Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Obfuscation of the Cabaret Dancer

Obfuscation..Love that word...rolls of the tongue...its a big word...one of the few big ones I know...cause its as close as I can morally say that 4-letter word in public and get away with it. Obfusc....can I just say fusc? No?

The process of becoming clouded or obscured. Intentionally? I was sure I was being punked. I looked around....where are the cameras?...come on out guys...the jig is up..Fellas!..Guys? Crew?

I wanted to go on a rant and rave...since I got the proverbially ok when hearing unsolicited discontent from several other people, dancers and non-dancers. They bent my ear expressing similar sentiment about being lost in the mix with the onset of the new BIG.

That "who the HELL is" person told me, Yumz you got to stick to the FACTS.

Ok FACTS - apart from lag and crashing and wardrobe and non-wardrobe malfunctions that could contribute to some of the OOPS I've seen...


1: On a big stage, I have to zoom in to see a solo dancer and then most of the set then goes unseen.

2: On a big stage, when I zoom out to see the whole set, the solo dancer becomes miniscule they often dance very fast like a cartoon character...ok nothing new here...old news...but then....

Ok those two items have been going on for some time...but now...

3: SOME performers are standing as far back to the back of the stage as possible making their pixel size even smaller in total defiance of the importance of their presence

4: I've seen the usage of particle effects to the degree of totally, I mean totally, block the dancer from the audience. I've even seen it block, I don't mean 95% I mean, 100% of a large troupe of dancers. I am going ok..a few seconds ok...watches the clock allows for rezzing issues...taps her foot....on and on and on...and..ok I'm being punked again? (Maybe its my graphics setting, so forgiven this time).

5: I've seen dancers hide their legs, hide their arms, hide their legs and arms so you couldn't see any from of physical dance movement

6: I've seen dancers dancing off the set, totally un-seeable for long enough to give you a 'lost' feeling

7: I've seen dancers deliver emotes so long that I actually didn't see ANY of their performance cause I was reading...ok I hear your jokes...I'm a slow-reader...HAHA..but yet another form of subconscious obfuscation, I contend.

8: I've seen a person sit at a table motionless for a whole routine...the only person on stage. That's when I looked around, sure I was being punked...where are the cameras? Yes I was the last one to leave that show...because it was like watching a 100-car pile-up after seeing the 1st act where the person did one spin for 3+ minutes..just.one animation repeated for the whole act. I am guilty.

Maybe the fact that I stayed justifies that what they do was art in a minimalist point of view. I wasn't as much shocked that I was there for so much of the show but that my colleagues were as well...so the other side is the good-heartedness of our community wanting to lend a "helping hand"....awwww...a silver lining to this darkest of clouds. So maybe that's the lesson,...bad is sometimes done in order to afford good people new opportunities to do good acts.

9. Recommending a "midnight" setting. This further reduces the definition of the dancer as there is less facial detail, in fact less detail in general... but I end up switching to midnight when recommended..to see if its better and very, very rarely is it ...so I promptly switch back to midday.

10. The "decline and fall" of the "strip", and especially an artistic "strip", the artful seductive partial or full body reveal...something that shakes us up emotionally when we are stimulated by it or even we feel uncomfortable about it...it makes us "feel" something.  That's all but gone in the move towards 'bigger'. The strip is gone, there's even a move away from what little humor was offered by one renegade, truer-to-the-variety-form-of-traditional-burlesque, towards more serious story-telling. Dance gone. Strip gone, Humor going.

11. The use of a "***LOT***" of dancers forces us to zoom back to see them all...reducing their detail to a blur and movement to a small jitter as we try to take in the "show" over the "dance" ... and maybe...that is the intent.  It may be that its "the pattern" at play....that we should step back and see the 'whole'.

12. Then when I thought I had seen it all, I see a show where the dancer dances 90% of the dance with their back to the audience? And if that wasn't enough, when I was about to get a 1/4 view of them, their hair covered that portion of their face, on both sides. Well it was presented as more of a saunter than a dance, which I was sort of ok with. But then I would like to see more than your back for most of your performance.

