Olmannen Premiere Performance

by Pixeleen Mistral on 07/02/07 at 10:46 am

Second Life Ballet fills the sim – Linden suggests selling tickets

by Pixeleen Mistral, Cultural Affairs desk

Ballet_act_2Sunday, the Second Life Ballet company’s world premiere of “Olmannen” – an original ballet staged for metaverse production in Quat sim surprised me on several levels. I’ve enjoyed watching dance theatre in real life, and I was concerned about how this would translate into a virtual world. By the end of the first act, I realized that the same emotional response that real life dance can evoke is possible in the virtual realm. It was really cool and I suggest attending if you can get a seat – but show up early because the sim is going to fill. Performances continue Sundays and Wednesdays at 4 PM SL time for the rest of February.

How much I liked the performance is even more surprising given the difficulties the choreographer, performers, and the rest of the troupe have labored under over the last 4 months putting the production together. Most would agree that the Second Life has been a bit strained and unstable of late – adding challenges that go beyond typical artistic issues. The metaverse did enable choreographer Inarra Saarinen to pull together a troupe that spans the globe with members from London, east and west coast USA, Hawaii, and Australia. But – this also means their performances have to be during peak usage times for SL – so they are pushing what SL is capable of right up to the limit.

We got a flavor of the limit pushing during the premier performance. Most people arrived very early – before the sim filled. Pathfinder Linden also was in attendance, and after sitting on top of me once, he did finally manage to sit next to me. The prim curtain was raised, and I had a great time panning my virtual camera across the performers – it was more rewarding to actively move my viewpoint rather than sit in mouselook – and because of this I doubt that machinima can capture the essence of the performance.

Act I

Toward the end of act I, one of the dancers morphs into an old woman avatar in what I found to be an arresting artistic statement – then the dancers flew off the stage and the prim curtain fell. However – the sim is full – and the performers cannot get back in – so act II was somewhat delayed until a Linden raised the limit on the sim to allow for 40 avatars.

Acts II and III were also quite good, and I gradually got used to the faint red ban lines that protect the stage area from potentially unruly audience members. I can understand why this step was taken – but it is a shame that there isn’t a less visually obtrusive way of keeping the audience in its place. This is not a reflection on the dancers – but rather on the Linden’s technology and mind set. This came out during the Q&A session after the performance.

Pixeleen Mistral: what was the hardest thing to do in putting the production together?
Alazarin Mondrian: if anyone would like to donate a lag-free sim for our further performances and productions, we’d really appreciate it
Inarra Saarinen: dealing with 6 weeks of gestures and my account being broken
Cyanide Seelowe: i think everyone’s got a different opinion for that question :]
Alina Mikadze: getting everyone together at the same time, Pixel. lots of timezons here
Inarra Saarinen: that is also true

Q&A after the performance

When the overfilled sim issue came up in Q&A, Pathfinder’s suggestion was to sell tickets

Pathfinder Linden: I think having reservations would be a good idea to explore. selling tickets or “season passes” perhaps?
Alazarin Mondrian: and a pleasure to know that there’s such an interest in the arts in SL
Pixeleen Mistral: odd that Linden Labs does not sell tickets to second life itself…
Pathfinder Linden: selling tickets or passes in advance to a performance would also help you figure out how many people are interested and how many will definitely attend
Pathfinder Linden: yes, congratulations to everyone who organized and performed tonight. it was simply wonderful.

Perhaps the irony of suggesting that the ballet sell tickets to avoid problems with over-filled sims inside an overextended metaverse was lost on Pathfinder.
We can’t we sell tickets to SL – but you should sell them to the SL ballet?

Two hours later a giddy Pathfinder was still talking to people in Quat, and said, “tonight was one of those rare moments, when one sees creativity and exceptional planning and hard work intersect….to create an event where every member of the audience walks off and thinks ‘wow, that was something amazing’”.

