The lights dimmed and music began to play as the avatar dancers of La Performance took the stage last month in Second Life. "Beautiful" presented by the troupe began and they held the assembled audience's attention for the next hour as the modern ballet in free movement and free synch played out to a musical score that included; Queen, Zucchero, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. Weekly performances had begun in early November with the last one having occurred on December 20th. All have taken place on stage built for the show, parked in the virtual sky over the land of The Globe, Shakespeare Theatre and sponsored by sLiterary. This is the fourth show presented by the La Performance troupe since May of 2009.
I had the opportunity to meet with the troupe's choreographer, Jie Loon shortly before that Sunday performance. We met at the venue and chatted while she gave me a tour which included a stop back stage.
Nazz: I see we're in the sky above the Shakespeare Theater, are you associated with Ina Centaur?
Jie: Ina is a good friend and kind of sponsor if you want. She let me over her land ... because she likes what we do.
Nazz: She is a good friend and is most supportive of the arts in second life.
Jie: Yeah … for God's sake, I had six different locations before I came here. Perhaps you know EddereDe Laval he brought me here. So this is my seventh or eighth stage I have done … please come down to the seats.
Nazz: I've heard the name. You're a builder as well?
Jie: I needed a stage, so I had to learn how to … down there is the dance floor. You see the stripes on floor … that's for orientation for dancers and basis of choreography. The dance floor is on another SIM.
Nazz: How many performers are on the stage at one time?
Jie: In this show, it depends on the dance … three, five, six or twelve dancers max on stage. The most difficult dance is that with three dancers.
Nazz: Why is that?
Jie: We dance free and elevate our skills, so we have different skills … experienced dancers do it about two years now and we elevate from show to show. As you can imagine choreography depends on skills of dancers. I can only do … what is possible to dance.
Nazz: Do the dancers created their own animations?
Jie: No, all animations we use are bought in second life. I'm not a programmer and it needs much too much time to create animations. In the coming show we have a dance where I use ten different animations. No, there is a song … I have changed because of rhythm and mood … then I look for animations that might fit to this … difficult, rhythm and mood … then I map music and try to cut animations according to music. Then I try to imagine ... an idea … of the dance … then I analyze animations of possibilities to move in. That's very urgent in this and then I try to do animations … but must know ... who will dance. So I need cast before and then I try to find a set of stage ... fitting and costumes that fit to kind of move and mood of dance and then it would be nice if all dances fit together to a show.
Nazz: Who picks the music, you?
Jie: I'm working on coming show now … first is music and all must fit together in a way … highlights and lowlights up to a finale.
Nazz: The music for the current performance is quite diverse. Can you tell me why you chose the Elvis song 'Such A Night'?
Jie: This is a quick … and good rhythms … good to dance. I hope to found a nice choreo … and not too difficult for new dancers … we are twelve in this. By the way, I wanted to use parasols in this but was too difficult … the new cannot do it but we have very skilful new dancers … danced or dancing in Pixelle Ballet. I danced there myself two productions … I danced in windows and nuts.
Nazz: When will the new show open?
Jie: I hope to open next in March or April. But depends on rehearsals I want to start rehearsals in second part of January, until then I must have all finished.
Nazz: You've performed on stage in real life?
Jie: No, I'm interested in … know how to dance. I like theatre, opera too and have knowledge if you want … behind the curtain.
Nazz: That's the knowledge you're bringing into second life?
Jie: I don't want to copy real life here, Inarra of Pixelle ballet does ... to transfer the classical moves and try to dance classical ballet with them. That's not my way.
Nazz: So you're trying to create something totally unique to virtual worlds then?
Jie: When I came to second life, I saw an article in a newspaper … I found very different and cool skills of residents here … magic's, mermaids, combating warriors, dancers, shape shifters, and my first thought was ... to get skills of Second Life onto stage. I tried to find friends ... but at last none who really liked his or her skills wanted to produce on stage. I had projected my fist show as a mix or dance, combat with dragon and mermaids dance, but two weeks before start of my first show ... I was reduced to that I really did myself ... show dance and that was it then. I created a system to use given animation's in free synch and I am elevating it step by step since.