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Computer training for dancers - C4

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Computer training for dancers - C4


In 1975 Bruce Roe, a circuit designer who worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories and a long time Chicago-area challenge square dancer dancer, developed a dancer training tool to assist in learning new levels of square dancing.  His device would present the music and calling and 7 of the eight dancers on a computer screen and the user would control the final dancer.  Bruce built a special joystick that, like all joysticks, would control the X and Y position, but additionally allowed the user to turn a knob on the end of the joystick to control facing direction.  Once the learner had mastered one position (say the Head Man), they could try the same dance again controlling a different dancer (e.g., Side Lady).  In this way they would become proficient with all positions.

From a technology perspective, this device was one of a kind, and required more than a little special purpose hardware and programming to get the 8080 computer to record and display the dancers.  The computer itself did not understand anything about square dancing.  For each sequence, Bruce would start with a blank screen displaying just the Head Men which he controlled.  He would then play the tape, and joystick dance the head men through the sequence with 6 phantoms.  He would rewind the tape, and ask the computer to display the Head Men while Bruce danced the Head Ladies through the same material.  Repeating this process fur times and now the computer has all the dancers (assuming symmetric choreography).  If at the end he discovered that the first dancer entered need some corrections, he would just re-dance that dance through the material with the other dancers present.  While we don't know how many other dancers were trained on his device, you can bet that Bruce became a very good dancer with all the practice he got entering all the material, dancing all the parts, including with phantoms.

In this case, the caller is Lynette Bellini calling a hard C4 dance in May 1993 in the Berkshires, Massachusetts.

As of 2017, Bruce still dances at the C3 level.  In his teaching and dancing he has always placed an emphasis on accurate positioning and dancing at speed.  He is proud that this device encourages all position learning, accuracy, and dancing at speed.  Today, a similar learning tool (Taminations) is available on the web and for download on tablets.


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This Item is related to Item: The Calling Computer