Why you should care
Because now your phone can teach you ballet.
We can learn how to do pretty much anything online today, but dancing is far easier to pick up with a partner. Videos might teach you pop-and-locking, but they can’t dip you, twirl you or launch you into the air. But now all you need is a phone and a dance mate, and you have a private tutor in your home.
The genius of the Bounden app — created in collaboration with the Dutch National Ballet — is how it harnesses a smartphone’s built-in gyroscope, which detects user movement. Two players grasp each side of one phone and have to move a spinning ball through a series of virtual rings — without letting go! Tilting the phone moves the ball, and the dancers need to seesaw around each other, dipping and swaying to make the ball stay on track. Initially the movements may feel awkward, but — ideally — they end up creating a graceful flow. Giggling is optional.
It takes mobile gaming into the physical sphere, as you’re interacting and touching your partner.
Netherlands-based Bounden designer and co-creator Adriaan de Jongh specializes in creating games that encourage social interaction — his first two-player iPad app, Fingle, encourages users to touch fingers while solving puzzles — and he’d been thinking about creating a game that would enable people to “stand opposite each other and move.” Dancing seemed the obvious solution. But as a self-confessed amateur dancer whose skills fall into the “weird moves and fun shapes” category, he knew he needed help. Choreographer Ernst Meisner worked with him on details, though balancing out the dancer’s requests against the capabilities of the phone was challenging, as some dance moves couldn’t be replicated.
The $2.99 app (Android and iOS) launched in 2014, and has eight levels to dance through, some of which unlock only when you’ve mastered the beginner sessions. Classical music plays as you twirl, and you can watch video tutorials from the Dutch National Ballet for inspiration, and sigh at how polished they look, moving around each other holding iPhones. It takes mobile gaming into the physical sphere, as you’re interacting and touching your partner — a unique way to game, which is probably why it has received numerous awards: It was a Nuovo Award finalist at the Independent Games Festival in San Francisco and won the most innovative category at the 2015 Games for Change Festival.
Gear Diary editor-in-chief Judie Lipsett Stanford says the app reminds her of playing Twister “without the dotted mat and the addition of a smartphone.” She says it’s unlikely to make you stage-ready as it’s so simplified, but she loves how it offers a unique way to move together. So if you’re looking for serious dance skills, this probably isn’t the app for you — and de Jongh agrees. “This is designed around being a physical movement for two people, more than an app that teaches you to dance,” he says.
Bounden might not create future Dancing With the Stars celebrities, but it provides the chance to play a game on your iPhone that offers more movement than finger-bashing. Eat your heart out, Ms. Fonteyn.