Lighting the Way with SoCo in Second Life

Lighting The Way Poster v3

Hello there! It’s your Dance Correspondent, R. Crap Mariner.

From the Wikipedia entry on Autism:

Autism is a developmental disorder characterised by troubles with social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behaviour. Parents usually notice signs in the first two or three years of their child’s life. These signs often develop gradually, though some children with autism reach their developmental milestones at a normal pace and then worsen.

SouthernComfort Magic (SoCo) organises and runs the Lighting The Way series of events as an awareness campaign for Autism, and here’s the announcement:

The past three years, the Lighting The Way Organisation within Second Life reached out to the dance community to take part in a weekend filled with dance and music for Autism. We have had such a huge response to this that we began running out of time slots. So this year, we will be having it on two separate weekends with many events running during the week. This year we will also have sponsors and business owners on the sim as well advertising their items.

The weekends for the shows will be Saturday, April 14th, Sunday, April 15th and Saturday, April 21st. The times for the shows can start as early as 6am SLT until 8pm SLT. If there is a specific time that works for you, just get with SouthernComfort Magic and we can work it out.

Not only are dance teams invited, but individual dancers and choreographers as well. We will have 2 variety shows during the 2 weekends. We will get everyone and anyone involved in raising awareness that would like to be a part of it.

Now, with that being said…. I would like to personally invite you to come and participate in this wonderful event. What I am hoping to accomplish again this year is for dance teams all over Second Life as well as individual choreographers/dancers to come together and perform for Autism.

That’s the TL;DR, but I want to learn more about the Lighting The Way event. What is it that got SoCo into raising awareness for Autism?

I know I want to know. So, let’s go exploring, shall we?

Lighting The Way To Lighting The Way

Lighting the Way

Soco teleported me over to the Lighting The Way build, which consists of a beautiful forest glade, a path that winds through rows of booths for event partners to show their support, and a performance stage with plenty of room for audience members to enjoy the shows.

(I felt a sense of accomplishment navigating around the water and fountain near the landing area, but SoCo told me that she’d put a transparent prim over the area to keep people from falling in.)

Lighting the Way

Lighting the Way

I asked her why she started Lighting The Way in Second Life.

The reason I started Lighting The Way was because of my two children,” she says, “whom both are on the autism spectrum. It was during this time I craved a means in which I could play an instrumental role in lighting the path from darkness for people who were diagnosed autistic.  My son suffers from the most severe form of autism while my daughter has the milder form known as Aspergers, so I decided to utilize SL as my platform for building awareness.”

Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD).

“When my son was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 2, Autism affected 1 out of 150 children. Today it affects 1 out of 68 (1 in 42 boys). Over the course of 11 years, I have watched my son go through changes that I would never wish upon anyone. However, he is the most lovable child that I have ever known, he is truly an angel from heaven. He has taught me more about life & the person that I want to be more than I ever thought possible.”

So the next time You are at a restaurant or at a mall & You happen to see a child throwing themselves down on the floor, screaming and/or shaking things, stop & think before You judge. Not all disabilities are easily seen.  Sometimes all one might see is the symptoms & without knowing the full situation, You’re judging someone incorrectly & unfairly.

Where did she get the name “Lighting The Way” ?

“I needed to have an official name for raising awareness and I thought of a lighthouse,” she said. “It was strong, firm, always there, it’s beacon shining brightly for those who were lost. So I incorporated that into this event. We all come together to stand firm to help light the way for those on the spectrum.”

The main stage bears the image of a lighthouse on the curtains, of a style between Seurat and Van Gogh… I asked SoCo about that painting.

Lighting the Way

“About a month ago, we saw this painting on an artist’s website (http://tomsdrawingboard.com/home-2/), he is an exceptional artist, and it was perfect. So with Immy designing the advertisement for the LTW event, she had reached out to him to get his permission to use this work of art.”

