Essential Skills for Dancers in Second Life

Edit: I’m separating out some of these items as they are not so much ‘skills’ but ‘recommendations’. While no less valid, the two just aren’t the same.

One of the first questions that people ask when they consider that they want to be a Dancer/Choreographer in SL is “what do I have to know”? OK, honestly, the first question is usually “How much money will I make?” and that one is easy to answer! But the first real question involves what skills a person will need. Historically, in an effort to make the dance world appealing and welcoming to new people, we have minimized the skills that it takes to actually “do what we do”. The common response is “Oh! We’ll teach you what you need!”  But I have to wonder if we are doing the best service to people when we say this. I personally see a lot of people come into classes under prepared with basic SecondLife skills and it results in a lot of frustrated students. This doesn’t help anyone. So I’d like to look at some of the absolute basic skills needed to enter into this hobby successfully. 

Support Dancers:  This is NOT a ‘lesser’ position in the dance community. As a support dancer, you have the ability to make or break a dance set despite best efforts by the choreographer/designer. So knowing your basic skills is important to you and to the choreographer you dance for. 

Wardrobe Management:
Know how to: 
copy items within your inventory. 
  create folders for costume parts. 
Know the difference between Wear, Add and Replace
Use appliers and save body copies with layers applied
Use your mesh body brand alpha layers and alpha save objects
Remove/disable scripts in clothes and body parts
Modify, save and CREATE shapes to use in specific costumes
Use the EDIT screen to modify costume parts to fit correctly
Use the edit screen to modify body parts
SAVE an outfit FILE to easily and quickly change clothes AND body
Create, Save and Send notecards including saving objects and LMs that might be included in the notecard.
Viewer Management
Know how to:
Use the Avatar menu to refresh avatar appearance and attatchments, stop animations and remove yourself from animation HUDs. 
Set your Hover Height to zero unless specifically directed to do otherwise by the choreographer
Use Transparency veiw (Ctrl+T) to check for mover height and hidden prims and parts before a show
Create landmarks to arrive at exactly where you need to be to stand on your mover
Derender people, objects and world types 
Use your Quick Preferences settings to minimize your own viewer lag
Use your Online Communication settings to minimize distractions
Use your movement and view settings
Use your cam controls to set your point of view where it needs to be at any time. *Learning to use your mouse and keyboard shortcuts for this is beneficial!
Use the Local chat, private group and private IM windows including separating the windows to keep important conversations visible
Use your voice and sound settings and how to turn voice OFF when it’s not appropriate
Have a working knowledge of what lag is and how to minimize it for yourself and your impact on simulator lag. 

Choreographers:  You have the added responsibility of knowing how to use complex tools and applications as well as using people’s avatars in a public venue. How you represent those people in a set may determine if you have people who are willing to work with you in the future. 

know how to use ALL of the menus/tabs in the EDIT screen. 
Move, Resize and position prims and objects
How to work with coalesced and linked object groups
How to color and texture objects
How to add, remove and modify contents including scripts
How to pack (add) and unpack (remove) objects and scripts from other objects
How to copy, paste, drag and share scripts and objects
Know the difference – by icon – between animation, object, coalesced objects and scripts in inventory.
While you may not need to write scripts from scratch (though this is helpful) you should know how to work with scripts
Know what a channel assignment and channel command look like and how to change them when the script permits
Know how to use Notecards in HUDS and tools that allow nc’s to control script functions. 
Know where to find and how to use basic scripts for texture scrolling and object rotation. 
Have a working knowledge of what coordinates are and how the mover systems use them. 
Have a working knowledge of animation priorities and how they affect the way animations interact.

I realize this list looks long and daunting and intimidating to those new to SL but first of all, it’s not expected that you be an expert at everything. Many tasks are things you can ask friends to help with. But in reality, everything on that list are BASIC skills in Second Life building and functioning. If you don’t have these skills today, find the resources to learn them. Classes at places like Builder’s Brewery. Find a mentor to help you learn. Videos on YouTube are helpful.
One of the most inspiring parts of dance creation in SL is learning so much about the systems that allow you to express your creativity. ALL of your creativity!


