Thursday, 3 September 2015

My Debut as a Professional Dancer


A year ago I was an SL artist and longtime curator and owner of art galleries.  Oh yes, I loved to dance and every Friday night I went with Roni Saunders, my dearest SL friend, to the Empire Room to see the Elysium Cabaret.  At the end of the show, along with other members of the audience, we kicked up our heels and danced on the stage to their choreographed crowd dance.   We usually stayed for the after-party dance and I gradually became friends with co-owner and dancer, BabypeaVonPhoenix Bikergrrl. 

Baby invited Roni and me to join a series of dance classes she was planning on the topic of “How to put together a dance performance” called The Dawn of Dance. It sounded like fun so we signed up.  The classes concluded with a “graduation recital” as part of the Dance Galaxy festival on November 15th, 2014.  Although I’m neither a great builder nor choreographer, I was determined to appear in the recital and I did, flamenco dancing to Gipsy by Jesse Cook.   That was to be my one dance performance creation, just to prove to myself I could do it.

At that point I retired from performing on the dance stage. Or so I thought.  But it was not to be.   Babypea asked Roni to join the Elysium Cabaret and on January 9th she made her debut as a choreographer with the group.  Not exactly as a soloist, mind you.  She created a dance for three, with Winnie (Winniefred Resident) and me joining her onstage. So began my career as a back up dancer. 

I quite happily danced with Roni often or with Winnie when she asked.  Others invited me to be in their dances and I became quite an accomplished “ball warmer” for other choreographers.  Roni generously involved me in her dance creations and we often brainstormed problems together, although to be honest she didn’t really need much help from me.   

One day Roni was talking about African Soukous dancing, which she was thinking about sometime in the future and gave me a link to a youTube video.   Of course it’s fatal once you go there, as you hop from one video to another.  I hopped right along to Chico Cesar singing Mama Africa and there I stopped.   I played it again and again.   It really caught my attention.

Winnie in costume

Soukous is derived from the French word secousse which means shake, among other things. Shaking their booties is just what African women do to a style of music that is derived from Cuban Rumba.  Now I just happened to own a set of 6 Booty dances from Glamour Animations.   Mmmm.   Could I put together a performance to this music using those dances?   Could I build a set again after so long?  Well, there was only one way to know for sure.

Out came the Empire Room template box onto my build platform and I began slowly gathering together Africana. Brown savanna grass, African acacia trees, a couple of elephants, some giraffes, a big campfire and a gorgeous sunset sky texture for the walls brought it all together.  Simple but effective, or so I hoped.  I found the perfect outfit at Artizana, a store with wonderful African ethnic creations.  I loaded the dances into my Barre Hud and in between fiddling with the set I danced my way through the Booty dances over and over, moving the order around, adding repeats to make the dances work with the music. 

I didn’t own the Spot on system so there would be no movers, but I knew right away it would require three dancers to make it interesting.   I used three crouching mocap amimations for the opening poses and put them into big green prim cubes so they were easy to see in the tall savanna grass on the set.   A transition pose moved us fairly smoothly from the end of the dance back into the crouch for the finale pose.  All the animations were in my hud with the note card written and loaded.   It was time to get some feedback.

I had told Roni what I was working on but didn’t show her until I was basically finished.   She is such a good builder and has such a good eye that I was very nervous.   Despite me pinching her idea, she loved the set, just tweaking a few things to frame the dancers better and we ran through the dance with my alt Jaz to make up the trio.  I sent her and Jaz the outfit, put the set into a rez faux box and off we went to the Empire Room to fit it in place and do a run through. 

Mama Africa Set

I had told Baby I was working on something and it was time to see what she thought, time to see if it was good enough to perform at the Elysium Cabaret.  She came right over, along with Gunner, her SL/RL partner who is the Elysium DJ and a fine choreographer himself. Always encouraging and supportive Baby was delighted with it all and told me to contact Paul Woodrunner who coordinates the group’s timetable so he could put it on the schedule.   

Phew, now I could relax for a few weeks, but no.   Paul had an opening for the coming Friday night.  May 15th. Would I take it?  Frankly everything was a good as it was going to be and it was better to do it quickly.   So I agreed with one stipulation.  I insisted on being the first dancer on the program. 

There’s something which I call the Recital Rule. Any good teacher arranges a student recital starting with the newest, weakest performers and progressing through to the strongest and most experienced ones.   I definitely needed to be first up!

