position in the description line of the chair and noting the time until the chair is derezzed, which I calculated at about 115 seconds. That's about the time Nottoo stands and we move to segment 2. Since the formation looks like this:

I put my calculations in the description line of the chair I had made. I also had to add a script to the chair so it could communicate with the Dancemaster Pro. Then I put the chair in the DanceMaster Pro. The chair rezzed but in the wrong spot. However, it was easy to fix the description line and after a few tries I was able to rezz the chair exactly where I wanted it. The picture below shows the description line of the chair:

Once I could rezz the chair in the right spot, I set out to have Shadow make a movement to rezz the chair, step to Nottoo and push her gently to a sitting position on the chair. For the pushing movement I used a pointing anim and positioned Shadow so her extended hand just touched Nottoo seeming like she was pushing Nottoo backwards. The transition to the seat for Nottoo was simply to use a sit anim. It took a couple of hours of playing with different anims and positions to get something that looked okay. Two hours may seem like a lot for an action that takes just a couple of seconds on the stage, but I feel this is one of the characteristics that makes performances better ... getting the details right.

Once I had Nottoo seated and Shadow in front of Nottoo, I wanted to move Shadow to be behind Nottoo so I could use the Henmations two-person chair dance animations. These animations have the female dancer, Shadow in this case, start 1 m off-set from the centerpoint. I found an AKEYO stand, _ST_DD_14, that had a nice slow movement, with the legs continually moving and eventually getting to a position 1 m behind the centerpoint facing the right direction. Using this AKEYO stand made it possible to move Shadow from the front to the back of Nottoo and place Shadow in the right position so I could switch to the Henmations chair dances. The leg movement is important when moving an avatar from one position to another because it makes it look like the avatar is actually walking or dancing to the new position. It took another two hours of painstaking work to figure out how to move Shadow from in front of Nottoo to behind Nottoo. I had to add another formation for this to work and pulled about 100 hairs. Hahahaha. It wasn't that bad, but it took about 25 adjustment attempts before I got it right.

Once I had Shadow behind Nottoo I only had to use three Henmations chair dance anims to complete segment 1 finishing at 1:53 in the song with Nottoo seated and Shadow behind Nottoo. It did take several more formations to make small sdjustments in position so it ddidn't look like Nottoo was sitting in the chair or slightly above it and to remove one pass through. This took another two hours.

Segment 2 begins with Nottoo seated at the centerpoint and Shadow about 1 m behind the centerpoint. As I had thought more about what to do in this segment I came up with another idea of having Nottoo dance on the chair while Shadow dances around the chair. I took a look at the Table Dance anims at Henmations and realized that they are designed with an offset in the z direction. All I had to do was to get Nottoo from a siting position to an offset standing position and then I could use those table dance anims.

To do this I decided to use a jumping anim to get Nottoo to go from seated to standing and switch to the table dance anim at the right height in the jumping anim. Jumping anims are found in AOs and are rarely used. I keep all that I have gotten in my inventory and have most of them where you can see them in a dance pad at Dance Central. It didn't take long for me to find a jump that worked.

This idea gave me a pretty good feeling since it's unusual to see two dancers doing burlesque with one standing next to the chair and one standing on the same chair. The movements that I was figuring out I feel are something new and advanced dancers may recognize them as such, but most people will not be at all impressed by simple movement on stage. I still had to have some unusual things to WOW everyone and I think this may help a bit.

Since the table dancer anims are the only ones I know other than hovers, flys and a few air/mermaid dances that are offset in the z direction, I found only one that worked keeping Nottoo on the chair. I had to make another formation to do this. With only one table dance I decided to have Nottoo dance the same table dance almost the entire length of this segment and have Shadow switch dances. Since Shadow was dancing around Nottoo and sometimes was in front I felt the audience's attention would be split between the two dancers and probably most people would not recognize that Nottoo was so repetitive. I also had to have Shadow positioned to move to the next segment at the transition point. To do this I used dream on and old favorite of mine from Sine Wave.

For segment 3 I wanted to have Shadow and Nottoo pole dancing together. The Sine Wave dual pole is the one I chose to use. Inside are six dances that two avatars do together. 

I placed a pole about 2 m in front of the chair and rezzed it as Shadow neared it at the transition point of 2:54 into What Kind of Woman Is This. Remember the pole has no dances in it. I will be placing all the pole dances in the DanceMaster Pro and positioning the dancers properly to dance on the pole. Since I wanted to have Shadow and Nottoo kiss near the end of this song I had to figure out the best view for the audience for the kiss and the timing in the song for the kiss.

I rezzed a Sine Wave dual pole and placed it on the choreography grid.

I tested the dances and established that the first avatar to sit on the pole uses the dances labelled as 1 and the second uses those labelled as 2. When I took a look at the kiss I was worried that Shadow would be near the floor and not so visible, but fortunately with Shadow in position 1 and Nottoo in position 2 Shadow is outlined with Nottoo behind her so Shadow's head will be visible to the audience. Again, I am always thinking about what the audience will see.

