Sunday, February 24, 2013

"Wolf" Act Part 3 - choreography

omg gah! Did you guys realise this act is due this Friday night? Where did our twenty days go?

I'll never be half the instinctive dancer he is
We are up to choreography - the bit I struggle with hardest. Some people, like my partner, have some kind of photographic memory for the dance animations, and can hotkey the shit out of any musical situation. I have tested Diawa Bellic countless times, and she is always able to find a sequence of dances that will fit the music I have played, within seconds of first hearing it.

 But I can do none of these things.

 Choreography, for me, means setting aside countless hours to test dances against the music. Yes, I listen to the song I am using over and over again through this process. Not many songs make it out the other side with as much favour as they went in.

It should come as no great surprise that I have no real life dance expertise. I am that person who doesn't dance until they're so drunk they should be prevented from dancing. I will dance at home though (which is a good thing, since it's many moons since I got that drunk, and really, a life without dance would be no life at all). I trained in ballet, as a young girl, but unsurprisingly lacked the discipline to do it properly and drifted out of it before I hit high school. I am not the woman who scampers joyfully to belly dance or burlesque classes.

But I know what looks right, and I know how to feel a beat and stick to it, and that's how I do my choreo.

The first stop is always A&M Mocap, and regular readers will know why that is. The first time I went to A&M, I was so besotted I was there for four hours. I am still there for hours, but I must admit it's not the joyous experience it was then. The animators at A&M Mocap have a great sense of theatrical dance, and I think it's important to see and recognise the difference. These dances, as beautiful, emotional and sensual as they are, are not for use in clubs - though A&M have plenty of dances which are - and to my mind, it's similarly true that club dances don't look good on stage.

the advent of mesh has added a new set of hazards for choosing a dance

I'm no  fan of Gor, but I think we professional dancers owe the girls who come to SL to play slaves and concubines a great debt; their active engagement with SL has ensured a legacy of sensual and performance-oriented dance. Some of my very earliest dances and poses come from the Gorean lifestyle.

So based on what we know about my dancing style, we know we need rhythm. The song has a good pace to it, it's looking for fast and big steps ... but I think the story calls for some dignity too. It's the story of the respect and love "wolf mother" inspires. So she won't be prancing, and she won't be rolling around on the floor. But you knew I would say that anyway, right?

Each time I do a new act, I purchase 4 new dances. A dance animation is usually around 26 seconds, and a song is roughly four minutes long. So I buy four new dances when it makes sense, and use between 2 and 4 that I already own.

You can't really say this too many times, so here's my PSA for the day: Do NOT buy trans/no copy animations. Yes, they can be as much as 200L cheaper. But you only have to lose your hud one time to realise your investment was pitifully inadequate. We know 4 new dances will cost 400L each. That's 1600L, for those playing at home. A Guerilla Burlesque dancer will earn 700-1000L in a Friday night show. My second PSA for the day - do not go into professional dancing thinking it will make money.

Suddenly it's midnight, and I have bought four dances - Thought You Knew, Spring Jive, The Arrival and Aziza, all from A&M. I'm sleepy, I have to stop now, but I'd wanted to have a look at Henmations and My-Animation too. I like Henmations dances very much. I am less impressed with My-Animation, but I love their AO stuff so much I will use any excuse to go by and see what's new. And sometimes it's a great dance :-D.

I caught a break, in that no-one else is ready for Sunday night rehearsal either. We'll reschedule to Wednesday, which wreaks havoc on my other jobs, but buys me a little more time to pull this act out of my head and onto the stage.

Monday, February 18, 2013

"Wolf" Act Part 2

Continuing my series on how I create and stage an act for Guerilla Burlesque, today's post will deal with the selection of costumes.

Despite yesterday's small hiccup (now deleted post), the act for "Wolf" is slowly building itself. I spent the day browsing marketplace, looking for wolves and trying on ideas.

The Lycan avatars are too muscular, the furries too cute. There are some nice looking mesh wolves, but the price range is 2000-5000L. A dancer could reasonably expect to earn 700-1000L from the Guerilla Burlesque show, so obviously that kind of cost is too much, especially since it's only half the costume. I want a transformation in the act, despite the fact that my long-term fans know I have done that before, notably in the Stripped act (transforming from a deer into a girl) and the Of Wolf And Man act (transforming back and forth from wolf to girl to wolf). From the latter, I still have the wolf avatar from Grendels Children, and it was to Grendels, finally, I returned.

Grendels sim, if you have not been, is a lovely explorable set of sims that house a vast collection of avatars and builds, mostly relating to animals and fantasy creatures. I had heard last year it was to close, or scale down from the four sims it once occupied. If this is so, it is a very great shame. I have such great memories of roaming it's wilds hunting baby dragons and exploring with Yop.

The wolf avatar is not too bad, a little old-fashioned by SL standards, but the price is fantastic, and the aesthetic shortcomings don't really make a difference. The first time people see the avatar, they're just excited to see it.I have never worn it without several people being pleased with it. So it will do the job quite well.

Now here's the thing. I know what I want. However, we know I have done versions of it before. That's not a great feeling ... but I console myself with the notion that it is a great song, and I believe audiences will enjoy even the most basic storytelling because the song is cool.