During the next few days I arranged for Winnie to be the third dancer with Roni and me, sending her the costume and instructions to wear ethnic type jewellery, which she hopefully had in her inventory.    I sent Gunner the mp3 file of the music and notes to Paul and to Wiz Nirvana who is the Elysium manager. Then I began to practice setting up and taking down the set quickly and efficiently. I practiced over and over.  I rezzed and derezzed and rerezzed that boxed set at the Empire Room till it was second nature to me.  The rez box went in and out of my inventory so many times it must have felt giddy.   I ran through the dance, opening and closing the curtain till I had it down pat.   Unfortunately the lovely curtain at the Empire Room has a drop down menu and it can’t be added to the notecard in the dance hud.   Now I was ready.

Rehearsal was a disaster for me.   I rezzed the set and we were in place when suddenly DJ, Gunner announced that the music file I’d sent him was empty. What?  I bought the music from iTunes and turned it into an mp3 file there and I knew it worked since I’d been using for weeks in VOX.  I quickly sent it to Gunner again but I was asked to step aside by Wiz for the next dancer to rehearse her dance.  I de-rezzed the set and she rezzed hers.  But the DJ was busy trying to sort my music out while others wanted to go ahead with the next one.  Conflicting instructions came from both directions, with us both rezzing and de-rezzing our sets several times.  Tempers were stretched a little thin but finally Gunner announced he had my music and I ran through my dance and rehearsal proceeded as normal.  Now that was truly nerve wracking!

At the Ready
Finally it was performance night.  For some unknown reason I was extremely calm, almost detached, although there were a lot of things to be concerned about. Winnie always had problems sitting on her pose box for some reason, needing three or four tries to get in place.  I had a list of instructions on a notecard to follow, in case my much-practiced procedure failed me.  Restore the rez box to last location.  Rez the set.  Stand on the pose box. Don’t forget to cache the dances.  Don’t forget to invite the other dancers to your hud.   Don’t forget to cache.  Cache again!  One more time!

Being first on the program, I could put the set on the stage early with no pressure, thank goodness.  With the three of us in place and ready to go, I cached the dances over and over as we waited.  FinallyI Gotta Feeling by the Blackeyed Peas, Elysium’s signature overture came through my speakers.   We were underway.   I cached one last time and set the hud on pause.  Gunner was in IM with me, as he was with each dancer, warning me every 30 seconds till he would start the music.  Then he introduced me and announced my debut as a dancer with the Elysium Cabaret and this was it.  

Shakin' it

My music started and I opened the curtains to reveal us crouching down, as African women do.  I sat counting down the first few bars of the introduction as we waited and as soon as Chico belted out Mama Africa I hit start on the hud and up we popped and began to dance.  As the song ended I hit the transition pose and we went into the crouch again as I closed the curtain.  We stood and went backstage, I de-rezzed the set, took the rez box and the stage was clear for the next dancer.  I had done everything like an automaton, but it had been perfect!  Even SL had cooperated: no lag, no delay with the music, no frozen hud.  Perfect!

But no sigh of relief.  That’s when I began to shake and shake.  My heart was racing and I couldn’t even type as congratulations poured in.  I sagged in my chair at the computer, totally exhausted.  It was several hours later before I stopped shaking but I had done it!  I’d made my debut as a professional dancer with the Elysium Cabaret dancers. 

A week later Paul asked me when I would have another dance ready.  I laughed.  Next November?  Maybe? I seem to be on a six-month schedule with my dance ideas.  Don’t hold your breath anyone!

Monday, 30 March 2015

The Spirit Light Dance Company's Spring Showcase

Yesterday I attended the Spirit Light Dance Company's Spring Showcase.   There were only three numbers but each one was a little jewel.  

Truckin', choreographed by Amari DiRicchezi Thomas and Dancers

Since there weren't a lot of people I dared to try taking a few photos, although they did crash me a few times so I'm not madly happy with them.   Besides if you take photos you can't enjoy the performance, especially when you use freeze frame as I do.  

Truckin', choreographed by Amari DiRicchezi Thomas and  Dancers

To take really good photos of dance performances you need to see them danced more than once and get a feel for the dance.  I know many people like ToySoldier Thor take photos all the time "on the fly" but I guess that's not how I work.  

 Somewhere  from Westside Story
choreographed by Caryl Meredith with Si de Brit
This was a beautiful romantic dance with a wonderful set and the heartbreaking music of Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim - "Somewhere " from Westside Story, which is a timeless classic.