The best summary is what Christy Cosmos – an RL dancer from the Netherlands said, “I think this is certainly the ultimate test of expressing yourself artistically here and trying to stay true to the rudimentaries of ballet at the same time. i was very impressed and cant wait to see what Inaara comes up with in the future”.

backstage before the show

presents the premiere of

an original ballet

Story & Choreography by Inarra Saarinen

Music by Alazarin Mondrian

Animations by Chadwick Luxemburg &
Inarra Saarinen

Sets and Lighting by Alazarin Mondrian &
Inarra Saarinen

Seraphette …………………………. Amber Shablin
Namon …………………………………. Alina Mikadze
Devangs ………………………………. Chryssie Bunnyhug,
& Tarts & Forest Sprites Amelie Dibou
Understudies……………………….. Ssaspriina Sismondi,
Anoron Hanson

Director Inarra Saarinen

“Olmannen” is the story of a couple in love, how evil in many forms can divide, and how true love can overcome. It 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?

Special thanks to our sponsors:

– Jeret Cord, Studio J
- Espresso Saarinen, Second Life Ballet sponsor
- Jaggpro McCannn, Second Life Ballet sponsor
- Veronica Duvall for theatre design and build
- Gog’s Media Hosting Service for the audio stream
- Bebop Vox for videography
- Cyanide Seelowe for logo design and stage management assistance

Thanks to our supporters:

– Andromeda Raine for costume assistance
- Malluch Cleaver for avatar assistance
- Keiki Lemieux for HUDDLES assistance
- Luna Benavente for lighting assistance

* For more information on Second Life Ballet, see the SL group ‘Second Life Ballet’.

* For more information on becoming a sponsor of Second Life Ballet, IM Veronica Duvall.

18 Responses to “Olmannen Premiere Performance”

  1. Urizenus

    Feb 7th, 2007

    Great story. Did anyone Frap the event?

  2. Prokofy Neva

    Feb 7th, 2007

    This sounds cool. I wonder if grouping the land would be a solution, so that only group members who were invited, or even did pay the tickets as a group admission fee, gained entrance to the sim.

    I look forward to going to see this. My problem with it, is that it isn’t about dance. It’s about puppetry. An avatar that sits itself on a pose ball that is predicated to automatically go through a series of poses is not dancing; they are doing puppetry. There’s nothing wrong with that; it is valid as art, too; but it is not human dance. In fact, is the art only in the person who assembles the pose balls that any clumsy oaf can put themselves on? These things about the metaverse trouble me deeply.

  3. Simstick Boram

    Feb 7th, 2007

    It’s about work unlike SL journalists who spend more time spouting than working.
    “My problem with it, is that it isn’t about dance.” and and ….
    Never disagreed with anything you said before Profky but that one troubles ME.

    I just saw it and it was pretty good. It has been many years since I saw a ballet or puppet show and listened to some good classical music in that setting and I think this is one of the things Second Life may be about.

  4. Prokofy Neva

    Feb 7th, 2007

    Where is the art in clicking and sitting on a pose ball? Sure, perhaps if there are 100 poseballs to sequence, but like the Bells & Spurs machinima, where people clicked on poses that took them through long sequences of animations, I’m not sure that this sort of forced animation is art for the avatar/dancer, although it might be art for the animator, as I said.

  5. Prokofy Neva

    Feb 7th, 2007

    What is art that is a machine, and is not about the human will?

  6. Ouchquack

    Feb 7th, 2007

    So by most accounts it was cool, and pretty, and particularly difficult for someone involved to orchestrate. And it involved some kind of authoring, and practice to execute. If the problem Prok has is that it is not ‘ballet’… and I was waiting for someone to say ‘puppets have strings or sticks!’ …. we could just overcome this matter of semantics by just calling it something new.

    I think we can all agree that, while based on other artistic traditions, this is something approaching what one could nearly safely call ‘new’ without having Prok go nuts.

    How about if we just call this newish art form some word that Prok makes up (as no other made up word would do) and agree to just enjoy it, or ignore it altogether and just get on with our lives. Both of them.

  7. Prokofy Neva

    Feb 8th, 2007

    Um, I think when you leave behind little things established over the millenia like “human will” and “human aspiration” and “human ability and talent” and substitute it for mechanized pose balls, well, it’s ok to have something to say about it. There isn’t a new word for this thing. The old words “machine” or “puppet” will do quite nicely. No need to overdress it just because it’s in cyberspace.

  8. Cocoanut Koala

    Feb 8th, 2007

    Well, the same thing was true in TSO when you had to use the animations you were given.

    Think of it this way: Imagine that the human bodies were stuck in a wheelchair, like Christopher Reeve, yet wanted to dance.

    Through machines, and programming them, the individuals in the wheelchairs were able toperform (even while in their wheelchairs) an expressive piece.