This is another of the Core Tools found in the new and UPDATED MetaHarper Show Tools System.
I’m giving this video it’s own page so it doesn’t get lost in the tools that are more directed at the stage set itself. This little guy deserves a page of it’s own! I’m also including the direct link to the MetaHarper instruction page for the Choreo HUD – Dancer/Director Edition. Not only is that HUD also a truly valuable tool, but the instructions are the same and well written.
I have found this HUD to be a real benefit in building my animation sequences. I love that I can make alterations in the timeline on the fly without fiddling with Notecards or reloading the HUD constantly. It may not be the only HUD I use, but it’s become a very valued tool in my arsenal. I hope you all find it helpful as well!

MetaHarper Show Tools UPDATED!

The Videos are starting to roll in as the new and updated MetaHarper Show Tools system rolls out! And the updates and wonderful. The system continues to impress me with the ease and intuitiveness of it’s use, the streamlining of commands and actions, the robust abilities while remaining very low lag. Overall, it’s a great addition to any performers repertoire of tools and toys to make Second Life magic happen.

The first set of videos will address the Basic Tools in the system. Future tutorials will include the Optional Components; The Camera Tools, The Costume HUD, The Special Effects scripts and tools. This one purchase of tools includes SO MUCH to use to create wonderful performances to exercise your deepest creativity!

There will be separate Tutorials and Blog posts about the Choreo HUD (Dancer and a future version – be excited! trust me!) and about the more advanced features and so many fun tips and tricks. BTW… have you SEEN the Animesh Understudy: AKA Cache Bot?

The Core Tools

“newAct” AKA the MST Performance Engine –  This is the brains of a performance. When rezzed on the ground, it looks like a simple triangular prim and contains most of the information about a particular act or stage set. It can include information about which props to rez, which scripted camera settings to use, and which choreographed sequences can be run. It is meant to be renamed something specific to one of your acts.

MST Venue Centerpoint – This is a single prim you rez on the ground to define the general location of your performance area. Typically you rez this in the middle of your stage floor or stage template before using any of the other MST tools. You should rename this with the name of your stage. If you are planning on creating an act for someone else’s theater, you should rename it to match the name they have chosen for their theater’s centerpoint.

MST_mover – This is a square sheet you can rez on the ground. You can have avatars sit on this to ride it in a smooth timed movement path, or link it with objects you wish to move. You should rename this to match the role of the avatar or object you intend to use it to move.

MST Choreo HUD Solo – This is a wearable HUD. You can place it on the ground, copy in your animations, and then pick it up and wear it to arrange the animations into a nice timed sequence to support your acts.

~MST rezTracker – This script can be placed in your stage props to allow them to be rezzed and derezzed quickly.

MetaHarper Show Tools and July Classes!

I’m so excited! I finally have my hands on the NEW Beta version of the MetaHarper Show Tools and you guys are gonna LOVE the updates! I’m in the process of filming the VIDEO SERIES which will serve as a tutorial on all the basic and then advanced functions. What is taking so long? I film a function the way I’m accustomed to doing it, and then realize that Arrehn created an even easier way to do it! so back to the camera I go. But fear not, the start of the series is just around the corner.

Be sure you are SUBSCRIBED to the YouTube Channel with Notifications (that’s the Bell) turned on so you don’t miss anything!

I’ll be teaching the MetaHarper (MST) Show Tools in the Summer session of Let’s Dance ! Classes at Dance Queens. Here’s the schedule! Don’t have the MST tools? Don’t Despair. Not only are they incredibly affordable ( $500L for the ENTIRE suite of tools!) but if you are currently a member of a dance troupe that is part of the MST network, you may have access to the Tools Suite for free! Ask your troupe leader if they have a distribution HUB to give you the Tools.
A Maybe note: There “may” be a limited version of the tools available at the classes to learn on while at the DQ classroom. Still an idea….

