How do they make just dance

The Science of Just Dance

Every Sunday, we pull something out of the Eurogamer archive that you may not have read at the time or may have forgotten about. Today's piece was published a couple of months prior to the release of Just Dance 2, on 6th August 2010, as Ubisoft's unlikely Wii title from the previous Christmas continued to rock the game sales charts, and offers an insight into how the French publisher reached such giddy heights.

A meeting room in the belly of a Parisian office block: Ubisoft producer Florian Granger stands to his feet to address a group of serious-looking, middle-aged men. These are some of the company's most experienced game designers, artists and coders, veterans of Ghost Recon and Red Steel campaigns, architects of solemn videogames about war and tactics, strategy and death.

Granger's job? To reveal the next assignment the assembled group will be working on. The project? A Wii game. A Wii party game. A Wii party game based almost entirely upon a mini-game that first featured in another Wii party game, months earlier. A Wii party game that, within 18 months of this meeting, will have gone on to sell three and a half million copies and knocked the record-breaking Modern Warfare 2 from its top spot in the sales charts. A Wii party game whose instruction manual also happens to also be its name: Just Dance.

"You'd think the team would have been cynical about the project," explains Granger. "There was a flood of casual games coming out for the Wii at the time, all offering the same-old experiences with no innovation or real attention paid to the player experience. But there was immediately a sense of excitement within the group. I think that was because the codebase for the game was already proven, and the games we were looking to learn from and build upon were respected titles like Dance Dance Revolution. Our reference points were authentic."



Just Dance began life as a music mini-game in the Raving Rabbids series on Wii, in which the player used the Wii Remote and nunchuk to 'dance' in time with a piece of music. Gregoire Spillmann, Just Dance's creative director, enjoyed the mini-game, but wanted to explore what would happen if you removed nunchuk and strict Rhythm Action gameplay and allowed the player to dance more freely.

"The term 'dancing game' is usually a misnomer," he says. "More often than not you're not being asked to dance so much as push buttons - either on a dance mat, plastic peripheral or controller - in time with the music. Our concept was to inspire people to overcome their inhibitions and encourage them to actually dance. If you look at a game like Dance Dance Revolution, advanced players will often adapt dance moves to fit gameplay. We wanted to come at the game from the opposite approach, and fit the gameplay to iconic moves, ones that can then be taken by the player, and used beyond the game.

The way in which the Just Dance team achieved this effect was in direct contrast to the prevailing trend in music games, which increasingly employ complicated, expensive and lifelike peripherals to act as a bridge between player and game. "For what we wanted to achieve, peripherals were a distraction," explains Spillmann. "In order to encourage players to be free we had to reduce the amount of hardware the game required them to use to a bare minimum.

"We forced ourselves to achieve a meaningful level of rhythm and movement detection using the Wii Remote alone. We wanted complete freedom of arms and legs, so the idea of using nunchuks, elastic bands, leg straps or balance boards was thrown out at an early stage. We play-tested extremely hard right from the start, and this was the message coming back to us. The player is the best indicator; they know what they like and what they don't like so if you listen carefully, they'll guide you to make the right design choices."

In the case of Just Dance, the right design choice seemed to be the simplest design choice. I ask Granger how a team with so much experience was able to reconcile their ambition with the feedback they were receiving, to introduce fewer features and complexity.

Just Dance's aesthetic is garish - but it's also totally unique.

"From the start the entire team believed in the simplicity of the game," he explains, "so there was no contradiction between Ubisoft's desire to make it a game for everyone and our designers' own personal ambitions. In truth, making 'simple' games should be the highest ambition of any game designer, if by 'simple' we mean stripping a game back to the pure essentials where any person from any walk of life can experience something fun and engaging.

"That brief hardly represents a compromise. Also, making a game simple and accessible doesn't mean forgoing making it rich and deep. Those factors can all coexist happily, and that's something we were aiming for in Just Dance, at every stage of development."

If Ubisoft's ambition was to create a universally accessible experience, its success is near unrivalled, certainly in raw terms of last year's videogame sales. I ask Granger whether he puts the success of the game down to its soundtrack, supermarket-happy price point, or something else.

