Behind The Scenes: D&D Bellydance
Ever wondered what goes into the creation of a LXBD choreographies? Welcome to the first installment of a new blog series that gives a behind-the-scenes look at how we turn simple concepts into epic, stage-worthy performances. Let’s take a look at LXBD’s most ambitious endeavor to date: Dungeons and Dragons bellydance!
So, how do you take a game of verbal storytelling, dice, and character sheets and turn it into a dance that’s still easily-recognizable as Dungeons and Dragons? We focused on three things: Setting the scene for our adventure with a heroic song, creating a narrative that would unfold as the dance progressed, and choosing the perfect iconic monster for us to battle.
Music Worthy of the Finest Bard
Like many LXBD choreographies, the idea of making a D&D dance came to me while listening to a specific song. We keep a shared Spotify playlist which troupe members can contribute to and when I heard this song, inspiration struck. The lyrics aren’t complex; they paint a picture of a person or group of people yearning to be heroes. The more I listened to the song -and I must have listened to it at least 100 times- the clearer the idea became of a bard inspiring a group of adventurers to seek glory. I edited the music to make it match the narrative sequence I had in mind, trimming a few sections and lengthening others. I’m a big fan of reworking songs to better suit the choreography that I have in mind and to give our performances a little something special.
A Tale Told Through Dance
With the music selected and edited, it was time to work on the choreography. What I find works best for me is to start with broad strokes and then fill in the details. This was especially important for this dance, because we had to make sure that our movements and formations somehow conveyed a story. Here are my initial notes for the structure and story:
From this outline, we created almost the entire dance. Early on, we each chose our D&D class and then determined what type of weapon or spellcasting we would use. I was committed to making the weapon moves fairly realistic rather than doing regular bellydance while simply holding them as props. This was a challenge, but ultimately made the fighting sections seem more dramatic. Figuring out how to convey our chosen monster’s - the Beholder - attacks and abilities also took some trial and error. As a mega D&D nerd, I wanted to make sure that we incorporated different types of eye rays and the Beholder’s anti-magic cone. While practicing the choreography, we each set to crafting our costumes and weapons. But that still wasn’t quite enough to tell the story we wanted. We needed something more to set the scene, so I created a video of projected backdrops with scenes for the tavern, traveling across the countryside, entering the Beholder’s lair, and “magic” for the divine intervention. All of this together helped us to roll a natural 20 on our performance check!
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
One crucial aspect of our D&D dance I haven’t said much about is Linda. Who’s Linda? Why, that would be our giant paper mache Beholder! Much like how Beholders are born from the nightmarish dreams of other Beholders, our beloved Beholder was born from our own strange dreams. When choosing a monster that would best symbolize D&D and be exciting for an audience to see, I immediately envisioned a Beholder whose eyestalks were made of a mass of undulating arms. Other options were a dragon or a lich, neither of which stuck so clearly in my mind. Beholders are unique to D&D and I was committed to making our own version of this monstrosity come to life. It took many weekends and nights of dedicated work to create Linda, but the end result was beautifully horrific. More information about Linda’s creation will be posted in a separate blog post, coming soon!
Our tribute to D&D is still evolving and just like any bard’s tale, no two performances of the piece will be the same. We hope to see more of our adventurers again in the future - next time with a full show devoted to their campaign. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions about this dance or which dances you’d like to get a behind-the-scenes look at next!