Keep your eyes and ears out for the July Dance Queens Raffle ! It might help with the class.. just sayin….. 😉

These MST based classes will be an INTRODUCTION to the main parts of this all inclusive system of performance tools. No prior knowlege of Performance Dance or Choreo Tools is required but if you are brand new, please plan some extra time. I always stay for an hour after class to offer individual assistance.
Tuesday July 9, 4pm to 5pm SLT – Intro to the System and Using the Performance Engine to do ALL the STUFF!

Tuesday July 16, 4pm to 5pm SLT – The Dance/Sequence Hud is a one person HUD designed to help you to VERY EASILY build your dance animation sequence. This HUD also serves as a tool to access the other parts of the MST system.

Tuesday July 23, 4pm to 5pm SLT – Setting Up Your Home Practice/Build Area, Making a Venue location template, and Loading the Rezzer

Tuesday July 30, 4pm to 5pm SLT – Using the Movers to create dance Formations and move around the stage area

Rules of the Jungle

I choose not to do ‘exotic’ or ‘burlesque’ style dance in SL but the rules really are not too different, just more needed for girls who do. Link to the longer article is attached. Bottom line: you are walking stilettos high into the jungle, know how to deal with tigers or get eaten.


There is no way to sugar coat this. You are walking into an environment where all eyes are on you. Some eyes will be lurking in the shadows and others will be breathing down your neck, staring right into your soul. 

Make your way quietly to the main stage and, within seconds, you’ll realize that the spotlight is really a microscope. You’re looked up and down to the point of examination, from the tip of your toes to the top of your crown; from every tiger stripe and tattoo; to the way your fishnets squeeze and cuff your backside. 

You are indeed on display for the jungle to see. 

In this environment, objectification is to be expected, especially when you’re on all fours twerking in a thong. You may find comfort in the dim red light, but know it doesn’t hide any blemish or imperfection. In reality, the spotlight is glaring and unforgiving. It doesn’t matter if you’re naked or topless, alongside the brass pole, you stand exposed in more ways than one. 

Can you mentally handle the microscope? 

The conversation about life in the jungle continues. The first installment of the 21 laws (The 21 Laws of Surviving a Gentlemen’s Club) dealt with the patron’s agenda. Now, Darius and a select group of smart and savvy dancers have collaborated to examine what it takes to be an exotic dancer. 

The 21 Laws of Being an Exotic Dancer is the sacred text that deals with the intricacies of a racy profession that is based on providing asexual fantasy while being entrenched in a carnal reality. Few jobs (especially legal ones) require you to balance, contrast and merge the following dichotomies: 

Business vs. Pleasure 

Predator vs. Prey 

Lies vs. Truth

Fantasy vs. Reality

The MetaHarper Choreo HUD v 4.0.20* PART 1

Elayn introduces the Updated MetaHarper Choreo Hud in this first part of her 2 part series. In this video, she explains how to purchase or update a current hud, how to transfer animations AUTOMATICALLY from any other HUD, How to Invite, Animate and enjoy the HUD with your friends!

MetaHarpers Choreo HUD (Dance Edition) Version 4.0.20
You can quickly explore your animations and create animation sequences. If you’ve used other freestyle dance HUDs in the past, we believe you’ll be blown away by its ease of use and unique fast performance, even in crowded and challenging scenarios where other tools fail.

  • Allows you to browse, search, cache, navigate, and play thousands of animations.
  • Invites up to 80 avatars in the same regions at once to animate with you.
  • Quickly creates sequences of animations that can be saved and played back later.

*Please note: In the time it took to publish the video, there was already an update to 4.0.20! No functional changes that you would notice and you will receive the most recent version when you update.

The MetaHarper Choreo HUD Part 2

Elayn introduces the Updated MetaHarper Choreo Hud in this second part of her 2 part series. In this video, she explains how to edit the Config Notecard, How to create Sequences right on the HUD, how to save sequences to the notecard, and how to use the TIMER to assist with choreography!