"I think there are loads of reasons why the game has been so well received. It might sound like a cliché, but it really does offer a unique dancing experience in it promotes communal, authentic dancing, rather than merely stepping in time. The tone of the game is fun too. We don't take the presentation too seriously, and I think players respond to that well, especially when we're asking them to do something as extroverted as dancing.

"Everyone remembers going to a nightclub or school disco where it takes a couple of hours before anyone has the bottle to get up and dance. Most guys do the fix-placed-beer-bottle dance or neck-shake to the beat. Everything in Just Dance is designed to sidestep those natural inhibitions. That's achieved partly by having the focal point of the screen for people to focus on, so they don't feel like they're being watched, but also in giving players a constant stream of new moves to learn, we're building up a vocabulary for people, and by having a dancer on screen to follow, giving them permission to try out that language in a safe context.

"After a few goes, when you've learned the basics, you get a little more adventurous and start to move around the room and checking at your fellow dancers. But by then, you're at ease and just enjoying the fun of dancing. Dancing with someone has this weird effect: it's like you know him or her in an intimate way or share a secret together somehow. People respond to that feeling too, as it's a unique thing in videogames."

In the light of this impassioned defense, I ask Granger how much is really going on in the Just Dance's code. Does the game really track player movements? Or is the scoring all smoke and mirrors, designed to give the player the illusion that the game is monitoring more that it really is able to?

Just Dance gameplay footage.

"We have built in a certain amount of leniency into the rhythm and precision detection, but to say that it's smoke and mirrors simply isn't true. We have constructed symmetrical movements using natural body dynamics to identify how well someone is playing even with just one controller. We look at the Wii remote as an extension of the players' hands and body.

"At first we used the nunchuk as well, but found that the wire would hit you in the face and that you lost that sense of freedom you want when dancing. The system we use takes into account the way you move, dance and handle the Wii Remote to offer more precision in the detection frames. This is seamless for the player, but it takes a lot of work to enable the proper detection through a single input device."

The game features a DDR-esque scoring system, measuring the player's performance on a wide variety of factors. I ask Granger whether a better player will always beat a poorer player, or whether the machine can be duped by flailing arms and raw energy. "No way. If you pick up the moves and hit the beat, your performance will be scored accordingly. A better dancer will always beat a poorer player. If you want to be in time and accurate, you have a much higher chance if you follow both arm movements and keep the rhythm with both your lower and upper body. So essentially, you're better off doing what the dancer is doing... Otherwise you will find the transitions difficult to match."

Neither man was willing to discuss the budget for Just Dance, nor how that might have ballooned for its forthcoming sequel, nor the royalty arrangements that the team members may or may not have enjoyed. But it's clear that, having tapped into something so popular, Ubisoft is keen to invest and build a franchise, especially in the face of a slew of me-too copycat titles from rival publishers.

As such, the team size for Just Dance 2 has been increased from 34 to 58, and a slew of new features have made it into the game, with downloadable content compatibility, new game modes and more accurate detection expanding the game in ways beyond its track list.

But despite the promise of these new features, Just Dance continues to have a hard time convincing hobbyist gamers of its worth, typically being dismissed as a lightweight, throwaway party game, a subject unworthy of serious discourse. "That always makes me laugh," says Granger. "The entire videogame industry was founded on games made by lovable nerds that were, initially at least, enjoyed by everyone. I remember my friend's dad spending hours with us on 'Pong', refusing to give up the controller even when he lost.

"Of course, I appreciate where critics are coming from but it can be easy just to dismiss this type of Wii game out of hand. In truth, no player, no matter how inexperienced they are, is duped by poor design. Good game design is good game design whether you've been playing games all your life, or just for the last 20 minutes.

"'Casual' gamers, if we have to call them that, are much more educated and demanding of what they are want to play than 'hardcore' gamers give them credit for. And, it might sound obvious, but it's worth repeating: graphical fidelity, and the power of hardware itself is not what makes a game fun or not. The number of polygons is not what makes you laugh or cry: it's the substance and creativity behind a game that holds its worth. "


May 28, 2021



“Let’s play a game of Just Dance?” Here’s a phrase you’ve heard at least once in your life! Sweating on the iconic “Rasputin,” marveling at the scene in “Rare,” having fun on “Tetris,” development teams always double down on their creativity to expand the game. But who creates this choreography you’re swaying your hips to? Who is behind the coaches we see on the screen?