 I must say that the group-consciousness was well in tact, showing up everywhere and sweeping its obfuscation in every direction. Punked again... by something bigger than anyone of us?

13. Oh good time to add here that....I just recently saw at a small venue, a  person introduced as a new choreographer, present a performance consisting of just one animation. Well to be honest, I liked it...not sure what that says about me, but the point is...does  choreography in SL require, technically, at least 2 dances be appended to each other? I would think so...its their choice of juxtaposition of animations that makes up their "added value" to the art, but maybe this is another contribution to the group-conscious movement towards the deemphasizing, the deprecation of the "dance" in favor of the "show" or motion-pixel-composite. So what could we label this presenter instead. Perhaps a "performance artist" presenting "performance art"?

Before I sound too much like Debbie Downer, I must admit that easily half the shows, or more, that I see have value with some great moments of entertainment, art, and unmistakably honest, creative effort that finds its target with 'personal experience satisfaction'.

An AHA Moment - The BIGger picture

So I said, ok wait...this isn't about the performers...there is a grander move going on and this has nothing to do with personal choices. Its about a group-consciousness (not unlike 7-of-9) that's minimizing the dance aspect in favor of the more grandiose aspect ..the "ALL". That of an all-encompassing total digital immersion into a barrage of  glorious, disconnected,  abstract movement of pixels. Its affirmed already by growing attendance and donations. Its what the people want. Grandstanding. Showboating.

"Well, Yummy, you cant tell me you don't attend concerts, sporting events, movies, etc. where the show is big and ostentatious."

"Yummy, how do you argue with the long-standing success of the Las Vegas scene. Big ostentatious, packed houses, advanced ticket-sales. Reserved seating. Mass ad campaigns. How about big RL stage productions?

"Yummy, big has its place, its audience, its following Obfuscation of the performer has grown to be the norm, as we outfit players with jerseys, and deflate them to mere numbers on their backs...we've grown to accept the 'team' concept vs. the individual, the whole of a presentation. The movement of a team of players, a troupe  of dancers, a rush of movie extras. The grandness of the social-medium itself is justification for this new movement. The whole vs. the one. Obfuscation of the individual in place of the composite is nothing new, Yummy. Its as old as the Lions vs. Christians in the coliseum." (I'll take the Lions and give 20 arms and legs).

"And Yummy don't your  own devices that you are creating aid in moving the dancer away from dance and more towards the theatrical". (And am I partially to blame? I did post about "payoffs". I did encourage an increase in the use of payoffs which dictate sauce, at times, over substance. And now a slew of particles, set-changes, costume-changes...yes my mindset contributed to the group-consciousness if only in some small way...I encouraged, blessed it...pushed for more...so I was right and/or wrong?  Hmmm.? Not sure.  Probably both.)

Attendance is up. donations are up. Buzz is up. Opportunities are up. Its what the people like, want, as they vote with their pocketbooks, attendance,  and critical acclaim.

After discussing it with a colleague. it sounds as if there is validation for a sort of fireworks show without any performers at all..more of a special-fx kind of presentation...BIGGER...with BIGGER stages..maybe as big as a whole sim 256x256...that would be cool ..something I would see..I'd pay to see that....HUMONGEOUS FX. 100 people on the sim all dancing on the same dance HUD in the end


 200 dacners...100 people per sim ...2 sims together..one hud talking to another hud so we sync up 200 dancers then film it from the air looking down...moving dots...the June Taylor Dancers taken to the nth degree

So in sharing this viewpoint with a heralded member of the DQ community it was suggested that we may be heading towards specialized compartmentalized performances.

Either a club might devote itself solely to a particular type of performance ...OR  ... a club will title a performance as being a "visual spectacular" , or "classic-burlesque", or "vignette", or "performance art", or "dance folly" or, ???? 