MetaHarpers Choreo HUD (Dance Edition) Version 4.0.20

The MetaHarper Choreo HUD is a product of MetaHarpers of Second Life created by Arrehn Oberlander.
You can quickly explore your animations and create animation sequences. If you’ve used other freestyle dance HUDs in the past, we believe you’ll be blown away by its ease of use and unique fast performance, even in crowded and challenging scenarios where other tools fail.
You can quickly explore your animations and create animation sequences. If you’ve used other freestyle dance HUDs in the past, we believe you’ll be blown away by its ease of use and unique fast performance, even in crowded and challenging scenarios where other tools fail. – Allows you to browse, search, cache, navigate, and play thousands of animations. – Invites up to 80 avatars in the same regions at once to animate with you. – Quickly creates sequences of animations that can be saved and played back later.

LiveStream Classes!

Hello Fellow Twinkle-Toes!
Well, the LiveStream classes are going GREAT so far -at least as far as my growing but novice skills at using the applications will allow it. 🙂 The comments from students about the format allowing them to actually see my screen during class have all been terrific. I’d like to expand a little and consider many topics that have been previously difficult due to the reliance of the edit, inventory and viewer windows. Considering, I’d like to make a couple of points and request some feedback!

  • During the LiveStream experience, you ‘may’ have both screens open at once but it is by not means required. Computer capabilities vary and so can this experience. If you wish to watch only in SL or YouTube that is FINE! Currently, I only follow chat in SL but as my skills increase, I will open up the Stream chat and follow it at the same time allowing you to fully participate as an observer in YT only.
    -Please choose to listen to either the SL voice OR the YT stream voice, but not both. Not only is it computer resource heavy but you will hear an echo. Choose which works best for you.
    -I am trying to come up with a seating arrangement that will allow those who do not wish to be seen on camera to remain out of camera range. However, I do show the local chat, so if you don’t wish your name to appear there, keep that in mind. I do turn off nametags (at least I try).
    -Consent to appear on video is required in SL by the TOS. (FYI to all of those who enjoy videotaping shows). So attendance at the class, which is announced as LiveStreamed, will be considered consent. I will always strive to comply with the wishes of those who prefer to remain off camera.
    -I will post the recordings of the LiveStream on my Blog Website and Channel as long as the recording quality is reasonable. There are never any guarantees. Please consider the recordings as a reminder while you practice what we did in class.
    -This medium allows some great opportunities for expanded classes! What would YOU like to see that has been difficult before? Building classes, Particle creation classes, Wardrobing tool classes, Inventory management classes, What ideas do YOU have?

Coming in July… MetaHarper Show Tool Classes! That’s right folks. Finally open classes in using the MetaHarper (MST) family of show/choreography tools. Watch the Calendar for dates and class descriptions! As always, at the DQ Classroom.

The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally

Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.

Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds…Taking things personally makes you easy prey for these predators, the black magicians. They can hook you easily with one little opinion and feed you whatever poison they want, and because you take it personally, you eat it up….

But if you do not take it personally, you are immune in the middle of hell. Immunity in the middle of hell is the gift of this agreement.

Even the opinions you have about yourself are not necessarily true; therefore you don’t need to take whatever you hear in your own mind personally…Don’t take anything personally because by taking things personally you set yourself up to suffer for nothing….When we really see other people as they are without taking it personally, we can never be hurt by what they say or do. Even if others lie to you, it is okay. They are lying to you because they are afraid.
There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally. You become immune to black magicians, and no spell can affect you regardless of how strong it may be. The whole world can gossip about you, and if you don’t take it personally you are immune. Someone can intentionally send emotional poison, and if you don’t take it personally, you will not eat it. When you don’t take the emotional poison, it becomes even worse in the sender, but not in you.
As you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won’t need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you. When you truly understand this, and refuse to take things personally, you can hardly be hurt by the careless comments or actions of others.
If you keep this agreement, you can travel around the world with your heart completely open and no one can hurt you. You can say, “I love you,” without fear of being ridiculed or rejected. You can ask for what you need.

That’s the second agreement of Don Miguel Ruiz’s classic, “The Four Agreements.”

Teaching as Inspiration

After my class on Tuesday, I just couldn’t let go of some particularly nice comments one of the students made. I wasn’t so sure I deserved them. It’s not like I created the tools I teach or even invented the way I use them. I learned from someone else and I’m just passing what I learned to others. And then I read this and it changed my perspective a little. I still don’t feel “worthy” of such high praise, but at least I feel successful that I must have Inspired someone. That’s Success in my book.

