#kp2018 liveblog: Connecting the blues and larp.

As I was on the way to “You look like I want to play with you“, I helped someone open up a room for her talk. Turns out is was to be about Valley of Shadow which “which heavily relied on blues dancing as a communication tool.” I explained I knew the perfect people to attend the session, but they were hundreds of miles away. And then it occured I could attend for them..

Dance and larp and on this occasion, American Blues specifically.

Dance lets you communicate in a way unused in most larp; and removes some of the filters in verbal interaction. Valley of Shadows used dance as other larps use speaking, or hitting each other with foam swords.

(Yes, these are the same folk who did Dance Macabre, which used Tango. Tango had some weaknesses – it’s a bit complex, which can make it difficult for novices to use as a communications tool.)

The organisers found American Blues…

Valley of shadow is a larp.

A Chicago-style game in the noir genre

  • A dance larp.
  • An experiment – Partly in reality, partly in a dream-state.
  • With single characters formed of groups of four players, in groups of four.
  • With internal monologues played out as player dialogues
  • With a non-linear timeframe.

An experiment…..

A workshop experience allowing the participants to explore a (new?) dance.


To communicate, dancers need a mode of communication and a language and points of connections which define a space to move between each other – all dances have this different.

This connection specifies the space in which the communicators can communicate.

The dance you chose defines what this connection is.

And also it affects who can play *effectively* – whether because of their competence, or physical abilities – and this works both ways. Barriers for the less-able, and reduced possibilities for the more-able on account of their partners’ abilities. Apparently, triple steps are a thing, and triple steps in a fast dance are a double-hard thing. Apparently, in a Tango you move through your chest, and that’s unexpected for new dancers. You might want to avoid a steep learning curve: where you can get past the stage of “Oh my god I’m learning to walk!” to “I’m having fun moving to music.”,

What are the possibilities for expression – can the leader and follower roles can take turns, for example? Famously – Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in high heels.

So, the choice of dance becomes crucial.

American Blues is amazing.

Blues has pulse and an aesthetic, historically out of African American jazz roots dance. It’s loose in posture. (The “superhero gorilla” posture, I am told….) It’s got a low barrier to entry, low mandatory structure, high on improv.

It has a variety of modes of expression and a variety of connections – close or far away from your partner. So I have a wider palette of expression to use in my larp.

You can use a wider variety of music for it. Groovy, sad, aggressive, dance-offs…

And the lead isn’t as defined as it is in some dances.

And the skill of individual dances isn’t *as* important.

You move in your own space, you have freedom.

And I am suddenly reminded of The Drowned Man.

…and she got us to do it. Well, the basis step. To Nina Simone. Now, there’s something I wasn’t expecting to say at a larp conference.

How did the dancing work in the larp?

Major points in the storyline – complemented in a dream sequence.

Mirror dynamic in groups of four – alter egos, remember? – where the alter egos have differing relationships.

Breaking couples – different groups, moving the story on by a change in the dance set-up.

NPC dancers – Blue NPC to indicate melanchogy, a Red NPC to indicate anger within the mind of the character.

Coda: Dance battles are awesome, and you should use them in larps whenever possible.

PS. Serendipity is the best bit of conferences.

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