Smart Phones as a Dance Aid

Smart Phones as a Dance Aid

This is another is my series of speculative blog posts.

I’ve just returned from the Newport Vintage Dance Week and I’m wondering about creating a smart phone application for dancing.

Obviously the use of a smart phone as an aid to vintage dance is somewhat anachronistic but the same could be said about electric lights. There are a number of possible applications.

One interesting use would be analyzing the music and figuring out what dances would be appropriate. Although at most formal dances, the type of dance is usually either called or listed on a sign, this is not always the case. Furthermore, much modern music is actually appropriate for vintage dance. For example, people have polkaed to “Ghost Busters”, waltzed to Metallica, and one stepped to just about anything. The user would hold up the phone at a club and have it analyze the music and then tell them “this song can be waltzed to”, “that song and be tangoed to”, “this song can be polka or one-stepped to”, etc. Having this type of algorithmic feed back would also be a good way of eventually training people to develop their own ear for figuring out what type of dance would be appropriate.

A more ambitious idea would be to have the phone actually give people feed back while dancing. For example, the dancer could wear a blue tooth ear piece and hear various instructions. For example, the phone might listen to the music and help the dancer keep the count by saying “one two three four one two three four … “ .  The instructions could also be more elaborate. For example during a quadrille, the phone could tell the dancer what they should be doing at a given part of the figure. E.g. “stay in your place and wait for the head couples”, “now forward and back with your opposite”, “two hand turn back to your place”, etc. The feed back might also be something simpler such as the phone vibrating in time to the music.

Ideally the phone would actually listen to the music and use the accelerometer to provide the dancer with very specific instructions. For example, the phone might be able to detect whether the dancer was stepping on the beat. Or in a quadrille, it might tell the dancer that they need to walk faster because they should have promenaded half way around by now. One could also see this as being useful for dances such as the Castle Schottische where there is a set sequence or for dances in which the dancer can choose their own sequences. In dances such as the one step or salsa, the dancers might be instructed to follow randomly generated but elegant sequences. e.g. “forward promenade, yale position, backing the lady, grape vine”. Or the dancers could program in a complicated choreographed sequence and be reminded of it at various points in the dance.

One could also imagine the phone being used as a negative feed back device. For example, as mentioned above the phone might use the accelerometer and the microphone to determine if the dancer was stepping on the beat. The phone could then be modified to give dancers electric shocks when they were off beat.  This would of course require special modifications to the phone or some type of blue tooth taser like device. Admittedly this would probably not be a popular add on but it would provide dancers with a strong incentive to pay attention to the music.

I hope to write a follow on blog post looking at the feasibility of actually implementing this stuff but I thought that I’d go ahead and post the conceptual idea first.

I’d love to get feed back on the feasibility, desirability, practicality, etc. of these suggestions.