I expected my friend, a queen amongst queens, to side with the "artist defines the art" mantra and was shocked to hear her confess that the "dance" is "getting lost". Finally I had validation from the most tolerant of the tolerants. Its not just me and a few wayward, misguided, friends feeling the loss.

The Super-Spectacular

 I was privy to witness a couple of super-spectaculars. I want to focus on the bigger picture..that of "ideas" and avoid identifying people, places, names so as not to personalize or stigmatize. The bigger picture to me is that: big* is selling out months in advance, providing an immersive experience, making use of audiences as participant's, bringing the action closer via controlling the audience's viewing perspective, demanding  4-figure-price-per-ticket in advanced ticket-sales or earn as much in donations from generous, empathetic patrons. The shows are something worth seeing since its the best of the "new breed"...its a new stepping stone towards what's next, that being people pushing the boundaries of what can be done with the tools and talent and creative story-telling that's headed our way.

Come Closer, Darling!

One thing I did find refreshing in the "big" theater was the clever use of bringing the actors closer to the audience by using a perimeter around the audience....making for a more intimate experience. And there were/are attempts to use controlled camera-camming to expand pixel size and bring the audience in. I foresee other experiments to bring us closer to the action. I also notice both venues making smarter use of the "intermission" between acts. That's dead time I saw filled with a bit of imagination be it vignettes or audience-dancing or perhaps, in the future, something else...maybe a comedian or singer or a magic act or heaven forbid...a sensual burlesque tease...wow there's a blast from the past. The more that goes into a production in terms of "value", the longer it seems it can play and replay. Budgets boasting in the 6 figures in SL dollars, taking upwards of a year to plan, script, rehearse, build, etc. big is hear to stay.

The Big Bucks

And so I was about to conclude that big is where the bucks are...and as I was about to side with big-for-the-bucks...I attended a show with only 2 dancers. Each took in 4k....hmmm..ok Yummy scratch that idea that bigger means more-per-dancer-income. The truth seems that there is a show-value-constant...

the total show-time divided by number of performers is a number upon which you can multiply by a certain "number of lindens"...and approximate a shows ultimate monetary value. Of course this can have wide swings depending on a multitude of factors.

And of course true enjoyment can't be measured in lindens as we don't know how well all people, including the non-contributors, actually enjoyed a performance.

Magic 8-Ball

One thing that seemed to get reinforced is the maximum number of performers at one time seems to be about 8. I came up with that number after watching a lot of shows and it seems to be the magic cutoff number not unlike 8 minutes is about the maximum length of an act or that 1 hr to 1 hr 15 to 20 minutes is the maximum amount of time we want to spend watching a show....1 hr 20 min = 80 minutes...hmmm am I onto something with the number 8 ...probably not. I can see shows without dancers or.... a dancer or dancers as accents to a 'bigger picture'. It (SL) IS a different medium and as such perhaps it is too early in its evolution to start limiting what IT IS or WILL BE. Let it develop into what IT WANTS to be and not assume its a mere reflection of RL art and dance. Maybe.

The Bandwagon

To my surprise it was pointed out that clubs are actually expanding in size...imitating those successful extravaganzas that blazed the trail. Bigger is better? Bigger show area, more people, perceived increase in value, translating into more tips, less tier-out-of-pocket....ok yeah I can see that...worked for some....should work for "me" too. Can you argue with packed houses and overflowing tip-jars. Doesn't that speak to the honesty of what the people want? Maybe "they" do want less dance and more prance and happenstance.

I talked to a few creators and it seems their INTENT IS for less dance and more pomp and circumstance. One said they had grown weary of all-dance all-the-time. We do see the 'most-popular' dance moves repeated from venue-to-venue, event to event. Yes another person I talked to said she is not a fan of the move to "story-dance". Let the dance communicate what is meant to be 'felt' without an in-your-face type story-revelation. So the jury is still out on this move to the story but from my vantage point...its coming and unstoppable with a great deal of group-consciousness behind it. People want to see it. People want to tell it. As I predicted many moons ago, the STORY is coming and will be here to stay. A good thing to me? Oh yes. I am a 'story' fan, if it is follow-able. I don't need Gone With the Wind in 60 minutes but a small story told succinctly I am very in favor of.  (And why is the 'of' dangling?)