Teaching — It’s about Inspiration, Not Information – Tina Seelig

Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt

This is an important reminder that teaching is all about building a relationship with your students. In fact, in today’s world, when information is at our fingertips, we don’t need to go to school to learn facts and figures — a quick Google search, a glance at Wikipedia, or a question posed to Siri will usually result in answers to specific questions.

So, why go to school? What is the role of teachers?

Teaching is really about inspiration, not information. Effective teaching focuses on why and how, not what. The goal should be to spark each student’s imagination, to find a hook in their heart and mind so that they feel a need to learn the material. The rest is easy, because the student then drives his or her learning. My role as a teacher is to ask provocative questions, and to help the students make a path toward the answers. If they are motivated to find the path, they will carve it themselves. If I have to pull out a mental machete to expose the path, then I haven’t done my job.

How do you motivate students?

1) It is much easier to tap into a student’s drive if they know that you care about them personally. I have visceral memories of being a student myself. In large lecture classes in college, where the goal was to place each student on a grading curve, I routinely delivered much less than I could. I felt like a cog in a machine, because nobody cared about my learning. In contrast, in small discussion classes, I thrived. It was so meaningful to have a professor look me in the eyes and respond to my specific comments or questions. In these settings, I pushed myself to learn, nobody had to push me. It’s no surprise that I chose to continue studying in the field where I spent time in small classes with a fully engaged teacher.

2) It is also important not to make assumptions about what students already know. If you do, you lose those who don’t have the necessary foundational skills. One of my favorite professors in graduate school taught me that you should teach the same way to a 5 year old as to a 25 year old… You start at the beginning, continue building on a robust foundation, and go as far as you can with each student.

Here’s an example — Say you are teaching how airplanes stay aloft. You could start by making paper airplanes, which even a 5 year old can do. You ask students to make different models to see which flies the furthest. The older, and more mature they get, the farther you can take this exploration, leading eventually to a laboratory with a wind tunnel to measure specific parameters, including the forces, angles, and resistance.

By starting at the beginning, you’re developing a firm foundation on which each student can continue to build long into the future. Without it, they will likely have holes in their understanding that will inevitably result in their inability to apply their knowledge and skills later.

3) Find a connection to the student’s lives and make the material immediately relevant. Without this, the content is a like a puzzle piece that isn’t connected to the rest of the student’s growing picture of how the world works. The student doesn’t know why it’s relevant, has trouble learning it, and quickly discards it when the class is over.

It isn’t hard to do this — If you are teaching physics, you can tie the principles to baseball or hockey; if you are teaching history you can tie it to current events and personalities; if you are teaching chemistry, you can tie it to the food we eat; if you are teaching entrepreneurship you can tie it to local companies and founders; if you are teaching music theory, you can tie it to currently popular songs, etc. In fact, I don’t know why we don’t do this more. I believe that if a child only cares about baseball or fishing, there are ways to build an entire curriculum around each of those themes, including history, physics, writing, and art.

4) Finally, never tell students what they need to do to get an “A” in the class. If you do, they will inevitably do the minimum amount to get the grade they want. Instead I tell my students to “never miss an opportunity to be fabulous.” I promise to deliver my very best in each class, and I expect the same from them. I also tell them that I have no problem giving everyone an “A,” but that the bar is very high.

With this encouragement, I find that students deliver much more than they ever imagined. They embrace the idea of being fabulous with enthusiasm, and raise the bar repeatedly as the quarter progresses. I’ve been delighted by the stickiness of this message. It’s as though students are waiting to get this instruction. They’re hungry for permission to do their very best, to hit the ball out of the park and to shine their brightest.

It’s relatively easy to meet expectations, knowing exactly what you will get in return. But amazing things happen when you take away the cap. Like a soda bottle that’s been shaken, individuals who remove perceived limits achieve remarkable results in the classroom and beyond!

It is up to teachers to light the fuse and see what happens. As William Butler Yeats is quoted as saying, Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”