On International Dance Day, Estelle, Associate Choreograph Director, and Julien, Dancer, answered questions from our fans on Instagram. Their favorite map, their journey, their worst costume, they tell you everything! Embark on a behind-the-scenes tour into the studio’s most colorful license!

Estelle and Julien

Let’s start from the beginning: what was the first map you worked on?

E: Georgia, and it was coooool!

J: Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore on Just Dance 2014


What were the most straightforward and the most challenging choreography to shoot?

J: I would say “Vodovorot” for the most complex one (Editor’s note: we can understand why!), and for the easiest, the kids’ map “Let’s Save Our Planet” comes to mind.

E: Creating during COVID was a big challenge, especially the quad (four person mode). Paradoxically, the most straightforward was the “extreme” maps; when choreographers are inspired, everything is almost validated from the first rehearsal like “Buscando (Alternative)”.


How do you become a Just Dance coach?

J: You must be a good dancer, a good performer with good reactivity, and succeed at the audition!

E: An outstanding performer even!

Julien, on the “Vodovorot” map

How many takes of the same choreography are there each time? If there is a mistake, what happens?

E: Even in the case of “a single take,” we must do it at least twice in full to have a backup, and if not, if everything is not perfect, we do it all over again (up to ten times!). If there is a mistake (not necessarily in the choreography, it can be a costume problem, a technical bug, etc. ), we start again! We are very demanding and focus on the small details!


Who approves of the choreography?

E: It’s a joint decision of the creative team, the production team, the choreography team, the costume designers and the level designers.


What is your favorite music in the game?

J: The classic “All You Gotta Do Is Just Dance,” which I never tired of!

E: “So Yo”, “Que Tire Pa Lante”, “Old Town Road”, there are too many!

"Que Tire Pa Lante," one of Estelle's favorite maps

How long does it take to shoot a map?

J: It takes an average of a month and a half between the brainstorm and the shoot!

E: Not to mention all the post-production work behind it!


And when you have a co-worker’s party, do you play Just Dance?

J-E: Of course, but there are none at the moment, and we miss them!


Let’s talk about costumes! Which one was the most difficult to dance in?

J: Without any doubt, the dances as a mascot! Particularly in “Con Calma,” where I was a panda. On top of the heat, it is also more challenging to move than in a more conventional costume.

E: Not to mention that the dancers must exaggerate their movements in the mascot costume and put even more energy into it to play well on the screen!


Julien and his colleague, both dancing on the map "Con Calma."

What does a regular day look like for a dancer?

J: After about an hour and a half of costume fittings, we go to rehearsals for about two hours, and we follow up with technical tests, which can be exceptionally long (we are talking about four hours sometimes!)


And finally, the last question – but not least – do the dancers know in advance all the game tracks?

J-E: And no, some tracks remain secret even until they are released!


* On Just Dance, each music the player can select from the menu to dance is called a map. It encompasses all the elements contributing to the playing experience: music, choreography, decor, costumes, pictograms and advice.

Gymnasium "TOM"

Flickering crystal pendants, shining eyes, beautiful women whirling in dance paired with slender, proud cavaliers - this is His Majesty's waltz. You are relaxed and enjoy peace. And suddenly, as if by magic, languid, unhurried movements are replaced by incendiary Latin American rhythms that make even completely indifferent people dance. Here it is - the world of sports ballroom dancing.

Fascinating pictures, right? But behind all this beauty there is a lot of work and perseverance, sometimes bordering on obsession. No wonder people involved in this sport are so purposeful, with excellent posture, self-confident personalities. And ballroom dancing can really be attributed to a kind of sport, only very close to art. Why? Because during the dance the whole body is trained, the muscles develop. Constantly dancing couples experience truly colossal loads. In addition to the ability to perform the dance accurately and clearly, you also need acting skills. But how? After all, the couple does not just dance, it demonstrates emotions, develops the plot, conveys its unique image to the viewer.

Are you affected by this sport and would you like to enroll your child? Take your time, weigh all the pros and cons, and only then make a decision.

At what age should you start ballroom dancing?

For the most part, all dance studios take children to study from the age of 5. But, if the parent insists or the child really wants to learn how to dance, they can take it earlier. The most important thing is the readiness of the baby. What is the point of such early studies?