I have almost two minutes of pole dancing and there are six pole dances, so I thought I would just use them all. Then I realized another problem. The starting points for the dual pole dances are not the same. Although the two dancers are usually on opposite sides of the pole, finding good transition points without a jump would be very difficult. I think of all the challenges of couples dancing that transition points are the hardest.

The dual pole transition problem got me thinking of a solution that would perhaps be as interesting and fit the story line of Nottoo and Shadow coming together. When I rezz the pole for Shadow to dance at 2:54 into What Kind of Woman Is This, Nottoo is still dancing on the chair. I could have Nottoo hop off the chair and circle the pole while Shadow pole dances. After some time, then, Shadow can speak the line "Come dance. It's like masturbation of the soul."  at that point Nottoo goes to the pole. This would decouple the dancers and allow me to use the many individual pole dances available from 3FX, A&M, Henmations and Sine Wave for Shadow. It would simplify the transitions enormously, but still provide variety in the dancing.

Finally, I now could determine when the kiss should occur. After listening to the song a couple of times I decided I wanted it at 4:52. Now I could fill in the time between the chair dancing and the kiss. The kiss occurs about 15 seconds into the dances pole 6;1;28.1 and pole 6;2;28.1 so I needed to have both Nottoo and shadow on the pole at 4:37 (277 seconds).

I moved Shadow from the chair dancing to the pole at 2:54 and rezzed the pole. I decided to have Nottoo dance a bit on the chair then hop to the floor and dance around the pole until she joined Shadow for the dual pole, kiss dance.

At the end of the pole dance, I had the pole disappear, leaving Nottoo and shadow center stage about 0.75 m apart.

Here are the additions to the notecards I made. First, the *DM dance notecard:

Next, the *DM formations notecard:

Finally, here is the PCL notecard, *SOMBRA:

.section Part 40\\Nottoo and Shadow move to positions for What Kind of Woman Is This
tran 1
formation LNSFace2Face
.wait 1

\\Nottoo and Shadow talk before What Kind of Woman Is This
.wait 3

\\Shadow rezzes chair
rez 1 SOMBRAChair
.wait 0.5

\\What Kind of Woman Is This music starts and Shadow pushes Nottoo into the chair and moves to the side of the chair
.wait 1
tran 1
formation GNSface2face
.wait 1
\\Shadow pushes
.wait 0.5
tran 0.5 0 int
formation GNSface2face2
.wait 0.5

tran 12 1 int
formation GNSbehind
.wait 16  
\\17 sec into WKOWIT
\\Shadow dances while Nottoo sits
tran 0.5 0 int
formation GNSbehind2
.wait 29.7  
\\47.2 sec total WKOWIT
tran 0.5 0 int
formation GNSbehind3
.wait 29.8 
\\77 sec total
.wait 34.9 
\\112 sec total WKOWIT Segment 2 begins
tran 0.3 0 int
formation GNSbehind4
.wait 0.5
.wait 54.2  
\\167 secs into WKOWIT
tran 7 1 int
formation GNSpole1
.wait 5
.wait 2
rez 1 SOMBRA - Dance Pole 
\\start of segment 3 174 in WKOWIT
.wait 27 
\\Shadow and Nottoo apart at 202.5
.wait 1.5
tran 13.5 1 int
formation GNSpole2
.wait 13.5
tran 13.5 -1 int
formation GNSpole1
.wait 13.5  
\\Nottoo finishes circling at 229.5
.wait 41  
\\time 271.5
tran 3.5 0 int
formation GNSpole3
.wait 7.5  
\\time 279
.wait 14
tran 3 0 int
.wait 14
tran 1 0 int
formation GNSpole4
.wait 10

The entire effort to choreograph this song took about 25 hours (now 96 hours for the entire show) to get the intricate details of using the DanceMaster Pro to make the movements look exactly liked I wanted. You can see that, although I made a lot of changes in terms of music, segments and movements, I kept to the spirit of the script and the feeling of Nottoo dancing with her shadow.

I also relearned how to make simple videos and here is the video of the dance with only the music. The video quality isn't great but at least you get an idea of what the choreography looks like.

Hopefully, when I am done I can convince one of the really talented videographers who make dance videos to make a video of the entire show.

WOWing the Audience

Now that I have finished choreographing four of the five songs for SOMBRA, I am still thinking about the question of WOWing the audience. I feel like I have done a lot of things that advanced dancers will recognize as challenging and I have been breaking some new ground. These are things like moving around the stage by dancing or walking, dancing on a chair and around it simultaneously and some of the transitions. I am less confident that the audience members who are not dancers, will find the show a WOW. When I looked at the video, some of the moves and transitions looked somewhat amateurish, and maybe I will come back to work on this some more later, but for now, I will go with this.

At one point while working on this song, I listened to the words and realized that a guy locking a beautiful girl in his bedroom doesn't really reflect my view of how life should be. Then, I thought that two girls dancing together in a sexy way could be construed as highly erotic by some guys or a lesbian dance by the females who are so inclined. Hahahaha ... my dancing with my shadow opens up a lot of interpretations. Although I may not WOW the entire audience, maybe I can stir up some controversy and I do like that. That's the Latin side of me ... stirring the pot.

So, that's it for now. Soon I will have the final dance, Ne Me Quitte Pas, for you to read about.