How did danceCentral come to be?

The origin of DanceCentral

Sheffield has - for most of my dancing life - been a bit of a backwater for dance. Though it is a big city - the fifth largest in the UK - until recently it lacked the presence to host regular friday night or saturday night dance events at least for jive and salsa. We do have them here like for example Cubanas on a Friday night, but they are rare and often experimental. For this reason I would always say to salsa or jive novices that they would need to go far afield to places like Manchester or Leeds to get the regular practice necessary to be really good. This is not to say that these cities are much better for dance, it is just that a wider net catches more dance events. A class a few times a week in Sheffield is just not enough to allow you to improve and a major dance event once a month is not enough either.

As a consequence of this lack of opportunity it seemed that the standard of dancing was also quite poor, and so when the opportunity arose to teach dance (provided by Loo Yeo at the university of sheffield) I began teaching, in the hope that I could pass on what I had learnt over the years, and perhaps benefit from better dance partners.

I began teaching a variant of modern jive that is called street jive. I call it a variant because I took the opportunity to remove some of what I believed were jives most cheesy moves. I will not go into specifics moves here but if you have ever been groped by someone on the dance floor while jiving and they passed this indiscretion off as a legitimate move, then you know what I mean. I added some other moves as well. I took the revolutionary step of adding jive footwork, and I encouraged the class to develop their own unique style. At about the same time I started teaching Salsa.

I loved teaching. I loved dancing, and I delighted in seeing others - who I had taught - enjoy it as much as me. I felt I had given them something that could not easily be taken away. But as much as I enjoyed teaching, I could not help but observe how insignificant my efforts were in the greater scheme of things.

What I needed was a way of ensuring that dancers could indulge their passion more often, that dance events would be better attended, that dance businesses would get the support they needed. With this in mind I started work on the DanceCentral dancers web portal.

It began in a bar in the Chatel Ski resort in France in January 2004. I had plenty of time in the evenings after skiing to scratch out ideas for the database design on scraps of paper that would underpin the danceCentral system. I needed to get it right, in a way that would enable me to extend the system to cope with the majority of needs the dance community would have. In short I wanted the following things:

Its mid 2007 now and I have just had news that Google UK ranks #1 for "partnered dance". Its taken me more than three years, but I cannot remember having so much fun writing software, and of course I still love dancing. I still have a long way to go, but I am patient and I have been known to get what I want.