Positive moments of an early start in ballroom dancing:

--- the child learns to “feel” the hall, the load;

--- there is the ability to listen and the ability to clearly express one's thoughts;

--- ear for music develops, the child learns to hear music;

--- an early start introduces to the dance, teaches not to be ashamed of it;

--- coordination of movements develops, flexibility and endurance appear;

--- from childhood, boys get used to treating a girl as an equal partner;

--- correct posture is developed.

Negative points:

--- very young children are not able to hold attention for a long time, so it is very difficult for them and the coach in this regard;

--- fatigue is present;

--- it is very difficult to explain the technique of ballroom dancing to a small child.

If these moments did not stop you and your child, feel free to go dancing. Your kid will only benefit if he can join the life of the dance. All children are different and have different talents and abilities. In general, many coaches believe that it is better to bring a child to ballroom dancing at 6-7 years old. At this age, they learn everything faster, and there is no need to explain “common” truths. But, again, it all depends on the abilities of the children. One can start dancing at 3.5 years old and start performing at competitions early, while the other won’t reach that level even at 10 years old.

Ballroom dancing is a very beautiful sport. In addition to correct posture and a beautiful gait, they develop the ability to move, to “feed” themselves correctly. A side effect of dancing is the ability to carry yourself with dignity, self-confidence develops.

But if you want your child to achieve high results, and not just dance beautifully, then you should think about some points. After all, 50% of a child's success depends on their parents.

What a parent should keep in mind when sending their child to “serious dancing”:

1. First of all, a good coach, so as not to correct other people's mistakes. Each studio has its own style of teaching, different from others. But you must always remember that the coach must control the implementation of all sports requirements.

2. Always be interested in the development of the child, be aware of all events. Not just for show, ask the child how his lesson went, but ask him to show what he learned. Consult with the coach, find out about the mistakes.

3. Ask for one-on-one lessons, as they are not just for the gifted. Many parents think that if the teacher does not offer their child to study individually, then the child is not promising. But it's not. The coach is waiting for the initiative from you. It is up to you to decide: the child dances “for himself” or works for the result.

4. Ballroom dancing is a very expensive sport. In addition to individual lessons, which are not cheap, there are also competitions, participation in which is paid from the parent's pocket. Outfits for contests, shoes, makeup, accessories - all this requires investment.

5. Serious dancing means almost no free time. Constant training, trips require full dedication.

6. Long-term physical activity makes itself felt by dislocations, muscle strains, bruises, fractures, torn ligaments. To reduce this risk, make sure that the child is sure to warm up before training, warming up the muscles.

If you are not afraid of all the above points, then go ahead for achievements!

And most importantly. Do not confuse your unfulfilled ambitions with the desires of the baby. He should be happy to go to class, look forward to the next lesson, talk excitedly about this topic, and not go under pressure, just to please his parent. And one more tip: never mention dancing when the child is in a bad mood, so as not to discourage the desire to do it. After all, the mood of the kids is so changeable that any careless word can destroy everything.

Light parquet for your children, good luck in dancing and good health!

Five Mindful Steps for Social Dancers: zoukability - LiveJournal

Five Mindful Steps for Social Dancers
Kim Torrens

Social dancing has a strong appeal to people. Whether it's salsa, bachata, kizomba or zouk, these are rapidly growing dance communities with hard-working members, many of whom divide their lives into "before" and "after" dancing became a part of their lives. Dancing is not just a hobby for them. It's lifestyle .

One thing that many dancers have in common is moments of sheer free joy and flow.

The dance takes you back to "here" and "now" . This totally immersive activity requires you to be in the present moment . Some dancers compare dance to meditation as it is complete immersion and dissolution in sound, feeling and movement. Dancers, music and dance - everything becomes one. At such a qualitative level, there is nothing left but to be here... now .

And although the dance can certainly be meditative, this does not mean that the dancers always dance consciously. Mindfulness is the direction of attention to the current moment, without evaluation and resistance. Dancers can only get involved in the physical side of the dance and their attention will continue to wander. Even while meditating - sitting, in a quiet room - with a minimum of distractions, you must actively concentrate on your breathing, otherwise wandering attention will take over!

