Players of all races shuffle into a large house in Final Fantasy XIV's housing district, the Goblet, decorated to look like a theater, full with a stage and patron seating. Once the show is about to begin, they're told to turn off their in-game sounds, and are given a link to a site that syncs music for all listeners. What follows is nothing short of magical. Performers appear out of seemingly nowhere, stringing together in-game emotes and job actions to tell a story to go along with the music.
Esprit is a FFXIV dance troupe that uses the tools inside of the game to create a show akin to a musical. Performers come onto the stage, and use a combination of in-game emotes, job actions, and other tools within FFXIV that allows them to put on a cohesive show recurring around a main theme. Their upcoming show is themed around Halloween, but there are shows throughout the year that have varying themes, such as broadway shows and FFXIV-themed for Lunarcon.
For those who have seen Esprit's performances live, there's simply nothing like it. Viewers are in for a treat, and will leave the show wondering "how did they do that?" Many suspect that they are using third-party tools to pull off what they do, but the troupe only uses the mechanics provided by Square Enix to put on a show and wow those who watch.
With a dance troupe of around 40 people, there's a lot to manage between getting enough volunteers to craft songs for upcoming shows, schedules, and building a stage or working with the stage they're given. A massive amount of management is involved beyond just crafting macros and putting them together to formulate a show. Complete with gear set changes, interweaving job actions with emotes, and jump scares, Esprit shows are something of a marvel, leaving guests feeling like they just witnessed a magic show. The members of Esprit sat down with Fanbyte to discuss a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes, giving a peek behind the curtain to how they pull it all off.
Esprit dance troupe is like a group of magicians working together to put on a breathtaking show inside FFXIV
The first time I ever saw an Esprit show was around this time last year for their Halloween show. The first thing I said once the show got started was "how did they do that?" Most players understand the concept of macros and putting certain emotes in order to create a cohesive dance. Esprit takes it a step further by teaching their dancers the intricacies behind macros and how to manipulate them to make their performances look seamless.
One of the troupe's founders, Ahro'zi Zhimsa, was kind enough to take me through the kind of training every new dancer goes through. The training took about an hour, and I was taught about the different kinds of macro commands and the different ways to make them. I learned a lot about animations, including details most players don't know or think about when creating macros. For instance, a GCD job action must complete its animation before either an emote or another GCD job action comes after it. However, this can be manipulated by interrupting a GCD job animation with an oGCD job action, giving a little more leeway when it comes to chaining job actions with emotes.
The ability to glitch through housing items, the 'Move to Front Door' option in the Housing Menu, or using an Eternal Bonding ring to appear in a specific spot on the sage (assuming their EB partner isn't online or on that server), are just a few ways the troupe manipulates the mechanics in the game to amaze the crowd.
The group's knowledge of how job actions work, how emotes work, and the design of the stage are all incredibly important factors that most watching the show don't think about. But to Esprit's veteran dancers, some of which have been around since the group's inception in 2021, these little tricks are basic knowledge, allowing them to put together chaining macros for each dance.
Starting from scratch — How Esprit dancers make their macros
When it comes to the process of creating macros, that is typically down to each individual. For Goro, one of Esprit's dancers and the person charged with managing the stage's design, the pieces just fall together.
"It just starts with inspiration. ... I hear a song, and I know precisely what would go in a certain bit, and I'm like 'I know exactly what to do with that'. I start from there and it just sort of goes out from there," Goro said.
For others, putting together a dance may be more than just figuring out the macro. Last year, Xanthe Almondbright did a song to Jerry Terry's "Kiss Me (Kill Me)". The song included a jump scare into the audience. Most members of the crowd didn't give a second thought to how it was done, but Xanthe had quite a bit of work to do in order to actually pull it off.
"The biggest hurdle was being able to use the Blue Mage spell Loom to get to the audience, particularly the chair we had our streamers sit in. ... Just being able to use the new [Ground Target off toggle] that causes your ground targets to instantly place where your mouse cursor is, I had to really try hard because the way that the stage was set up ... getting [to the] seat above the floor by a few feet was strange, because the ground target would want to route to, of course, the ground. So I had to sit there and just rehearse for as long as possible, getting to the exact spot that I wanted to be at to make the jumpscare most effective."
Each dancer has their own process, whether that be putting the song on and individually clicking macros to see what works well together, putting the macros alongside the lyrics in a text document, or just knowing what will go well in certain spots, each dancer has their own flow when creating dances. There are typically anywhere between five and seven macros per dance, and the time to develop a song's dance takes anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks depending on the difficulty and intricacy involved.
Putting on a show takes more than just creative juice, there's a ton of management involved, too
Esprit does a variety of shows, ranging from smaller ones inside of FFXIV venues, to their large-scale shows that take months to prepare for. No matter the show, managing a group as large as Esprit is made difficult by time zones, work schedules, and life outside of the game.
With over 40 dancers, how does Esprit manage all of them, their schedules, and their rehearsals?
"Very, very carefully," said Arielle Archard, Discord manager and community organizer for Esprit. "It just comes down to a lot of luck, and a lot of making sacrifices. For example, we have one of our dancers who is in Australia. I know for our shows, he often has to get up at five in the morning his time. Not to mention, Xanthe is in Mountain time, so she is two hours behind Eastern [time]. That can cause some problems sometimes because a lot of times when it's late at night for us, it's like she's just eating dinner."
The group uses a website called when2meet, which gives leaders an idea of when everyone is available. For larger shows, notice is given far in advance for when big rehearsals will be so those interested in performing can make the appropriate arrangements to be present. It's even laid out in a nice visual format for dancers to see, like the one pictured below, which was used for their Way off Broadway performance.
These timelines aren't always so far out. Smaller shows will have a shorter timeline and sometimes not have rehearsals at all. The dancers are all trusted to make sure their dances work before the performance begins. Some performances need as little as a week to set up ahead of time.
How to catch future Esprit shows in FFXIV
Anyone interested in getting notified about Esprit's shows can join their Discord or follow them on Twitter/X. Their shows are announced ahead of time, like the Halloween show this year which will be on Maudin in the Dynamis Data Center. The stage show will take place in Ul'dah's residential district, The Goblet, in the seventh Ward, plot 35. The Halloween show begins at 8pm EDT on Oct. 28.
If just watching isn't enough, players who are interested in becoming one of the performers can join the Discord and ask for the Novice role in the role selection category.