    I think what you are saying is that the choreography is there, and the art of that is intact, but the physicality of it (the human that wills the body to move) is missing.

    Yes it is missing. But that is because the neuronal connections between the mind and the body are damaged.

    So machines (poseballs, etc.) take the place of the connection between mind and body, and move the body as the mind WOULD move it if it could.

    To take this a step further, imagine that the dancer didn’t even go so far as to click the poseballs, but was more or less a passive object.

    There is still the fact that because the machines are moving the body, the mind is affected. Does the mind not still experience dance when the body is caused to? And thus, does the mind not dance?

    When the dancer chooses to participate in such a scenario (and in our case, also actually clicks on the poseballs), does the dancer not dance, and by free will, of the human spirit?

    I would posit that wherever there is mind that moves the machine, and spirit that participates in it, there is art, and there is dance.


  9. urizenus

    Feb 8th, 2007

    Remember that line in The Turning Point, from the young gun choreographer? “Dance is points in space in motion” or something like that. Well if that’s true, clicking a pose ball should be as good as dance driven by muscles and tendons. More plausibly so for the audience, obviously.

  10. Deeeep Witte

    Feb 8th, 2007

    Pixeleen, did you totally lose the discussion? Me and Pathfinder suggested selling tickets or a reservation system to avoid over extending the sim and having the proceedings become more organised. It is a common practice in SL for press conferences and product introductions to limit the attendants for every session.

    We also mentioned that the tickets could be free, but would at least lead to reservation of your place. So unlike you and me, you do not need to camp yourself at the sim one hour in advance ;-)

  11. Deeeep Witte

    Feb 8th, 2007

    Prokofy, sorry that the impression of a continuous animation comes to mind, but the fact is that the animations are all individually acted on and the performers do not just sit back an relax, they actually trigger each move and react on eachothers movements. So this is not a mere automated puppetry, but more a complex shadow-play with multiple puppets interacting with eachother…. That is what makes this performance so commendable!

    Again, hats off to Inarra and her troupe.

  12. MenuBar Memorial

    Feb 9th, 2007

    Some names submitted for (Prok’s) approval…

    Lindenterpretive Dance
    Deus X-SL

    or – my favorite choice…


    Hope you guys choose one of these before the next menubariamemoralia performance, I can’t wait to attend! Looks like a great evening’s entertainment!

    On a serious note – count me as a vote for paid tickets. The cost should be enough to make the work worthwhile for all the performers and crew. I don’t think anybody but the biggest tightwad would balk at paying a good price for a quality show.

  13. Urizenus

    Feb 9th, 2007

    I’m going with Lindenterpretive Payperprance Ballechinima.
    Now *that’s* FICtertainment!

  14. Espresso Saarinen

    Feb 10th, 2007

    [ disclosure: i am the director/choreographer's partner and did some tech work for the ballet ]

    prok, you may want to actually see the performance and join the post-performance q&a before pontificating too much on how you imagine it must be done. some information can be found at http://www.slballet.org/MakingOfOlmannen.html

    it turns out to be a very precarious balance between anims, gestures, choreography, and the limits of sl. sl artifacts (lag, rendering, music dropout, and 42 others) mean that the dancers’ personal sense of timing and coordination varies *widely* to the extent that even a ballet novice can see how much two performances differ.

    i believe that a single dancer-invoked gesture is one ballet move, i.e. a leap and turn, etc. this definitely is not highly scripted, dance balls, … but best to come to a post-performance q&a and ask someone more versed in the details than i.

    it was a personal choice of the director to do this in a normal mainland sim. pixeleen once made the analogy of private islands as flight from the cities. this kind of work should be able to be done on the mainland, and some credit goes to the ballet and to sl that it can be done with a minimum of tricks (the stage is parcelled separately to keep the naive from wandering onto it during a performance), private sims, newer servers, …

    it is likely that the ballet will tour next month. if so, the differences between sl environments will be interesting.

  15. Prokofy Neva

    Feb 11th, 2007

    Coco, your concept of Second Life as the life only of disabled people is really empty as a prospect, I hope you realize. It’s good for those disabled; but it says something profound about Second Life, that it is not for everybody, and only for a minotiry.