Of course, there are moments that are not so magical , times when a dancer may not be as happy in the present moment. Not the most optimal circumstances fight among themselves for the attention of the dancer or make him want it to be different: a crowded dance floor, a non-slippery floor, a feeling of fatigue or hunger, inappropriate music or dancing with a non-contact partner. The list goes on. It is very noticeable when the dancer tries to remember and correctly perform new movements from the lesson. Dancing is such a demanding, athletic activity; it requires going beyond mere physical performance in order to achieve a certain aesthetic. Dancers are eternal students, learning, growing, honing and practicing their skills on the way to mastery. And this desire for perfection can make it difficult to find the “off” button in your head to just dance without noting your progress and not evaluating the performance.

Sometimes dancers may unconsciously come to the assumption that certain conditions are needed to truly enjoy dancing. Perhaps they prefer to dance only with experienced partners, or they want a high quality floor, or their favorite genre of music. .. But if you think about it, these elements will not always be available to them. Having a set list of expectations can greatly hinder the ability to experience the joy of dancing at any given moment.

What if today was your last day to dance? How would you like to live it? And while many factors on and off the dance floor may be out of your control,0092 you can control your state of mind, your attitude. When you are engaged in any activity - especially one that is important to you - you can determine for yourself from the very beginning how you will live it, so as not to succumb to the negative influence of extraneous factors ... These are things for establishing inner peace.

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to everything you do with impartial, nonjudgmental curiosity. This is a great tool for dancers. It helps to focus attention, be present in the moment, no matter what happens in the dance, and appreciate it for what it is for you. When dancers practice mindfulness, they free themselves from distractions on and off the dance floor and become more present in the moment and in the dance.

Here are a few ways mindfulness can be used in dance:

1. State your purpose

Remembering your reason for participating in an activity fills it with meaning, inspires you, and keeps you focused. This is worth using as an anchor when your attention wanders. What do you want to do with your dance classes?

Reflect on why you dance. What does dance mean to you? What do you value most about being able to dance? Try to find a word or words that describe your goal. It could be: "joy", "fun", "I'm relaxing", "I'm here and now" . Play with these words until you find the ones that mean the most to you. Let that goal be the anchor that makes you feel something - you can return to it if your attention drifts away. Whatever happens on the dance, stage or in the studio, you can always return to this dance anchor. Personally, I often think about how happy it is that I can dance, what a gift it is. I want to honor this gift with my positive attitude whenever I dance. It sets the perspective so that even if you come to the party forgetting your favorite dancing shoes, or if there are only a handful of dance partners and not the full house you were expecting, at least you are there, experiencing the world of dance. See what happens when you let your goal be the most important thing.

2. Focus on your breathing

Breathing is a miracle! It fills our bodies with oxygen and keeps them alive. And despite the fact that breathing accompanies every moment of our lives, we often do not realize how it happens. Have you ever caught your breath while dancing? What did you notice?

Focusing on the breath means that you pay attention to it, remember that you are breathing, and interact with your partner with this experience, concentrating on some aspect of it. You can pay attention to the sensation of in-breathing through the nostrils, or through the expansion-contraction of your chest or abdomen. Breathing can be the focus of attention even with such extensive movement practice as dance. Mindfulness of breathing can be practiced no matter what you are doing or what is going on around you.

Note: Surprisingly, many dancers hold their breath while dancing! This can create a stress response that interferes with concentration, relaxation, and physical strength. This deprives the working muscles and brain of much-needed oxygen, sends a distress signal to the body, and activates the sympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system responsible for responding to threat). When you hold your breath, it creates tension in the body and increases the propensity to make mistakes . Breathing, on the other hand, regulates the sympathetic nervous system and calms the body, helping you to be present, aware, engaged, receptive, and empathetic.

Practice keeping your attention on your breath while dancing. Be curious to explore it. How does it feel to breathe and dance? What do you notice in your breath when you dance? What does it feel like to try to keep your attention on your breath?

See if you can make breathing part of your dance; invite the breath into the dance, let it flow into your movements. Find where your breath can lead you. Let your breath become an active participant in your entire dance experience.

3. Notice where thoughts go and name them

At some point in the dance, you may notice that your brain begins to comment or judge some aspect of your experience, and this is normal - the brain can do this !

