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Monday, November 12, 2012

Spotlight on Inarra Saarinen and Ballet Pixelle- Shon Charisma Reporting

One of my favorite things to do on the grid is dance. Early in my three years on the grid, dance meant going to the club and clicking the animations in my inventory. Over the years, dance became a serious business, practice. It became precision, it became listening to the music closely so that I could make movements with the music that told a story. My love of dance, of music, of telling stories with dance showed its face a while back when I interviewed some great women in dance for SLE. When I was asked to do the spotlight feature on Ballet Pixelle® and talk to BP's artistic director and choreographer Inarra Saarinen, I was more than thrilled to jump in and learn more about this dynamic, unique dance company.

Upon landing on Ballet Pixelle's Web site, visitors immediately learn about who Ballet Pixelle is and what the company does. As stated on the site, "Ballet Pixelle produces professional works that creatively enhance the viewer’s experience while attending a ballet performance." And though there are other ballet and/or dance companies in existence, "Ballet Pixelle uses new technology to take the art form into a unique environment to new and existing spectators - the first and only of its kind." When taking in a performance of Ballet Pixelle's, "audience members can see classical, neoclassical, contemporary, and novel ballets that cannot be seen elsewhere."

Immortal Waltz is the 13th original ballet performed by Ballet Pixelle (October 2011). View the video below.

Like I stated, this is information you can learn yourself by visiting the Web site. When I received the opportunity to talk to Saarinen, the goal was to get answers that might not be readily available on the site.

Artistic Director and Choreographer for Ballet Pixelle, Inarra Saarinen

SLE: What is the ultimate mission of Ballet Pixelle?
Inarra: To explore physical and virtual dance and movement and blended realities. In addition, to expand the audience and appreciation of ballet and virtual dance in both Second Life and First Life. And to make ballet available to those who would not be able to see it due to confinement in hospitals or homes, geographic inability, or lack of economic resources.

Archidance is BP's 12th original ballet (June 2011). View the excerpts of the performance below.

SLE: What is your favorite show that you have performed and why?
Inarra: "Avatara". "Avatara" really explored physical and virtual dance movement and capabilities through many vignettes. In addition, we were able to blend real and virtual realities and have a First Life dancer dance with a Second Life dancer!

"Shuzenji". I wrote the story of "Shuzenji" and I live in Japan. I liked the way it all came together and we were able to dance in the spirit world to tell the story of true love.

Watch excerpts from BP's production of Shuzenji below.

SLE: What three adjectives would you use to describe Ballet Pixelle?
Inarra: Future of dance!

SLE: What's one production from real life that you would love to develop in-world?
Inarra: A ballet I choreographed in First Life in 1995 called "Wilmington". It was about retreating from life into machines to avoid emotional pain. The architecture of the dance and movement was very different, very individualistic. I would like to bring that sculptural form into Second Life.

SLE: I notice that many of the members of Ballet Pixelle are also dancers in real life, some of them even working in acting and other forms of entertainment. How significant do you find this RL experience is to the Second Life work done for Ballet Pixelle?
Inarra: Well, some are and some aren't and always wanted to learn dance. It is much easier for me if they know dance, stage, and ballet vocabulary. They also tend to take things very seriously and are dedicated. And they know beauty and communication through dance takes work.

SLE: I also read that you design all animations for your performances. What a FEAT! Tell me what led to the decision to this as opposed to using animations already developed?
Inarra: We do real true ballet. I have been a dancer and choreographer in First Life ("Real Life") for many years. There were NO correct ballet animations in Second Life when we started in 2006. There are a few now, but still not what we need and not enough. Our animations are technically perfect ballet. Also, since we are exploring physical and virtual dance, I have a need for animations that cross those lines. In addition, I have my own dance style and vocabulary. And, of course, no one can make those animations except myself.

SLE: From production idea to animation development to rehearsals to performance, how long does it typically take you to develop an idea and be ready for it to go live to the public?
Inarra: About four months, give or take. I now have thousands of animations so that makes it easier -- although I create new ones for each ballet. I usually have several ideas for ballets in the pipeline. When I get stuck in one though, well takes more time. And in order to progress, each ballet has a new technology or concept. I am working with motion capture and developing that technology, so each time there is something that takes more time.

Watch Act 1 of BP's One Night Four Two (October 2010) below.

SLE: One thing I find fascinating about your projects having been to the site and read synopses of the productions and viewed videos from each production is the eclectic of varied styles, genres, and ideas presented all the productions. Is that your intention: to illustrate the eclectic nature of dance and all that it incorporates? Or is it something else?
Inarra: The eclectic ballets are due to a couple of things. I travel a great deal all over the world and in some unusual places such as Bhutan, Nepal, Rwanda, Turkmenistan, Gozo, and so on. I have a love of people and cultures and languages and religions. So that all naturally informs what I dream of, and feel compelled to communicate in a ballet. And yes, I am also interested in showing that ballet is more than "Swan Lake"!

SLE: What projects are your currently working on?
Inarra: We are currently rehearsing "The Nut" -- our version of the essence of The Nutcracker. We add a new scene every year and this year is the Waltz of the Flowers. This is our SIXTH year of performing "The Nut"! We also have a completely original ballet that will premiere in early 2013 called "En Passant" -- about life as a chess game. Original music composed and performed for the ballet by Japanese RL singer-songwriter Solary Clary (Sora Izumikawa). And I am at work on the research for a new ballet after that!

SLE: Any other tidbits you'd like to leave the SLE readers with?
Inarra: "If you have the chance to sit it out or dance, DANCE!" and join Ballet Pixelle in "Dancing into the virtual future!"


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