The Challenge of Couples Dance Choreography

The Challenge of Couples Dance Choreography 120819

I've mentioned previously that choreography of couples dancing is more challenging than choreography of individual dancing. There are control systems such as the MLDU5, the Dance Master and the Henmations dance system Club Control. Whichever system you are using there is a design problem with couples dances that I believe can be fixed by the Dance Makers. If this is fixed it will simplify the choreography of couples dancing. This post explains the problem and offers a solution.


Jumping. Yes, that's it. When there is a transition from one couples dance to another there is almost always a jump by one or both of the dancers. Let me start at the beginning and show you why this is.


There are now three sim dance systems available: the INTAN, the TIS Hybrid and the Henmations Club Control. So, as a starting point I decided to look at how each system rezzes couples pose balls. To see this I put my self on a choreography grid and took pictures from above. I am facing north and my boobs point that way (Picture 01).

Picture 01

First, I rezzed pose balls using the INTAN system (Picture 02).

Picture 02

Next, I rezzed pose balls using the TIS Hybrid system (Picture 03).

Picture 03

Finally, I used the Henmations system (Picture 04).

Picture 04

You can clearly see that there is no consistency in how the three sim Dance Systems rezz pose balls in terms of direction relative to the person who rezzes the balls and in the separation distance of the pose balls.

I wondered if my orientation made a difference in how the pose balls are rezzed. To test this I turned the choreography grid 90, 180 and 315 degrees and again rezzed the pose balls. The result? The INTAN is specific to the direction you face.

Facing east

Picture 05

Facing south

Picture 06

Facing northwest

Picture 07
The TIS Hybrid is just like the INTAN. It rezzes the pose balls relative to the direction the avatar is facing. Here (Picture 08) is the TIS Hybrid rezzed pose balls with me facing northwest.

Picture 08
The Henmations Club Control, however, always rezzes the pose balls in the same direction. Here (Picture 09) is the Henmations Club Control rezzed pose balls with me facing northwest.

Picture 09
Although there are significant differences in the position of the rezzed pose balls and the distance apart, this really is only significant when you want dancers to face a specific direction when dancing using a sim Dance System.

Each system is set up to adjust the dancers positions based on the specific dance that is activated. Let me show you some examples using the INTAN with me facing north. First, I rezz the pose balls, so you again see them like in Picture 02 with the female about 0.5 M to the west and the male about 0.5 M to the east and the couple is facing. I hop on the female and use my RL friend Nottooo's avatar on the male. I am in black (female) and Nottooo is in red (male). Finally, I choose different dances and take a picture right at the start of the dance.

Here is Ti Amo, a very nice dance from 3FX (Picture 10).

Picture 10

What you see is that Ti Amo starts the dancers at a different position than the rezzed pose balls (Picture 02). In this case the dancers face each other but instead of being east-west they are north-south, and the position of each dancer is different. YIKES!

Here is another couples dance, a Bits and Bob's Favorite called V3.

Picture 11
V3 also has a different orientation of the dancers and position at the start relative to the pose balls, BUT, and this is an important BUT, V3 is not at the same positions and orientations as TiAmo. DOUBLE YIKES!

A third example is Couple-04, a Henmations dance.

Picture 12
In this dance the orientations and positions do not match the pose balls and the avatars start not facing each other.

The cause of all this inconsistency in starting positions and orientations is the individual dances not the dance systems. In fact all three dance systems (INTAN, TIS Hybrid and Henmations Club Control) have built in information about each couples dance's positions and orientations. The systems place the dancing couple relative to the rezzed pose balls.


To help you understand better what the problem is let me show you the individual dances that make up some couples dances. Most DANCE QUEENS members understand the importance of centerpoint for individual dances. A good individual animation should start at the position that the avatar is located (centerpoint) and start with the avatar facing forward. Whether you do Freestyle or Sequenced choreography almost all individual dance transitions occur at the center point with the avatar facing forward.

To see how the male and female animations in a couples dance start I put me on the choreography grid and ran the male or female animation only. When I hopped on the grid pose ball, I looked like Picture 01. Picture 13 is my position just after starting on the female part of Ti Amo.

Picture 13
Instead of facing north at the centerpoint, I start facing east about 0.5 M from the centerpoint. If you could see a video of the start you would also conclude that the Ease In time is zero. That means there is an instant jump from me standing like in Picture 01 to me dancing like in Picture 13. Most individual dances have a 0.3 second Ease In time to smooth from one animation to another.

I will spare you the pictures of the male part of Ti Amo and the individual animations from other couples dances. With few exceptions they start off the center point and often oriented away from the front.


As I said at the beginning the problem is jumping when changing from one couples dance to another. Most choreographers of couples dances use the MLDU5, the DanceMaster Pro, the DB system or the XPOSE. As I mentioned in the report on the Henmations Club Control I believe it also will see some use for couples choreography. It doesn't matter which system a couples choreographer uses, all face the same problem. There are two animations (male and female) that have to change at the same time and both animations for the male and the female are off the centerpoint and may be oriented differently AND the animations have no Ease In time. No wonder there is a jump.


I realize that making couples animations is more difficult for Dance Makers than making individual animations. They have to do motion capture on two people at once and the return to the starting point when the dance loops has to be done simultaneously for two live people. This is no easy task. BUT, given that challenge, here is what I would like to see.

First, one of the avatars in every couples dance should start at the centerpoint. I would choose the female but, since most animators are males, let's put the male avatar at the centerpoint.

Second, have the male avatar facing forward at the beginning of every couples dance. I would also use an Ease In time of 0.3 secs on all couples animations. Just these two simple steps would simplify couples dance choreography a lot.

Third, separate the female dancer from the male dancer at the beginning by some set increment of 0.5 M, for example, 0.5 M or 1.0 or 1.5. Slow dances tend to have the dancers close and fast dances can be close or more distant.

Fourth, start the female dancer facing the male dancer. There are almost no dances where at some time during the dance the two do not face each other. Start the dance at this time.

If Dance Makers do these four steps, they should put an added value on the couples dance with a statement like "SUITABLE FOR CHOREOGRAPHY."



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