Virtual Dance in Second Life

Dynamic process

When I founded La Performance in September 2007 to dance on stage this was the start of elevating virtual dance step by step … and its not finished yet:) – living in a dynamic open process each dance is a new challenge … and its a good feeling to work together with my wonderful friends elevating all the time:

the technic to dance, human skills, tools –


and there we see at once our limits in virtual worlds:

We depend on the possibilities that are offered by the grid … it is in a dynamic process and with each release surroundings alter.

We depend on the skills of our artists/dancers that we try to elevate all the time – experienced dancers are now more than two years active on stage, new dancers are learning the ‘basics’ in lessons we give … to get the possibility to jump in.

We depend on the tools provided by the grid – or created and provided by residents of the world, and tools we create ourselves if needed.

All around is moving and creating – and altering all the time – its a good feeling to ‘swim’ mid in this surroundings and be part of it.

Identity of ‘virtual dance’

In this view virtual dance can hardly be compared with dance in real world. Virtual dance in this context isnt a copy or imitation of dancing in real – it has become its own identity.

Let us look at this in detail:

Basis of all dancing is music. Dance is interpretation of music, transports mood and emotion of music by movings.

How can this be in virtual surroundings? How can this be in Second Life?

Animated avatar

When you create an account you will choose your avatar and you are ‘born’. You (your av) will be moved (animated) by scripted animation-tools – anims. When you come in you get basis animations from the grid automatically. These enable you to stand, to walk, to sit, to fly … – Animators are creating more elevated anims and provide them. You can get them in sets collected in a HUD you wear, or single items you can give into your HUD yourself … so you can select and choose character and kind of moving you like best. These anims ‘override’ the given basis animations of the grid.

Animators create anims of all kinds of movings … of course dance anims too.

Dance anims

Let us look at these a bit now: usually dance-anims consist of several sequences and last about 20 – 30 sec. They are looped – they restart automatically again and again until stopped. These anims try to reproduce dances of all kinds as we dance them in real life: waltz, chacha, beebob, jazz, salsa, tango … all you can imagine – and phantasy, classical sequences too: I saw a solo out of swan lake by Tchaikovsky.
Animators are elevating too different systems to create anims. You can find thousands of different anims – of course in different quality – all over the ‘world’.

You need only to ‘sit’ on a dance-ball (scripted with anim in content) – and you will be animated and move in rhytm of a dance. You find similar and more elevated systems in all clubs and homes too. You ‘take’ a dance – and you move. Music is streamed onto the land you are – radio or live by a DJ – and you move animated – if you are lucky your anim has a similar rhytm as the music played. In this way music is underlayed to the anim – and it looks nice.

This all has nothing to do with dancing as we understand it: interpreting music, move with feeling, transport mood of music.

Even if it is possible to create special anims and do choreo with them – so you can create longer rows of sequences – up to several minutes – the ‘dancer’ will be forced to ‘play’ passive given animations.


To come out of this I found how to dance in ‘free sync’.

To understand how this will work I need to explain in more detail how the grid is working with animations.

Anims of grid

On your keyboard you have the keys ‘up’ and ‘down’, you move forward and backward with. Take a ‘walk’ animation and give it into your HUD and wear it. When you activate it .. you will be animated and move your legs as if you were walking. But .. you do it on place. – Your ‘walk’ makes your legs moving … but it doesnt bring you forward or backward, you ‘walk’ on place. If you press now your ‘up’ key – you will move forward, ‘down’ backward. And then it looks correct.

That means, that from the grid is provided: in moment you press ‘up’ you get the forward-‘gliding’ + the linked ‘walk-anim’. You can override this basic walk-anim with other animations.


Take a pose. A ‘pose’ is a fix position of your av. Poses are used for models in photography. There are hundreds different of course. They mustnt move. They are fix.

If you are in such a pose and you hit ‘up’ – you will glide around – in this pose. Will look a bit weird – but it shows what I try to explain:


It is possible to MIX animations.

It is possible to use two different animations the same time.

You can choose a looped dance-animation as ‘basis’ and move in it …
and you can mix to this moving live: the ‘glide’ and ‘turn’-animations of the grid.

When I came to this for me the world of ‘virtual dance’ was born.

First dance

You should have seen me when I tried the first time:) I choose a rhytmic song – it was ‘Such A Night’ by Elvis – looked for a fitting animation as basis anim … and then – that was it. I danced around like insane:) I really could feel it, the music, the moving, all .. I really DANCED!! – it was great!

It IS great! And we all like to do it, it is a wonderful experience – but it is much work too, to learn it and to rehearse the dances.
We need two to three months of rehearsals to get a show and I need more time to elevate it.


If you want to elevate a dance you must have a certain knowledge of the world (Second Life) – you must be used to handle it – so i think you need a presence of about 6 months to be able to join classes for basics. Of course it depends of the frequence you are in too – but about 6 months would be fine.

Cam – basis skills of grid

You will need skills to use your cam – because you will depend on your sight of the dance floor and you must be able to see what other dancers are doing – to orientate live on your surroundings and adjust your movings.


I elevated a special dance floor for orientation on stage. It looks very simple, there are stripes on it.

Measurements have been found according to following parameters:

possible number of dancers on stage, height of an avatar .. measurement of one pace, needed distance between two dancers, extent of possible movings, fat and slim stripes for better orientation.

