Lots of the social activity in Second Life takes place at parties, with the usual things that go on at parties — drinking, chatting, people being silly. The thing that usually signals that a party is going on is music and dancing.
I recently have been to a number of different Second Life clubs, live music gigs, parties and the BBC mega-concert that took place this weekend. At all of them, you see avatars cutting a rug.
In Second Life, you are given a small set of pre-defined dance animations that you can trigger from your keyboard. It’s easy to pick up other animations at parties or from friends. You can easily perform everything from a waltz to b-boying to country two-step (not to mention more, uh, provocative dancing).
A real basic question is Why would you do this? Virtual dancing provides none of the perks of real world dancing, either the joy of movement, the physical response to music you are digging, the pleasure in touching another person, or the pride of executing a difficult move. There’s no learning curve, no physical exertion, no effort to anything, except maybe the effort involved in designing your own custom animations.
I’ve been dancing my whole life, from all of the terrible 80’s trends (smurf, running man, pac man, etc.) to popping and locking, salsa, tap, and now lindy hop. There are few other moments when I am happier than when I am dancing. There is nothing to compare to sharing great music with someone you care for swaying in your arms. I love dancing so much, I help administer the largest lindy hop community website on the net, Yehoodi.com.
There are probably social aspects to dancing in Second Life that are somewhat pleasurable for people. "Hey do you wanna dance?" in most cases has nothing to do with actually dancing in real life or Second Life.
But beyond the flirtatious aspects of dancing, and the fun of seeing your avatar jump around, there doesn’t really seem to be much point to me. It seems rather pathetic thinking of hundreds of people in front of their individual computers in their homes and offices, wiling away the hours in a virtual world while the digital representations of themselves mechanically perform poor imitations of people having a good time.
No, thank you. I’m off to a real dance club tonight to dance with my friends to live music performed by a real band. There’s nothing in any world like it.
Photo taken by my pal Eli Pritikin available on Flickr.com.