    It says that Second Life is most meaningful for those who are actually handicapped in real life, elevating its highest meaning as not a Better World for everyone, but merely making software that upgrades those who are disabled to more equality. That’s laudible. That in itself might be a worthy goal. But it says something profound about the world if the *best* you can say about it, in argumentation against those who says it’s all commercialized extreme sex play, that “it helps disabled people”.

    You then move to a related, and also empty premise which says, “We are all disabled because we are not talented and excellent; Second Life can also help us all overcome our disabilities of lack of talent.” In this related premise, disability-as-raison d’etre is also suspect. It says any of us can become ballet stars merely by accepting that we are gimps, and the clicking on pose balls. Those pose balls will work exactly the same way where Prokofy Neva clicks on them or Mikhail Baryshnikov, frankly, despite what marginal affects are created by faster clicking or lag. And that’s what I’m saying is stupid. It’s not art. It’s puppetry. The artistry belongs to the pose-maker. Those who click on the poses are not artists; they are obedient puppets. That really destroys an element of human art, in the name of “participation” and “virtuality” where ever dumb clumsy oaf can click on a pose and feel like he’s Baryshnikov — and even get defensive on a blog and say he IS Baryshnikov, dammit.

    I submit to you: this is the spirit of Web 2.0 and Web 3.0: where every dumbass oaf who can’t put two legs together in first life is now able to click on a pose ball and not only FEEL like Baryshnikov and LOOK like Baryshnikov, but angrily denounce you on forums if you can’t BELIEVE he is Baryshnikov.

    But that does NOT make him Baryshnikov, I tell you!

    Espress, I can fight the lag and crowds and go and see it. But trust me, it will not change what I’m saying here at root. I’ve seen some things similar to this in SL at what you might find as more primitive, but which work on the same principle, like country-and-western line dancing.

    >it turns out to be a very precarious balance between anims, gestures, choreography, and the limits of sl. sl artifacts (lag, rendering, music dropout, and 42 others) mean that the dancers’ personal sense of timing and coordination varies *widely* to the extent that even a ballet novice can see how much two performances differ.

    Espress, yes *GASP* we know about that. And how do we know? Because long before you were born, Cocoanut and I and others were in The Sims Online, which has many more smoother, coordinated animations already built into it as stock animations that you don’t have to make or buy to use. So people developed very elaborate things with these animations. In TSO, we could see how everyone had exactly the same building tools and exactly the same textures (unlike Second Life) and everyone had exactly the same animations (unlike Second Life), and some were able to wrangle them in more talented ways than others, and for some untalented, they could enhance their abilities with these tools, but at the end of the day, the machine was the art, not the people, and they were rendered gimps by mediating reality through the great Gimp of The Sims on Line or now, as we see, by Second Life. It’s not a premise to base art of a world upon; it’s a premise to explain how dysfunctional modern life makes more dysfunctional and expensive accessories for its dysfunctionality.

    No, regardless of hand-eye-coordination, at the end of the day, the poses do the work of moving avatars around. The avatars’ humans may have good eye and hand coordination in playing a game. That doesn’t make them Baryshnikov. Let’s be clear about that.

    And worse, you could have someone who is the Baryshnikov of the mouse, able to hand-eye-coordinate like a star, but lag or a cranky graphics card would defeat him, giving new meaning to the Russian proverb: плохому танцеру яйца мещают

  16. Alina Mikadze

    Feb 11th, 2007

    As one of the dancers in this performance I’m a tad biased, but there is a tremendous amount of manual coordination between the people involved in each performance. I can only wish for the day that I can just hop on a poseball and let it dance my part for me!

    But that’s mechanical, and not what we’re trying to accomplish. While the story and individual dance animations remain the same, each performance varies widely due to errors, communication, confusion, etc, just like any theatre performance in real life.

    I’m not trying to be Baryshnikov (or Pavlova I guess), and I don’t think any of our other dancers are either. But we’re not automatons either, and I think there’s a place in SL for what we do.

  17. laila schuman

    Feb 11th, 2007

    Something that has been overlooked in the discussion about dance is what the stage itself looks like at any given time. There is more to ballet than just the dancer. The way the dancers themselves are arranged on the stage at any given moment, set and costumes, appropriateness of any of these things to the moment or the overall “meaning”, the way the music expresses the “meaning” and on and on and on…
    If you are into art you know compositional aspects of a given medium are complicated. We need to look at the ballet as a whole, not just pick out one item (dancers and how they move…although that is obviously very important), there is a LOT more to discuss.

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