“He was very appreciative of the request and said that he thought what we are doing is wonderful, thoughtful, and kind, and he gave us permission to use the art to promote our event. I’m extremely grateful for his permission.”

Thank you for asking about my art. I appreciate it. I think what you are doing is a wonderful, thoughtful and kind act. I will give you permission to use my Lighthouse Galaxy Stars image for use in the promotion of the charity, Lighting the Way. Consider it an in-kind donation for this years promotion. If you need something in writing, please, let me know and I will provide that. Please just make sure that the image is only used for the promotion ad/poster for your charity event.

Thank you.

So let’s look at what’s going to happen on that stage. I know that a lot of the details aren’t settled yet, and there’s always last-minute changes, but what are we looking forward to?

Soco smiles and replies: “Currently I have 15 dance teams participating over the 2 weekends, and 2 variety shows.”

Looking back, I think I may have commented openly about some act by… Zach and Ame (Starotsin). A kid running around. A mother with a child avatar who was running wild in a park, but still demonstrating the affection between mother and child, and I learned what the act was about, a child on the spectrum. That actually was enlightening. And kind of remind me about, well, maybe…

“Yes, they did it to portray my son.  Speak To Me by Ame Lee is the song Zach and Ame did. It was after the autism event. They did that routine at the Phoenix show. My son, he is on the very severe side of the spectrum.”

I’m hoping there’s a lot more performances that demonstrate the challenges people on the spectrum or people caring for those people must face.

Other than the dance performance, there’s general music and dance going on there, too. Here’s a list of some of the planned events (all times SLT):

  • April 9th @6pm DJ Caranora Bravin will start off the event
  • April 11th @6pm DJ Aryanna Draken from Dance Xcetera will be here
  • April 15th @5pm Lady Gaga Concert
  • April 19th @5pm SL musician Shaye Denzo performs live
  • April 20th @7pm DJ Ame Starostin will be here to do the Dancing Under The Stars
  • April 22nd @3pm Garth Brooks Concert
  • April 22nd @5pm DJ Tray Porthos will close the 13 day event

Lighting the Way has a wide base of support, as you can see from the dozens of sponsor booths along the path.

Lighting the Way

Lighting the Way

“The bigger ones are for business sponsors, who are here to support the cause. The smaller ones in the middle are for the dance teams who are either participating and/or sponsoring, some of them I’ve had faithfully for over 5 years.”

That’s a good place to learn about lots of dance groups in Second Life. (There’s also placards in the Dance Queens info centre, This Weekend in Second Life Dance posts here, and my gallery provides landmarks to a large number of dance group home locations, but the booths and trees here are a lot more tranquil.)

I hinted to her that storytellers might be a nice addition… you know, stories… writing… what I really do… something cool that Caledonia and the Seanchai folks can bring in. (We’ll see if she took the hint for next year.)

If that weren’t enough, beyond dance and music, it’s just a nice, safe place to be.

“It’s just a relaxing and serene place that anyone, can come to and relax, gather information of what Autism is, helpful websites, etcetera. “Everyone that is here is accepting and kind to everyone. I’ve done this for 8 years and everyone that has ever had a part in it, walked away more humble. The ones that come here, share stories, share tears, share hugs.”

Those trees… those Lilith Heart trees… they’re the oaks I’ve really been wanting all this time. I think I’ll take the New Trails oaks out of my park and put some of those Heart oaks in, they’re just perfect.

See? Unexpected impact. Happens all the time in Second Life.

About SoCo

So now that we know about the event, let’s learn more about the person behind this event and the dance.

“I got my start in SL through a friend from another chat program,” Soco begins. “She told me about this place and so I came here. Sure I was stuck on Help Island for the first 3 days because I didn’t know how to TP off and where to go. But after that, I was hooked.”

I’ve always thought that Linden Lab should come up with a standalone game called “Escape From Help Island.” but… nah. Nevermind. How about I stick to the script?

Lighting the Way

Before she got into dance performance, what did she do in Second Life?

