Thursday, November 24, 2011

Choreography for a Show

Choreography for a Show 111124

This week I have been preparing for the first DANCE QUEENS Choreography Show. It's been fun for me to see the different dance styles and how some people use Freestyle Choreography and others use Sequenced Choreography.


Choreographing for a Show

Choreographing for a show is more challenging than choreographing for dancing in a club or to a tempo alone. In a show you want to match the dance with the song. Very few dances are made to match songs and SL dances have a maximum limit of 30 seconds, while songs usually run about three minutes (180 seconds).

When I start to choreograph for a specific song, I first listen to the song several times. In doing this I listen for the tempo of the song. Some songs have more than one tempo. I also think about the feeling I want to present to the audience. Next, I look at dances that might fit the tempo and feeling and put them in a notecard. Then, I play the dances while the song plays. In this way I am sure the dances that I choose from all match the tempo.

To make the first pass at the sequence for the dance, I listen to the song in a different way. Almost all songs have what I call changes. A change can be, for example, a tempo change, an instrument change, a hesitation, singing starting or stopping. I put the music in my player and mark the second where the change occurs. For the show I made a tango sequence to the song Cunumicita.

Here is my first list of times for the music change:
  • 0 seconds - guitar starts
  • 3 seconds - drum starts
  • 28 seconds - music uplifts
  • 53 seconds - piano highlighted
  • 76 seconds - hesitation
  • 101 seconds - piano highlight
  • 125 seconds - music uplifts
  • 148 seconds - hesitation
  • 171 seconds - music ends
Most songs I have choreographed have a change every 20 to 30 seconds which coincides well with the 30-second limit on animation length.

By dividing the song into sections you can choreograph each section. A major challenge in choreographing in SL is matching a change from one dance to another when the music changes. This is because you have to make the change at a specific time and avatar position. For example, I decided to make a dance change at the 53-second music change. Since most SL dances start and stop at the center point, to avoid a noticeable jump you either need to have your avatar at the center point oriented in the right direction or combine the choreography with some means of moving your avatar during the dancing so you are in the right position to change the dance. For this show I decided to use only a static pose ball and not any of the movement devices like the DB Dance System, the XPOSE or the DanceMaster.

Here are the times I selected for dance changes:

  • 0 seconds - guitar starts
  • 3 seconds - drum starts
  • 53 seconds - piano highlighted
  • 76 seconds - hestitation
  • 125 seconds - music uplifts
  • 148 seconds - hesitation
  • 171 seconds - music ends
Next I selected the dances for the sequence. The dance from 3 to 53 seconds (50 seconds) meant that either I had to use one dance and let it loop or use two very similar dances. I had a similar decision to make about the 76 to 125 second dance (49 seconds). In this sequence I decided to let the dances loop.

You see there are six dance transitions that I had to make (3 seconds, 53 seconds, etc). These had to be at the right position and the right time to avoid ugly jumps. If you are choreographing a dance in which you have a lot of choices of dance animations to use (for example hip hop), you can usually find solutions to the time and position challenges. For dances where there are fewer dance choices (for example ballet or tango), it is more challenging. For my sequence there are three really good transitions and three 'so-so' transitions. When you see it, you may notice the slight jumps in position and orientation on those transitions.


Freestyle Versus Sequenced Choreography

You will see in the upcoming DANCE QUEENS Choreography Show that some people use Freestyle and some use Sequenced Chroreography. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

Freestyle has several advantages:
  1. You have complete control of your avatar - If you miss the timing of a dance, you can correct it when the next dance starts.
  2. You can change the dance time and order if you want to - Freestyle means just that. Freedom to make changes on the fly.
  3. You don't have to deal with all the numbers of sequenced dancing - Some of us love dancing and hate the detail involved with making a sequence. With Freestyle you have all the fun and almost none of the details. Some HUDs allow recording of sequences to take some of the drudgery out of making sequences, but likely you will still need to adjust the sequence.
Freestyle has some disadvantages:
  1. There is lots of clicking - Freestyle choreographers watch the dancing carefully and change at the right time. In the sequence I made that means six clicks for the song.
  2. Timing can get off - If you are changing dances based on the visual cues, dance lag can be a problem and throw your transitions off.
  3. Complexity can cause problems - You will see some choreographers use more than 10 dances in a song. This means there are a lot of transitions that must be done right. This is not so easy under the pressure of a Dance Show.
Sequenced has several advantages:
  1. One click and the timing is right - With sequenced choreography it is important to have a starting point for the dancing. You need an audio clue as to when to start so the dances all transition at the right time. This means you may have to build that audio clue into the beginning of song.
  2. Much more complexity can be built into the dance - If you decide that you want a 0.5 second transition move (for example a 90 degree turn to the right) from one dance to another, you cannot easily do this with Freestyle. You can make more nuanced dances with Sequenced choreography.
  3. You can do other things while dancing - If you are moving scenery or controlling multiple dancers, Sequenced choreography gives you time. You don't have to watch every move to make dance changes.
Sequenced has several disadvantages:
  1. You may feel like a mathematician rather than a dancer - Setting up Sequences takes time and requires a lot of attention to detail. Some people just don't like it
  2. If you miss the start the whole dance sequence is off timing - It's a horrible feeling knowing that all of your transitions are one second off.
I use Sequenced Choreography almost always in a show. I don't mind the detail that is needed and really like to have things look right. But, one of the great things about SL dancing is there are a lot of really good Freestyle dancers in shows. So, choose what fits you best.



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