The task is to bring your attention back to the breath at the moment when you catch yourself on the fact that your attention is walking.

The key to success - notice, that the thought process has begun. With this awareness, you can bring your attention back to your breath and bring it back to the present moment instead of going in the direction your thoughts take you. The purpose of meditation is to develop concentration, which in turn helps you focus your attention, even in relative silence (although attention is rarely completely silent). Some meditation teachers compare thoughts to clouds floating across the sky - fleeting, impermanent and constantly changing.

Very often a thought comes to us, and we follow it: we chew it, languish, discuss, ponder and get confused - without even wondering about the usefulness of this thought. Some thoughts are irresistible, some are ridiculous, some are scary, but they are hardly a direct and clear reflection of what is happening at the moment. If attention is left unattended, we are filled with thoughts that we did not choose; thoughts that look into the future or reflect on the past. These thoughts can cloud our perception of the present moment without us even realizing it. Catching yourself thinking is a huge and powerful step towards freeing yourself from this cycle, because any time you find yourself thinking, you can bring your attention back to your goal and your breathing.

Naming your thoughts is also a powerful way to regain control and bring your attention back to the present moment. When you notice your thoughts, you can simply call them "thoughts" , or be more precise and call them "anxiety", "disappointment" or "judgment" , and then you begin to separate yourself from those who come to head of thoughts. You can clearly understand what is happening to you, and then return the focus to the breath (or other object of attention), and this gives you the freedom to choose how you want to live the present moment.

Practice throughout the day to catch and name your thoughts. Experiment with what it's like to pay attention to where your thoughts are going. Play with naming thoughts, feelings and reactions as they come. Try to give short names, do not try to find the most accurate correct word. Just notice when your attention starts to wander, identify where it has gone (to yourself) and quickly bring your attention back to what's happening right now now .

4. Pay attention to the body

When you pay attention to the sensations in your body, that is meditation in itself.

You can choose a point of concentration: for example, touching the floor with your feet, touching the air on your skin, or watching where your weight is and how it moves in the dance. Perhaps you will focus on the physical connection between you and your partner, as between a master and a slave. Attention to connection with a partner can (and should ) remain constant throughout the dance, even if you pay attention to other elements such as music or breathing. Learn how physical connection changes in dance: changes in closeness, tension and relaxation between partner and partner. Remember that you are dancing with a person who also loves dancing enough to be in the same place with you at the moment. And although there may be differences between two people, there are also similarities: the range of human emotions, the desire to be happy and healthy. Focus on the humanity of whoever you're dancing with and see how that helps you tune in to that partner.

There are many ways to practice body awareness, relaxed or active. You can mindfully wash dishes or mindfully wash your hands. With more practice, you will be able to scan your body with attention - from head to toes. A meditative walk is a great way to work with awareness of how your body moves through space, and it's easy to translate this into dance. Try to walk slowly for a short distance, the length of the room will be enough.

Pay attention to the sensations of the contact of the feet with the floor, check if you can feel every joint of the foot, bones, ligaments, muscles, and how they all participate in each step.

Explore how the legs rise, bend, straighten when walking. Notice how weight transfer resonates throughout your entire body as you shift from foot to foot. What did you notice? Can you separate your observations from your thoughts? Can you remain nonjudgmental when you start thinking?

When thoughts occupy your attention, practice returning to your breath and the sensations of walking. There is no right or wrong here, just notice what you notice.

5. Listen to music

Attention to music helps you stay in the present. You can pay attention to words, a melody, or follow a specific instrument.

This differs from musicality in its purpose: when you listen consciously, you pay attention to the music openly and with curiosity, without trying to play the accent or thinking about how to interpret this music.

Try playing music at home and just listening to it without dancing. What do you notice? Does it have certain sounds or instruments that grab your attention or elicit a response? How does your body respond? What feelings do you notice? What is it like to just listen? Pay attention. Be inquisitive as if you were hearing music for the first time and watching its effect in slow motion. If your attention is distracted from the exercise, notice where it goes. Bring the focus back to the music, to the listening process.

In conclusion: Social dancers often naturally experience a sense of being present in the dance, but various internal and external factors can interfere with the sense of wonder and flow. The awareness applied to the dance will help the dancers to be more aware of themselves, the partner and the dance.

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