“Lord, that’s embarrassing,” she says. “But I was part of the SFL Football League for a little over 5 years. I was also in an MC for the same amount of time as well as part of a tribute concert group.”

You know, considering SL and all the things that you read about it on other blogs, I don’t think football or being an MC is all that embarrassing, really.

Getting Into Dance

Now we come to that magic moment. The moment when our intrepid citizen comes upon that life-changing event that turns them into… a Second Life dance performer!

“The very first routine I ever made was to a song called “Tonight” by John Legend. I saw it in a movie and the main male character was hot, and that song was playing in the background.”

Fair enough.

“Over the years, what I create is what emotion I’m feeling at the time. Could be romantic, silly, scary, dark… just depends. I want them to feel what I feel for that song through the movement during the music and dance.”

The biggest challenge she has in putting together an act is finding just the right animations.

“I have sets built in my inventory that have been there for over a year, unless I find the right ones I want.”

Pop some popcorn and settle back, because he’s a few examples of her work, courtesy of Foxie the cinematographer…

I’ve asked everyone so far what dance means to them, and with all this going on, what does dance mean to SoCo?

“For me, it’s an outlet for anyone and everyone to come together on one stage to dance for the love of it To express themselves in a way that words might not be able to. It’s a chance to meet others who share that same passion behind the movement and music.”

Put On Your War Face!

After some time with another dance group, I asked what led SoCo to start Phoenix as her own dance group.

“I will just say it was at a time that a bunch of us wanted to stay together to dance and direct when things fell apart, so we all together came up with Phoenix Dance Team.”

But what’s surprising is that she may have been a founder and leader of the group, but she didn’t actually do choreography before Phoenix.

“I truly started to learn how to choreography and direct when I threw myself into Phoenix. A few members took me under their wing to help me if I needed, but most of it I learned on my own watching the SpotOn videos.”

“I learned new curse words, but after awhile.. it just started to flow, that became my outlet for stress of RL.”

Oh, don’t I know how that is. (But I’ll talk about my experiences from learning dance choreography in an upcoming article “So, Stupid, You Think You Can Dance?”)

I asked what was special about Phoenix and how they’ve stuck together this long.

“Honestly, we are such a diverse group of people. We have zero drama, we help one another, we pretty much are all smartasses and just love to have fun. It’s just a place where everyone can go, do their own thing and we love them for it.”

“Some dance to raise awareness of suicide, some dance to how it’s like for them to be gay in today’s world, some dance to a painful memory. It’s just unlike what I’ve ever expected it to ever be. It’s more like a huge family.

(There’s that f-word again.)

Phoenix Dance Team - January 13 2018

“They joke around calling Seb and I .. Mom and Dad of the group. When Mom and Dad are away, the kids will play. It’s just a joke, but I love them all dearly. If any of us are having a crappy day, we go hug them and talk. If we are out we invite others to come join in. Some of us had cancer scares. They support us and call us. It’s just a family – one twisted, perverted family.

And with a big family come big acts… Phoenix tends to have large numbers of performers on stage at once, and my having only tinkered with solos. That got me to wondering how hard it is to create a big group act

“It’s not that much harder. We don’t do solo acts at all at Phoenix, unless you are a guest. Most of my routines have everyone in it.  I never want anyone to feel left out. I want them to feel involved as much as I can. Plus, it gives them an extra dance, as most of the time I opt out of dancing with others so they can.”

And there’s always room for more!

“Try it, come watch a show and see what we do, Some worry that they might not be good enough, but we have all had to start somewhere. Just find a dance venue that will help and support you and in time, and you will be able to create what is in your mind and heart.

Wrap It Up

Thank you, SoCo, it was wonderful to talk to you and learn more about you and Lighting the Way.

Although I must admit, I didn’t even think to ask about your name… (sips Jack Daniels on the rocks). Oh well.

Additional Links

Full Disclosure

The 100 Word Stories Podcast is one of the event sponsors.

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