A look at Dance Central’s Dirty Vegas ‘Days Go By’ routine

In a small demo room at MTV Games’ New York City offices, I step up in front of Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360 and fumble breathlessly through a dance routine. I’m playing Dance Central, Harmonix’s upcoming launch title for Microsoft’s motion controlled camera, and the song is Dirty Vegas’ “Days Go By.â€

In a small demo room at MTV Games’ New York City offices, I step up in front of Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360 and fumble breathlessly through a dance routine. I’m playing Dance Central, Harmonix’s upcoming launch title for Microsoft’s motion controlled camera, and the song is Dirty Vegas’ “Days Go By.”{{page_break}}

I’m presumably one of the first outside of MTV Games, Harmonix, and the game’s distributor, Microsoft Games Studios, to try out the “Days Go By” routine. Probably best known for its use in Mitsubushi commercials in the early 2000s (the track also won a Grammy, so there’s that, too), the track is a mixture of electronica, house music, and pop. The routine in Dance Central — inspired by the moves seen in the official music video — is heavily focused on popping, locking, and break dancing moves. Image cues appear on screen with accompanying names like “Look 4 U,” “Air Pop, “Stutter,” “Leave Me Alone,” and “Left Lift.”

Confession time: I’m not very good. Despite playing the routine on “Easy” and having gone through the moves using the game’s “Break It Down” mode (a tutorial mode which guides you through the steps, one by one), I flounder through it my first time. By the second run, I’m finding my groove. The Kinect hardware is effectively communicating to Dance Central when I’m failing movements, as well as my successes. “Screw it,” I think, “let’s see what this is like on the hardest difficulty.” Big mistake. 

“Days Go By” on the easiest setting features a total of seven moves which repeat themselves throughout the song. Whatever skill level is below “amateur,” that’s where I fall when it comes to dancing, and I could have sworn there were more. But there weren’t; I counted them. Just seven. After jumping into hard, I’m bombarded by new steps. More specifically, 39 of them, including some I learned from the “Easy” routine (you can’t see me and my killer “Air Pop”). But most of the moves are fresh — “Genie,” “Crossing Guard,” “Robo Locking,” just to name a few — and not a single move repeats. I’m totally lost. I should have spent more time on “Easy.”

Ricardo Foster Jr.’s is the man responsible for the “Days Go By” routine in Dance Central. A dancer for 18 years, having performed with Boston-based dance crews like Phunk Phenomenon, Foster Jr. (who is also a dance instructor) probably wouldn’t break a sweat. He says, compared to the rest of the game’s routines, this Dirty Vegas track falls in around in the “medium” level. While the routine he designed was original, just for Dance Central, he immediately knew where he’d be drawing his inspiration from. 

“I love the video,” he says of the clip, which features a popping/locking/breaking number outside on the sidewalk of a California sandwich shop. “I knew that I had to pay homage to the video, and I had to pay homage to the dancers that actually worked on that video.” 

So you get moves like “Bendy,” “Stutter,” “Boogaloo,” and the “Robot Pivot,” with Foster Jr. saying he tried to “hit all of the basic combinations of hip-hop [dance] itself.” With no experience in hip-hop dancing (or dancing, period, let’s be honest), it’s no surprise I fell flat trying to perform the routine on the hardest difficulty level. It seems obvious, I should have continued to work on the “Easy” routine, which Foster Jr. says — much like the rest of the game’s performances — is designed to get me comfortable with basic dance steps. 

“We basically go through the choreography and we look at it as what is the easiest to break down,” he says of the process behind choosing what moves get cut from the base routine, which represents the “Hard” difficulty in the game. Moves are stripped from that routine based on the same criteria Foster Jr. says he might use to teach students of different experience levels. 

“It really helped being a dance teacher,” he explains. “We basically looked at it like ‘Okay, this is a beginner class. What moves would be in the beginner class?’”

Foster Jr. (a self-professed “game head” who owns all three current-gen consoles) is convinced that Dance Central is a great way to bridge the gap between the couch and the dance floor. He points to Harmonix’s work with games like Rock Band, and how it gave many gamers their first taste of musicianship, learning rhythm and even holding an instrument. He thinks Dance Central has that same kind of potential. 

“You learn how to hear the music, you learn how to move your body, you learn how to actually find your own groove,” he says. “Once you end up finding your own groove, hearing the music, and learning how your body can move, it would be just so much easier for you going into a [dance] class.”

Find your groove on November 4, when Dance Central hits shelves as a launch title for Xbox 360 for Kinect. 

Nick Chester