SL Ballet

Hey people!

Lol... ok, first of all I should say this post was meant to be published some days ago... but I was just so messed up with trying to get to some scripting that I didn't have the time to efficiently collect the material I "needed". Now that I got it, I'd like to thank so much Inarra (and Espresso) Saarinen, for sharing with me (and with you guys) these notes I am publishing.

They are about the Olmannen play, which I had the luck to partly (cause of course I got there late... silly me!) see performed by the SL Ballet.

I wanted to have these notes about the ballet not only to have the thing written directly by those who know it the best (since Inarra is the Second Life Ballet director... so who can tel us about it better than her?), but also to show you guys what SL can be stretched to. I mean: who would think that in a virtual world, apart from meeting people from all over the world and be who you want to be (and work) you could even get to do ballet?

Well, for those of you who didn't know about this possibility, and for those who are curious about how a ballet play can be performed on a virtual stage, I publish what Inarra wrote.

(Please note that the text is copyrighted... Espresso Saarinen was very kind handing it to me, and I hope noone will use this post to do something he and Inarra don't wish to be done... Thank you).

From the Olmannen playbill:

Olmannen is the story of souls fighting for love. Centuries ago, Namon agreed to become a Devang to save his one true love, Seraphette, from evil. Namon has waited centuries for her soul to be reborn to reclaim their love. But now that she is reincarnated, Seraphette has changed. Can Namon still love the new Seraphette? Can Seraphette possibly accept the love of Namon, a creature of the Overworld?
Principals:Seraphette: A beautiful dancer who has been recently reincarnated and now performs in public alleys. She had a lover, Namon, in the past.

Namon: Seraphette's true love; he agreed to become a Devang to save her from evil.
Corps:Evil beings (Devangs), who live in the OverworldTarts in the Public AlleySprites in the Mystical Garden

ACT ONE(The past) The Ice Garden
Namon and Seraphette are happy and together as lovers, bound together by idealized love. However, they become threatened by evil. In order to save Seraphette from this evil, Namon battles the Devangs and agrees to join them. Seraphette eventually dies a broken-hearted, old woman.

ACT TWO(The present) The Public Alley
Seraphette, dispirited and despairing, has been reincarnated as a dancer who performs with tarts in public alleys. Namon has waited for Seraphette's soul to be reincarnated and he returns to find her again. However, Seraphette has only a vague memory of him and Namon has to fight to remind her of their love. Finally, he reveals himself to her and she falls in love with him again.

ACT THREE(The future) The Mystical Garden
Their true love allows Namon to be released from evil and Seraphette to return from her despairing life. Sprites herald their return. They reunite forever in the mystical garden and ascend into "Olmannen", happy in their realized and true love.

The Making of Olmannen

Inarra Saarinen 2007.01.31

Creating Second Life Ballet's premiere of the ballet Olmannen was truly an amazing experience. It took several months from concept to completion. Besides the normal artistic challenges there were also technical and logistic challenges. Artistically, the story was written and became more clarified over time and rehearsals. Part of the beauty of writing the story specifically for Second Life Ballet was that I was able to utilize the unique aspects of Second Life to bring the story to life. I saw dragon-like creatures appearing in the air, a couple in love spiraling down and up, sprites flying, and a beautiful woman transforming instantly into an old woman while the man transformed instantly into one of the evil beings. I found some wonderful collaborators in places all around the world; something that would be very difficult in First Life. Our immensely talented composer lives in London, our architect and PR person from Australia, and the dancers are from England, West Cost U.S., and East Coast U.S. It was a difficult challenge to find a costume designer, lighting designer, set designer, videographer, and stage manager. We did find an artist and stage manager towards the end of our rehearsal period. We also had a challenge keeping dancers because of First Life changes and commitments. These dancers put in very significant dedication and work to Second Life Ballet and are a large part of why the ballet works. Because of the lack of a costume designer. I spent a significant amount of time finding off-the-rack costumes and AVs that would fufill the artistic vision and then spent some time negotiating to make them "transfer ok". In this way, costumes can go out to the dancers and then are transferred back into Second Life Ballet costume department. Once the story began to fall in place, I was able to animate most of my visions. What a wonderful release to be able to choreograph with dancers who have grand jete's that were full splits in the air, perfect "turn-out" and timely forever turns! This allowed me to really produce many of the effects I wanted. Of course, these are real dancers, so there was always the "I thought said you wanted me to come downstage?" kind of discussions. These dancers are not scripted! Rehearsals did take place in almost exactly the same way a First Life rehearsal would -- except for the "I need you to hover up a bit" kind of directions. Technically, I used Avimator to create the animations. I began with some ballet animations and created quite a number over the course of the choreography. All in all, there are approximately 75 original animations in Olmannen. The main difference between dance animations at clubs in Second Life and these ballet animations is that 90% of the ballet animations do not loop. The animations were put into gestures, which are I made akin to musical phrases in ballet. That way the choreographer and dancers and the composer were able to work in a normal First Life style. The gestures also allowed very precise timing between animations (in tenth of seconds) and compound animations. That is, in a gesture if you do not add a "wait" step the two animations happen at the same time. The dancers mapped the gestures to function keys or could use "/gesture_name" to activate the phrase. It was up to the dancers to rehearse and time the execution of each gesture in order. Two other logistic set-backs were the unfortunate timing of broken gestures in Second Life that took several weeks away from us. Also, Inarra was closed out of Second Life for some reason and so I worked with a limited Alt for about several weeks as well until that was fixed. During these times, I tried working with both off-the-shelf and custom HUDs, but neither of them gave me all of the functionality that I needed. There were added lags in a HUD, for example, even though having buttons was nice for the dancers. In closing, this was an exhilirating experience with an absolutely wonderful committed artistic team. We learned an amazing amount of what Second Life can and cannot do, and what virtual and physical dance is and how it interconnects. We look forward to more exploration in the future. "
This is it.
For any of you who's willing to know more about SL Ballet, I advise that you join the Second Life Ballet group:). It is open enrollment, so you can do that directly from the Search Menu.
Meanwhile, I announce you what Inarra told me: Sunday (Easter day...) there will be a new performance by SL Ballet, at 4 PM:)
Might see you guys there!

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