Full-On Productions

Having seen a sufficient sample of big-cast productions in the style of plays and musicals, I came away each time with a disconcerting feeling. That of being unable to "follow along". Maybe its just me and my short attention span...but...? Unlike TV, movies, books that focus via close-ups or the name of the speaker...it is hard to follow WHO is saying what. WHO is the current intended focal point. My gut says this is not the innate nature of what the medium wants to be. I think this new medium is meant to convey* and tell stories more metaphorically and allegorically, allowing the viewer to interpret rather than translate, using the offerings the medium does naturally and characteristically.

 The medium can explode particles emanating from a persons body to show excitement, love, or agitation, depending on context. If we in real life could do that, I think we would... but we cant so we use hand gestures and facial expressions. So why limit this medium that CAN show emotions in a variety of ways to just  human/avatar expressions and body movement?


Anyways, some venues have wised up and provided a vocal narrative of what it is you are about to see. That helps provide context. But then the action goes by so fast that it can seem a blur and everything is wide-angle so that doesn't help.

Who is talking? 
Where are they?
What are they doing?

Am I missing something key by not zeroing in on them? It would have been helpful if they had used the SL DisplayName feature to identify their character names. The more characters in the scene the greater the odds that I will be choosing the wrong person to focus in on. I tend to zoom in on the one doing the most movement. If they all are jittering about, then that's an issue. Some have issued playbills so those like me with short-memories and attention-spans can refer back to the who's who and what's what, readily. That's a huge help. So that combined with an introductory vocal narrative might help bridge the gap of understanding what it is we are about to see. That would also be a good use of the intermission between acts. Maybe with big facial shots of the actors when mentioned in the intermission-narration.


As far as perspective, I've seen the audience be physically transported as a whole to different pre-built scene sets. This helps to focus, make the pixels larger by bringing the audience in closer, and saves on set-change times.  So if the audience is moving slooowly between sets and they heard a narrative accompanied by a playbill and some visual imagery of what they are hearing and with what they are about to see...then...maybe...it will all gel better.

Who the HELL am I, anyways?

"Yummy, those who can, do, those who cant, blog about those who are trying to do?" Whoa! Hostile crowd! Wipes the smashed tomatoes from her face. That one hurt. Spits seeds out of her mouth.

Truth be told, IT(the art form) will find a few new resting places on its own..
I suspect were are headed in 2 distinct directions, one, the "big" production, de-emphasizing the dance and dancer in favor of a 'whole-listic' offering ... and the "small-er" venues also possibly emphasizing the dance and dancer yet finding ways to extend the dance and dancer with new innovations.


Make way for the Virtual ALLEGORY

I feel there is a new vocabulary forming using a variety of techniques as metaphors for words to tell more story in which no single thing is more important than another. That the most important thing is moving us from distinct points of: A to B (maybe to C and D and beyond) moving us to a surprise destination as well as leading us step by step on a journey of discovery where we participate in personal translations and interpretations of what we are seeing using this newly forming vocabulary that uses briefer shorter offerings of all the things we have heretofore spent time experimenting with.

 Dance will be soon be offered in punctuated segments delineated by stillness, posing, AOs, sudden appearance and disappearance as we will be able to start animations in the middle. *hint hint*

Costume modifications more than full costume changes will form new words that serve to advance a story.

Set changes will break down into set-modifications that will form new verbs for this newly developing "performance-language"

Particle effects will find more judicious, abbreviated, and timely use to further move us from 'here' to 'there', allegorically.

Dancer movement will become more meaningful as it transforms towards: briefer, well-placed, and well timed.

Well that's my story and I'm sticking to it.