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Saturday, May 16, 2020

SAVOY BALLROOM: LEARNING TO SWING IN A NEW CENTURY - JOSH (THOMAS1 BELLIC) REPORTING




It happens often.  You go with a dance partner to some swanky ballroom or club in SL, click on the dance HUD, grab some pose balls and it’s off to the races.  You open up your view and see around you, all manner of dance steps going on as couples gyrating this way or that, seemingly oblivious to the music blaring over your headset.  Then you spot them…on the far side of the dance floor…Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers….dancing in their own little world.  While everyone else around you is dancing a Salsa or “Sweet’n Slow 5” to the beat of Count Basie, Fred and Ginger are actually dancing in a way that actually matches the music.  Amazing!  How do they do that?

Matching the dance step to the music being played is not always a matter of dumb luck, which you sorta stumble into.  On the contrary.  It is a skill that can be learned.  And once you do, Dancing in SL (and in RL for that matter) will take on a whole new meaning for you.  And the perfect place to learn those skills?  None other than The Savoy Ballroom.  I caught up with Owner and General Manager of The Savoy School of Dance, Carlyle Chaparral, and he graciously consented an interview about…Art of Dance.

OLD

NEW

Josh Bellic (JB):  When did you first become interested in Dance education?

Carlyle Chaparral (CC):  My wife and I became active dancers in RL around the same time we both left SL in 2010. We learned to enjoy the ‘free dance lessons’ given at the beginning of most RL dances and the fun of helping new dancers learn the basics in those classes. In 2014, I was studying Motor Image Therapies and some of the visualization techniques being used to “imagine” moving limbs that were disconnected due to spinal injury. I thought of the high level of empathy with avatars and the vivid visualization of dancing in SL, and I thought it might be possible to accomplish Motor Image Therapies using SL dancing.

JB:  What is it that inspired you to bring the Savoy back to life here in SL?

Make more dancers. Make better dancers.
CC:  The Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) was an amazing user-managed group supported by Linden Labs. LEA chose candidates to receive an entire SIM to build artistic creations in, for three months. Free from LL.  As many as dozens of SIMs were involved, I am not sure how many. We got picked to showcase the dancing technology used in our Dance 101 Class. We were well attended and received an extra month as well. At the end of the LEA grant, we moved the Ballroom portion to Creations Park. Later we renamed it Savoy as we took on more and more of that particular ballroom’s persona.
Unfortunately, LEA was dropped by LL and no longer exists.
CC:  Dancing in RL is all about choosing dances that match the tempo and style of the music you are dancing to.  Our classes help dancers in SL recognize the music style and match the dance and tempo to it - so it looks realistic.  If you feel like you really are dancing in SL, you are!
CC:  A small team of four developed Dance 101. Another four-person team developed the LEA grant. We now have over a dozen “imagineers” in our Savoy planning group, working on new exhibits, events, regular shows, monthly parties, decorations, and even choreographed dance performances. All volunteer, all drawn together sharing our passion for dance and the Swing Era.

But nothing beats just coming to Savoy, walking History Hallway, learning about the Swing Era, and dancing at the Home of Happy Feet.
CC:  Learn to choose dances that fit the music, and you will have a lot of fun dancing in SL.

CC:  The Harlem Savoy Ballroom was the epicenter of Swing Dancing world-wide, full of wonderful history and amazing dancers and performers. The Savoy in particular was the one dance hall where black and white dancers could enjoy black and white bands.  The Swing Dancing phenomenon that spread across the globe during WWII was instrumental in desegregation in the United States.  I very much wanted to recreate the experience of Savoy in terms of dance, music, bands, and ambiance. But most of all, I wanted to educate people on the role that Swing Dancing played in worldwide desegregation, especially at Savoy.


JB:  Tell us the purpose of your school here in SecondLife

CC:  We have two missions. From the first 2LDance.org project, our mission was:
The second mission is for Savoy. Here is what it says:
We create the authentic, realistic experience of being at the Harlem Savoy Ballroom during the Swing Era. We teach the music, clubs, bands and especially the dances of this era and their legacies today. We educate our guests about the role swing dancing played in dissolving segregation in the 1940s.
We empower others to creatively achieve our mission and our partner organizations’ missions.

JB:  I understand your initiative was given a Grant a few years ago? Tell us about that please?

CC:  The Linden Endowment for the Arts (LEA) was an amazing user-managed group supported by Linden Labs. LEA chose candidates to receive an entire SIM to build artistic creations in, for three months. Free from LL.  As many as dozens of SIMs were involved, I am not sure how many. We got picked to showcase the dancing technology used in our Dance 101 Class. We were well attended and received an extra month as well. At the end of the LEA grant, we moved the Ballroom portion to Creations Park. Later we renamed it Savoy as we took on more and more of that particular ballroom’s persona.

Unfortunately, LEA was dropped by LL and no longer exists.

JB:  So...I thought dancing in SL was just a matter of clicking on a pose ball and hanging on for the ride, but apparently it is more than that? How so?

CC:  Dancing in RL is all about choosing dances that match the tempo and style of the music you are dancing to.  Our classes help dancers in SL recognize the music style and match the dance and tempo to it - so it looks realistic.  If you feel like you really are dancing in SL, you are!


JB:  Where do you get your staff?

CC:  A small team of four developed Dance 101. Another four person team developed the LEA grant. We now have over a dozen “imagineers” in our Savoy planning group, working on new exhibits, events, regular shows, monthly parties, decorations, and even choreographed dance performances. All volunteer, all drawn together sharing our passion for dance and the Swing Era.



JB:  Are you or any of your staff dancers in RL?


CC:  My wife and I are active dancers in RL, although she did not join me in my return to SL for this project. We are especially fond of East Coast Swing, and also do country, ballroom and Latin. Other members of our team are involved in choreography and some dance in RL also.

JB:  Where can our readers go to learn more about Savoy Dance?


CC:  The entire story is on our website, http://SavoyBallroom.org. It is a splendid resource about Savoy and everything we are doing in SL, including the new development, 40’s Street, right outside Savoy. The development of Dance 101 and our stream-driven dance technology is on the website http://2Ldance.org.

JB:  Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?



So…there you have it, folks.  If you’re ready to take your dancing to the next level.  If you really do want to learn a new skill that will serve you well in both SL AND in RL, and you want to have fun doing it, come check out the award-winning Savoy Ballroom, and let their experienced dance instructors help you learn to enjoy life on a whole new level!  - JB


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