SATURDAY, APRIL 28, 2012
In the last few weeks I have been asking people to write posts about advanced dancing. In the discussions I have had with them and the content of what they are writing, I have found myself examining my own basis for why I love dancing in SL and what Advanced Dancing is for me.
I dance tango in RL. I have done so since I was a child in Buenos Aires. Although I am tall for a tango dancer at 1.82 m (6 feet), I still get a lot of RL pleasure out of tango dancing. Other than club dancing, when I arrived in SL in January 2007, I didn’t know much at all about other types of dancing.
My first SL experience at dancing was at a blues club called Juke Joint Blues. There I heard for the first time in my life blues music and saw people dancing to it. Toby Howton ran the club and allowed a lot of freedom for dancing. One of the fun aspects of it was dancing on the bar. I think what first attracted me to dancing was that it allowed me to show sensuality and feeling … I could be really sexy. I still love this side of dancing and find my favorite dances tend to be the slow, really sexy dances.
Another aspect of my early SL experience is that this is how I met Riddle, who was the bartender at Juke Joint. Riddle and I have been together five years in SL and dancing has always been a part of our relationship.
During 2007 I learned about the concepts of dance equipment such as HUDs. I learned about choreography, freestyle and sequenced, and, most importantly, I learned how people are affected by dancing. One of the things that Toby let me do was invite others to dance. I did this not just by asking, but by sending Huddles Invites to everyone around me. A few people did not accept the invitation, but most did. What a revelation! People loved to dance in sync. Most loved to dance on the bar. The led to the realization that most people love to dance too, but most don’t know how to do it well in SL.
In early 2008 Riddle and I opened our first club, NOT TOO HOT, and it featured dancing and blues. During this time I learned more about couples dancing and set out to have the very best INTAN dance system in SL. Not only did I want all the good couples dances, but I wanted them organized right and even wanted the waiting dance before the partner hops on to be good.
MOCAP dancing was beginning to take over at this time and it seemed that each week there were new dances. This really opened up my eyes to dance styles and began my thinking about how dancing is organized. I tend to be an organizing-type person, so this was a lot of fun for me thinking about how to organize all the new dances.
One of the surprises about being a club owner is that building skills are really useful. It seems that there is always a need for a structural change or something new. Riddle is a good builder and with his help and a game that we had called Primtionary (thanks to Galilla Sinatra and Cilla Teebrook) I learned to build. Building is an important skill if you want to do dance shows as I later learned. Another skill that you learn as a club owner is about streaming music. This is also essential for dance shows.
At NOT TOO HOT we featured DJs and live music, but also other entertainment. One of the ideas I had was to do a dance show. I had never seen one before and didn’t realize that there were others in SL who had pioneered this idea long before I was born. I founded a dance group called the Sexy Slinkers (named by my friend Leela Forder) and set out to put on a show. Fortunately, it was a simple show. There were about 6 or 7 of us in the group and we shared responsibilities. This turned out to be another learning … sharing responsibilities in a dance group builds teamwork and makes for a better show. We used static pose balls to position the dancers and put on a three-dance show. It was a great success. People loved watching us dance and the group was full of enthusiasm.
I think the formation of the Sexy Slinkers for me led to a lot of thinking about innovating dance equipment. I do not know scripting and can’t make MOCAP dances, so this was a huge hurdle. But, like most everything in life, you find solutions to seemingly intractable problems. I began to invent or innovate dance equipment. People used to laugh at me when they entered the NOT TOO HOT club, “what are u making today, Ttoo?” Most of the things I made were junk, but once in a while, people would try something and say, “Hey, that’s cool!” This gave me the understanding that dancing requires a lot of skills to support it. Innovation is also an important part of dancing and the support behind it.
By late 2008 NOT TOO HOT had expanded to our own island and we had plenty of land to do things. Since I had created all these things for dancing, I decided to open a store for dance equipment. The store was called Dance Queens. As I look back on it, I had developed a fairly narrow view of dancing. The club experience taught me that females like group and individual dancing a lot more than males. Males tend to like couples dancing. Most of the equipment I had made was for individual or group dancing, so Dance Queens felt right. Only later did I realize how many males in SL really do like group and show dancing. The name would have been better as Dance Queens and Kings.
With the store in place I formed a group called DANCE QUEENS. To get people interested in the store I decided that I had to keep innovating new things but also communicate regularly with my customers. This led to the idea of sending out dance sequences on a regular basis. I knew that most people did not know how to make dance sequences, so I thought this would be a helpful way that they could learn and at the same time keep the Dance Queens store in mind. I created an outline of the content of the note which is pretty much the same today and sent out the first one, which was the dance I did in the first Sexy Slinkers show. The creation date on it is 30 Dec 2008. I had great anticipation for lots of success and named it Dance Sequence 001.
In Spring 2009 two groups of customers visited the Dance Queens store within a couple of days of each other. The first was Zhaza Zerbino and the Pink Lady Dancers. The other was SkydiverPeni Fall and CharlotteMarie Tigerpaw of the MYST Dancers. I had long conversations with both groups. WOW! For the first time I had met other dance groups with people as passionate about dancing as I was. The dance world opened to me. What may seem obvious to most people was not to me. I had never thought about other dance groups or that others had followed a somewhat similar pathway as I had.