Somewhere from Westside Story
choreographed by Caryl Meredith with Si de Brit

There's a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us somewhere.

There's a time for us,
Someday a time for us.
Time together with time to spare,
Time to learn, time to care.

Someday, somewhere
We'll find a new way of living,
We'll find a way of forgiving,

Imagination from Alice in Wonderland  choreographed by Eva Harley with Dancers

I crashed out on during this number and only took the one photo.  But I did see some very clever scene changes and the other dancers whom Eva Harley used to present her very entertaining number.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Elysium Cabaret enters the Blogosphere!

In a long overdue move the Elysium Cabaret has started a blog on Wordpress, which is a bit of a mystery to me since my many years of blogging have involved the Blogger platform.  But I'm sure all the contributors, including me, will manage to master it sooner or later. 

Myth Raven posted the first review of last Friday's show and what a great job she did! Along with her excellent commentary she took some wonderful photos which is not an easy task at a busy dance venue like the Empire Room.

Jo, Roni and Winnie celebrate the Vernal Equinox
photo by Myth Raven

Along with the many other fine performances by Ally, Baby, Wiz, Queenie, Winnie with Diiar, Jilley and Baby, Roni and Winnie and I celebrated the Vernal Equinox with a dance performed to Enya's Pax Deorum.

As always the audience was invited up to the stage to join in the dance fun and Wild made us all look like stars with her wonderful group dances.

Group dance choreographed by Wild
Photo by Myth Raven
Remember Elysium Cabaret performs for your enjoyment every Friday night at 6pm SLT at the Empire Room!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Idle Rogue Productions Presents: MAYFAIR - The Stories of The Mayfair Witches

I was fortunate enough to attend the dress rehearsal of Idle Rogue Productions' newest offering, MAYFAIR, The Stories of the Mayfair Witches, which opens on January 21st at 7pm for 6 performances only.  I can only emaphasize that this is a show you will not want to miss.  

Thirteen dancers bring to life a story based on Anne Rice's spellbinding novel of witchcraft and the occult, The Witching Hour.  Spanning four centuries it tells the story of a great family of witches, the Mayfairs, a family which is haunted by a powerful, dangerous and seductive demon, Lasher.

Deborah Mayfair - Zahra Ethaniel- casts her magic spells

Sitting in the garden of the Mayfair Mansion in New Orleans, at wrought iron tables under an outdoor gazebo, the audience is drawn into the tales of this family and fully immersed by the use of the Oberlander camera system which captures one's camera and brings one close to the dancers, following them from different angles and giving everyone the same view.

The setting is a garden party at the old Mayfair mansion on First Avenue in the Garden District of New Orleans. The notorious are-they-or-aren't-they family has always drawn it's fair share of speculation, with wild tales of a purse full of coins that never runs out, and a mysterious man whom only some can see.   
                                                                        - GB publicity notice for Mayfair

Angelique Mayfair - Sho Kyong - with Lasher

But the Mayfair witches have endured shattering tragedies along with their immense power. What does the comely Lasher want from them? And is any witch strong enough to control him?
                                                                                                           - GB publicity notice for Mayfair

Marguerite Mayfair - Maeve Branner - in her laboratory
 I haven't read The Witching Hour but each dance is preceded by a storyboard so it's easy to follow along.  We did not see all of the dances last evening including that of chryblnd Scribe, the thirteenth witch, the one who transforms Lasher into human form.  She told us she was keeping it as a surprise as well as hinting that it wasn't quite finished yet.

Deirdre Mayfair - BabypeaVonPhoenix - with Lasher
With Idle Rogue's usual consummate professionalism this story is brought to life in dance by thirteen very talented performers.  The music is powerful and moving and the sets are perfect backdrops to each story, with the imaginative use of fading scenes and particles that we have come to expect these days from dance performance.  Excellent technical and production support is provided by many people and the full cast and crew is listed at the end of this post. 

Details of performances and how to reserve the few remaining places can be found on the Idle Rogue website.

Kat Feldragonne, an SL dancer and performer, wrote a very detailed post, Mayfair Sneak Peek, giving her impressions of the rehearsal along with some excellent photos. 