But you know I am not, in my heart satisfied. I like to make acts that make the audience believe in the medium. I don't need them to be elaborate or tricksy ... some of my favourite acts feature very simple sets. I just want that immersive feeling of being in a theatre, watching a show, and suspending disbelief just enough to go along for the ride. This is a story that can be told without too much stretching ... but the bar is so very high at Guerilla Burlesque now. So the brainstorm part of proceedings is far from over :-)

Oh, and I guess I've styled the girl part of the act. It took some doing, too. I can't really enjoy "off the rack"; even in my day-to-day, one of my favourite things is to combine different elements to create outfits that are so unique I can never remember them to wear them again. It's also, partly, that some creators make really beautiful clothes, but their shoes are way below the standard. Or other variations on that notion.

The outfit I have settled on is sourced as follows:

Hood: Thana by Cellar Door
Hair: Maria Naturals by emo-tions. I cain't quit you, Mirja Mills!
Skin: *League* Skin Amber Fair -Smoky
Eyes: Fashism Sunrise Eyes in Light Lagoon
Cloak, skirt gloves and pants: Fia by Jessie Auer
Boots: Far Polar by Miel

More on these choices once I have settled on the configuration of the act. I am pleased with how it's coming together though!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Wolf" Act - Part 1 (creating a dance act for Guerilla Burlesque)

As promised, I am planning on detailing how I create the dance acts I present at Guerilla Burlesque. I intend to lead you through my personal process, from when the concept first germinates in my mind, to it's performance, which is scheduled for the show on March 2nd - so we have just twenty days to make this happen! Bear in mind, my process is not "the" way to do it, and in fact, I know other dancers on the Guerilla Burlesque team do it completely differently. On the other hand, I am often asked "how do I start", so for those of you thinking you might like to try this dancer caper out, welcome aboard.

For me, the process always starts with the song. I have been dancing for four years now, so it's safe to say I have used most of my favourite songs, but I have learned, too, that your favourite song cannot always be made into palatable entertainment. It's also my duty to point out that favourite songs tend to drop off your playlist after you've listened to them on repeat play for a few hours.

The song I have chosen to work with is Wolf by First Aid Kit. Little known chryblnd trivia: I have the radio on 24 hours a day, a habit from my youth when I had reason to be a very light sleeper. I find the continual flow of radio provides enough background noise to grant me unbroken sleep. That said, I am sometimes woken by the same song, every time it's played, and these songs tend to end up in my lifelong favourites list. 

Wolf is one of those songs. Released late last year, it woke me up several times through the holiday season. I like the drums, it's got a rollicking beat, and I was struck by the vocals, which seemed very Americana to me - though it turns out they are a Swedish band. And in a special bonus ending, the song turns out to have a story, or a bit of a story, which is just about perfect for my purposes, since I can create something that fits the bones of the song, but takes it in my direction.

So now I move onto what I would like to do to tell my version of this story. If you liked the song, you might already know there is an official video, and that's the first thing that will affect my interpretation. While I have complete admiration for those people who are recreating music videos in SL - it must be such a painstaking process - it's not my thing. I prefer to tell an original story, and that's how I let myself call what we do "dance interpretation". The result, of course, is that pagan rituals, leafy headbands, white dresses and fake wolves are out. 

But I still want to tell the story of a wolf or wolf pack. And I still need to have a sexy girl in there (because that's how I roll. Shut up. Don't judge). And here is where the brainstorm starts. I want the realism, I really love highly realistic stage sets. I wonder if there are any good wolf avatars out there? I used a wolf avatar once before, in my opening act for Beautiful Freaks Burlesque Circus. It was from Grendels, if memory serves. I wonder if there are newer avatars. maybe someone's doing mesh? Oh and I love forests, everyone knows most of my acts are just fresh versions of me prancing around in a forest. Wait, that's no good, I need to break that mould. But ... if I used the mover, that would meet the "fresh" requirement ... wouldn't it? Ehhh .... well I am not doing metaphorical wolves and prancing around Wall Street!

This is generally where I start building a set, a process that, for me, is like doodling, but cooler. The picture that ends up on stage may have nothing whatever to do with the picture I start out with. But here it is, so that you know. And no, I have no idea what that huge torus is for. You have no idea how long I stood around waiting for it to rez though :-)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

criticism is good for character

I have simply got to stop reading the Dance Queens blog on the way to posting. Watching the Cutie Awards unravel and be repeatedly dismissed by someone who isn't actually game to use their own name is doing my head in.

Come out, come out, whoever you are. I take criticism very well, really I do.

At the end of the awards show, I was chatting to Jariah Yuhara, of A&M Mocap Animations and I told her this story:

When I danced for Virtual Burlesque, Cellandra Zon came to see our show. I was most honoured, and I really wanted to know if she liked us. I couldn't help it, though ... I mean ... Cellandra Zon! At that point she was the only name I knew, the only "star" I was aware of, and she was at our show! I had to find out what she thought.

Let me tell you, Cellandra, whom I now consider a friend, though we are not close, was not at all impressed. She gave it to me straight too, and it was very very humbling. When she was done, she gave me a landmark for A&M Mocap Animations.

And after that, I was a dancer.

I just finished saying, on the dance queens blog, that I am getting a little weary of hearing that the awards were "a high school prom where, nothing is based on merit, talent and skill". But you guys knew that anyway :-)

I share my little story in hopes that you might understand what drives me, at least a little, to require a high standard from Guerilla Burlesque. I still feel they deliver, in a way almost no other show does.

I keep coming here meaning to start a series that details my creative process, and I promise, that post is coming. Just as soon as I stop watching the car wreck they made of my statuettes.