Dancing Into The Video Game Business

Until last summer, 27-year-old choreographer Chase Brock didn't know much about video games. Now he's responsible for one of the best-selling Wii games in Britain.

Broadway has been kind to Brock, but Ubisoft's Dance on Broadway has been kinder still. Last year the young artist's agent got him together with Longtail Studios, the developers of Ubisoft's Dance on Broadway. As a dancer and choreographer on Broadway shows, he was exactly the sort of person the developer was looking for to help create a new sort of video game dancing experience.

"We didn't have a lot of precedent to work off of," said Jeff Lindsay, a producer at Longtail Studios, the game's developer. "There were other dance games out at the time, like Dance Dance Revolution. But they were much more about fast execution and really extreme dancing."

Wild motions work just fine for your average dancing game, but for a game featuring performances based off popular Broadway musicals, that wouldn't do. Such a game needed style and finesse. Such a game needed Chase Brock.

Brock and his small dance troupe, the Chase Brock Experience, signed on to help with the game's development. Brock handled the choreography aspects, while his dancers acted as models and motion capture actors.

The game play in Dance on Broadway is pretty simple. Players mimic the moves of on-screen avatars while holding the Wii remote to track movement. Up to four players can play at once, though other Broadway hopefuls are encouraged to dance along.

This wasn't a normal choreography job however. Technical limitations and game specifications influenced Brock's work at every turn. Song selections had to be based on the idea that up to four players would be participating, so with a few exceptions, duets were out. He also needed to create dances with a strong focus on the right arm, as the Wii remote is helped primarily in the right hand.

Brock made it work however, and the end result was a rousing success, especially in the UK, where Dance of Broadway topped the Wii charts.

For Brock, the Dance on Broadway gig was more than just a way to keep him and his dancers working for several months, though that certainly helped. Brock says the project helped define the path he plans to take as a choreographer.

"I'm totally not ashamed to say I'm interested in speaking to a wide audience," he said. "The populist nature of this appealed to me," he added later. "I was thinking, wow, this might be some kid's first exposure to dance, or first exposure to Broadway and what live theater can be. It's not a dying art - but maybe there are new ways in."

A Video Game on Broadway, With Taps, Too [The New York Times]