I came across an interesting article on Virtual Outworlding – Bringing People into Virtual Worlds–We Are Doing It Backwards. The article is meant to be commentary on the seeming failure of virtual worlds (like Second Life) to bring in new people and keep them coming back. It’s the second part that seems to get missed. So, I began to wonder – what do newcomers to the dance community experience? And how could it be better? What could I do to help build the dance community?
Dance in SL has changed a lot from when I first came into SL. Back then (in the good ‘ol days, right?), there were tons of places to go dancing or to watch dancers perform (besides sex/strip clubs). It seemed like there was a new dance venue opening every week. Not these days.
Why? Lots of reasons, I am sure. Dancing is not an inexpensive proposition in SL. If you want to perform, there are lots of things you need to know and lots of things you need to buy. When I first joined a dance troupe, I showed up, perhaps bought an outfit or two, sat on a marker, and let the choreographer do all the work. And I had fun. But soon, I wanted do more. I wanted to choreograph my own routines. So, I bought a dance HUD. A cheap one. And I bought dance animations – transfer ones, because those were cheaper.
I began to choreograph. Badly, at first. So I looked around and found people who were offering classes on dancing using a HUD. I learned the difference between freestyle and sequenced dancing. I learned about transitions between animations (and how to do them well). I bought a different HUD – a more expensive one that would let me sequence my routines. I bought more dance animations – this time the more expensive copyable versions.
I loved performing. Still do. But then, I needed to start learning how to build sets. Sounds easy, right? Just throw a few props on stage, or a cool backdrop, and off you went. I started looking around for other places to dance – places where I would have more creative freedom in my routines. Back then, dancers generally performed at only one venue. Nowadays, you’ll see the same performer at 5 or 6 different venues.
I found another troupe. I learned more. I learned more about building. I learned about set rezzers. I discovered newer, better dance HUDs. I learned about lighting. I learned about particles and other effects. That troupe disbanded; I found another. I began going to different shows around the grid, meeting people, joining groups, and trying to soak in everything I could about how to be a better dancer. Along the way, I invested more and more Lindens into dance animations, better HUDs, the newest tools.
But if I came into SL right now and wanted to explore the dance scene? Wanted to become a performer? I think I would be overwhelmed. Unless you are independently wealthy (a possibility that gets more and more remote by the day where I live), becoming a performer (or opening a new dance venue) and being successful seems nigh impossible.
So what is available in the dance community to help new dancers enter the world of dance in SL – and stay? There are tons of nice people who are willing to help. Lots of them, however, are so busy with their own projects that their time is limited. There are hundreds of places in SL to take classes to learn various skills. However, many times the class times are inconvenient and/or not that helpful specifically to dance.
So, would-be dancers, what do you want to see in SL to help you become a (better) performer? Venue owners – what would you like new (or experienced) dancers to know/be able to do? Audience members – what would you like to see when you go to a performance?
I’ll be publishing additional posts about these questions, but I would love input from everyone involved in dance in SL, including dancers, choreographers, venue owners, animation makers, HUD makers, and audience members. Bend my ear, tell me your story, put in your two cents, share your opinions! Find me here, on Twitter, on Google+, or in-world.