First orientation on stage

Next step was to name the four sides of the stage, and horitonzal and vertical stripes – so it is possible to define a certain point the same as a direction on stage – independent of the actual standingpoint of a dancer.


As i tried to explain above we use a mix of two anims the same time to move. Basis move is a given dance animation that we combine with forward/backward and turns left/right.

So we need to go exact (distance) and turn exact (angel) on one side – and to understand how the basis dance-anim is moving our avatar to mix live our goes and turns into it, without destroying the elegant picture of moving we want to show – we need to know when it is possible to go and turn – on the other side.

Dance in group

eg. in show-dance: given three dancers in line – if they want to dance together the same movings they will have to sync the timing of their moves on sight.

More difficult will be, if each dancer has to do her/his own movings and all should fit together – so knowledge of all movings is needed to be able to do it correct and different movings are harmonised.

Experience and skills are needed to do this. As we are elevating skills and system all the time I needed to offer classes for basics to give new dancers the chance to jump in.

Classes for basics

Last classes (before we started rehearsals for show ‘BACK TO BLACK’ in Jan 2010) I did for 5 weeks each Wednesday for about 2 hours.
In this time we learned how to go straight, to turn, basis knowledge of handling of anims, orientation of stage, first simple steps according to choreo, technic of cam, first feeling how to move in group … according to music.

Rehearsal of dances

To learn dances for a show we rehearse with experienced dancers about 10 weeks two or three days a week. Date of premiere is fixed, but depends of rehearsals too and can be altered – that we had to do last show – we pushed date of premiere 14 days. This mustnt have to do with skills of dancers, are skills of production leader too:) – but dances are different, some turn out to be very difficult during rehearsals and it needs often hard work to get them.

Training for experienced dancers

So rehearsals of dances for show can be seen as classes to elevate skills too – and I try to do this.

We use the ‘tools’ to learn. Choreo is only tool to transport in short what to do. Dance-floor with stripes is tool to learn the moves of a dance. Of course we have stripes then in performances on stage too .. not so good to be seen of course .. but there are dances without too.

Experienced dancers dont need stripes on stage to do right.


Experienced dancers have skills to dance, you may tell it – the ‘technic’ to dance.
But this is only one part of it.

In dancing we try to interpret music.

So we need to ‘know’ music. Have a feeling for it. Rhytm, melody, mood.

Choreo is done according to music. A dancer should understand how the choreo tries to interpret music – why we move this or that way, why we use this or that anim … then she/he will know HOW to do.

It is possible to give much feeling into this … and audiance can feel this too … its possible to transport mood of music and get audiance with it. – We have done. It works.

Concept of dance

First is music. – Then the idea – the concept of dance. What picture do we see when we hear this song? What picture can we draw on stage to be seen by audiance? What colors?
What kind of mood? How to move? What costumes could underline this mood, fit to kind of moving? – how could look the stage? – how many dancers? – difficulties? – dark, light?
—- endless questions.

Each song is unique. Some fit better to a show, have good rhytm to dance, cool melodies. Others look first not really brillant .. are more baladesque .. but by the time you feel the quality …

so you will come from show-dance to expressive dance … but this is elevating

In start you look for songs that are ‘easy’ to be danced – good for new dancers who learn and are first time on stage.

When i have a feeling of a concept of a dance … i go looking for dance-anims that could fit in.

Analyse of dance-anim

There are so many dance-anims ‘all over the world’ – fewer really good ones – and fewer that really fit to a special dance.

Of course you must analyse in detail each anim you want to use, define the sequences in it and see its character of moving. You will have to define the parts you can move in, and HOW you can move in, and the timing within this special dance-animation.

Again music

The same music will have to be analysed. Find or define sequences, changes of rhytm, parts of melodies, refrains .. and so on.
I map each song like that and get a timetable with sec.
That way music is cut.
Each song shows then a certain number of cuts. 6, 8, 14 or more.

Harmonise music and dance-anims

With a good feeling for music and moving you will find out which dance-anim will fit best to each cut of your song.

‘cut’ of music has nothing to do with ‘loop’ of anim.

A looped anim (several connected sequences to a set of 20 to 30 sec.) will restart again and again. Only the ‘loop’ is unique.

When dance-anims are now ‘cut’ according to music, so does this mean that loops of dance-anims are ‘cut’. Maybe the cut is shorter or longer than the loop.


When music is mapped, dance anims are cut – you can start to find out if it is possible to realise your idea – your concept of a dance. I myself often have to change the concept to adapt it to the technical possibilities.

Choreo consists of:

- timing of music – cuts – dance-anims – marks of dance-floor – remarks – advice for changing sets of stage, if needed

further possibilies are:

- one homogen group of dancers – several groups of homogen dancers – individual dancers
or a changing mix of all

More elevated dances can show a mix of different mappings of music. All this is elevating and changing.

So ‘Virtual dance’ can be understood as a wonderful challenge to mix given tools with human skills and improvisation – to interpret music –
it is flowing in the stream of development of electronic technics – surrounded by always changing environments – elevating itself all the time to create positive moments for all – us active dancers – and all who like to see – in this case: performances of modern ballet by La Performance dancing troup.

break a leg:)


May 2010
Second Life

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