With the realization that there were other dance groups in SL, I thought some type of event to bring them together would be fun. I did not want to have a competition because I felt that made winners and losers. Dancing to me is about fun and winners and losers is not what I wanted. I am passionate about dancing. I want to do a creative, super job and I love to hear “bravo” but not at the expense of someone else. So, I finally had the idea to have a dance festival … an exhibition where we could all shine and learn from each other. As I look back, this was such an important decision because it created the boundaries that I hope we all feel today in the DANCE QUEENS Group of sharing and helping each other.
In May of 2009 the DANCE QUEENS blog had started because of the work of Cheryl Nitely and I also had a blog for the club Riddle and I ran. We had our first Dance Festival in June 2009. The result was not what I expected. You can read the gory details on the now defunct NOT TOO HOT blog. In short, one group turned the festival into a competition and a griefer attacked us. It was a real downer for me. Dance Queens the store went into a decline and the DANCE QUEENS Group existed mainly on dance sequences.
Dancing for me took a different turn. I started dancing with live entertainment. This was a lot of fun for me as I learned how to enhance someone else’s performance. In fall of 2009 the Sexy Slinkers tried to create a multi-act play with about 10 actors and dancers. It was a huge effort with dancers from Australia, Europe and the Americas. It fell apart and I could not find the means to make it work. This was a significant disappointment for me. On reflection I think it led to my current emphasis on small plays with small casts. It takes a special effort to put on the huge productions that groups like Pixelle Ballet and La Performance do.
In very early 2010 my RL took an unexpected turn and I left SL. I left the DANCE QUEENS Group with no leadership and no direction. Fortunately, Cilla Teebrook, Galilla Sinatra and Cheryl Nitely continued the DANCE QUEEN group. They emphasized dance sequences and information about dance shows. By late spring 2010 my RL took another unexpected turn and I returned to SL. There were a few bumps in getting re-established, but one of the highlights of this time was the second dance festival in June 2010. This Festival featured the groups from the first festival (Stage One Productions, MYST, The Five Dancers, Pink Ladies, Kittens and Tigers, Sexy Slinkers and YMCA) and added Pyper Dollinger’s DAZZLERS and Derrick ‘Big D’ Stewart’s Big D’s Divas. This festival was a complete success.
In the fall of 2010 Riddle and I gave the NOT TOO HOT Club away. That is when I decided to focus my energy on the DANCE QUEENS Group and try to make it a really useful group for dancers. This has been such a wonderful experience for me. I have learned so much more about dancing both from my own investigation and from others, and I have found a way to share it. I have lots of special memories of seeing things like Slappy Doobie and Ellie Criss creating a dancer dancing in car headlights with the shadow outlined on the wall, or Naiki Muliaina making me laugh between dance sets in his Blue Moon Club, or dancing hiphop led by Dance Princess Diawa. As I have seen what others do, I have learned that dancers seem to specialize. We gravitate towards the music and presentation that we like best. We put our energies into what we love most. In doing so we become ‘experts.’ I love Latin music and blues and to tell a story with a dance. If I am taken out of the context of my dance loves, I am far from being an expert. I can’t dance ballet, or hiphop or house dancing well at all. It may sound funny that the head of DANCE QUEENS can’t dance well to all music, but I think this is the norm.
DANCE QUEENS has also introduced me to a lot of people. Let me give you two examples, Mily Sandalwood and Psyche Lunacy. Mily is a Gorean dancer and Psyche loves couples dancing. When I see them dance, I am always so impressed. When I talk with them about dancing I hear echos of my own feelings. They are focusing on what they love and are specializing in it. They dance with all the geeky stuff that we have to know, but just as importantly, they are dancing with their heart … their deepest feelings. When you see it, you can experience the feelings they are expressing.
I know maybe half the people who are members of Dance Queens. One of the surprises for me is that there are people who have vision problems (up to 99% blind), there are people who are completely deaf and feel the music through their speakers, there are people in wheelchairs and people with debilitating illnesses, but they, like me have found a way to express their feelings through dancing.
One of the greatest highlights for me was last year’s DANCE QUEENS Dance Festival IV. I loved it all. The dancing was great and there was variety from Geisha to Ballet to Burlesque. There was innovation from dancing farm animals to outdoor movies. There was a positive tension with every group because they wanted to perform at their best. It was a learning experience for me and I think most everyone who attended.
So, after a long-winded story about why I love dancing, I think it’s obvious what makes really great advanced dancers. You have to know your technical stuff, but you have to dance your heart. You have to put your passion into it, learn from others and set out to WOW the audience.
P.S. An important person who has spurred me on in dancing and is always available for ideas and help is Diddy Hyun. We have known each other a long time and have grown together in our knowledge of dancing. I don’t think it’s necessary to have a friend like Diddy to become an advanced dancer, but it sure helped me.