Chewie Quixote - Soloist - Suzanne Mayfair
Zahra Ethaniel - Production Design
                         Soloist - Deborah Mayfair
Meegan Danitz - Soloist - Charlotte Mayfair
Deb Heron - Soloist - Jeanne Louise Mayfair
                 - Production Design Assistant 
                 - Assistant to chryblnd Scribe
Sho Kyong - Soloist - Angelique Mayfair
Shadow Tarber  - Production Design
                         - Soloist - Marie Claudette Mayfair
Maeve Branner - Soloist - Marguerite Mayfair
Azabella Alamar - Soloist - Katherine Mayfair
Blaze deVivre - Soloist - Mary Beth Mayfair
Anashara Dubois - Soloist - Stella Mayfair
Aubreya Joszpe - Soloist - Antha Mayfair
                           Production Assistant - Public Relations
BabyPea von Phoenix - Soloist - Deirdre Mayfair
chryblnd Scribe -  Producer, Director, Art Director
                             Soloist - Rowan Mayfair
Tray Porthos - Production Design - Camera
                      Soloist - Lasher
Cee Edman - Petyr van Abel
AveBee - Peter Mayfair (alt of Deb Heron)
Franny - Charlotte's Maid 1
               Production Assistant - Membership Liaison
Subversive Vavoom - Charlotte's Maid 2
Imrhien Fargas - Darcy Monahan
March Antiesse as Julien's Lover
Barney Helendale - Julien Mayfair
Spinned - Stella's Lover (alt)
Rogue Fretwerk as Michael Curry (alt of chryblnd Scribe)
Stella's party: Gloriana, Arrehn, Adam3 Magic, Imrhien Fargis

Arrehn Oberlander - Production Design Technical
Martin Yeats - Production Design Technical
Gloriana Maertens - Production Design Builder

Sunday, 11 January 2015

The Success of The Euphoria Group on LEA12

Post I wrote for the Linden Endowment of the Arts Blog

While I know those involved have thanked the LEA committee themselves, as one who is involved peripherally in dance performance, as well as LEA, I would like to thank the Committee for “taking a chance” on Babypea VonPhoenix Bikergrrl’s grant application for a sim. I don’t know if anything similar has taken place on the LEA grant sims previously, so perhaps they were not taking a chance after all! But this group made full use of the opportunity given to them by the Committee!

Not only did the Euphoria group create two very different but amazing sim wide builds during their tenure there, but they filled the sim to capacity on every occasion for their numerous events held there during the months of October, November and December.

The SuperMetropolis Train - photo by BabypeaVonPhoenix Bikergrrl

The urban cityscape which hosted the SuperMetropolis show for 5 performances in October was designed and built by one of the very talented dancers in the group, Chrissy Rhiano. The audience travelled the sim in a specially designed train which stopped at various points where each of the dancers performed using a set they had built.

BabypeavonPhoenix Bikergrrl’s Silver Surfer set at SuperMetropolis - photo by BabypeaVonPhoenix Bikergrrl

During one weekend in November the Dance Galaxy Festival was held with 14 different dance troupes performing, as well as the debut “recital” from students of Babypea’s Dawn of Dance classes.

Ronda Saunders danced her first solo performance at Dawn of Dance - photo by Ronda Saunders

For the Christmas ExtravaDanza performances in December the sim was designed and built by Restlesssoul Blackheart. This time the audience travelled by sleigh around the sim to the different dance performance sets.

LEA12 decorated for the Christmas !* ExtravaDanza*! - photo by BabypeaVonPhoenix Bikergrrl

Dance performance in Second Life is a truly artistic venture, with many talented people in that field. Not only does their love of music, and their skill at choreographing dance routines, shine through in their performances, but the beauty of their sets as well as their creative use of particles and special effects is truly amazing. 

SL scripters, particle makers, special lighting and dance animation creators are all heavily involved in making the tools to improve dance performance within the limits of SL, and it has come a long way in the last few years.

Setsuna Hirano danced in a globe set for the Christmas !*Extravadanza*! - photo by ToySoldier Thor

I hope many new people were introduced to this form of art by Euphoria's presence at LEA12. In addition, many people from the dance community heard about LEA for the first time and hopefully they will explore the other sims too and learn more about the different forms of art in the LEA world. 

Over and over I heard Babypea explain how the LEA program worked to people who asked but had never heard of it. I think two very different groups of people benefited greatly by the Committee’s granting of LEA12 to BabypeaVonPhoenix Bikerrgirl and the Euphoria group.

Babypea danced to Oiche Chiun (Silent Night) by Enya - photo by Gunner VonPhoenix

Fortunately for everyone’s enjoyment Gunner VonPhoenix videoed his wife’s performance and posted it on YouTube.

JMB (Jo) Balogh

Advisor to the LEA Committee