‘Just Dance’ Your Heart Out in the Versailles Palace
The first time I was asked to play “Just Dance”, I was reluctant. I’d played other music-centric games before — namely “Guitar Hero” and “Singstar” — and thoroughly enjoyed those. I never considered how much fun could come from matching moves with a dancing figure to score points and I’m glad to say, the answer is A LOT.
Now, I love to dance, which might be why I enjoy the game so much — but I seriously doubt it. Sadly my love of a good boogie does not mean I’m actually good at the game.
I’m an aries, so I’m fiercely competitive and will point-blank refuse to play games if I know I’m not going to win. “Just Dance” is the only exception to the rule. It doesn’t matter that I don’t get the highest score (don’t get me wrong, it’s immensely satisfying when it does happen), because I’m too busy trying to sync up with my mates. Sort of like we’re learning choreography at a sleepover.
But a lot has changed since my first interaction with the game. The graphics, music and everything in between has had such a legendary evolution that sometimes I find myself so immersed in the universe created by the music and dances, I forget I’m watching my friends twist and turn their bodies into positions to match those on the screen.
“Just Dance 2024” brings all of this to a whole new height. Last week, I got to actually visit the studio and find out how the game is made. The layers and contribution of the team on every level was not only impressive, but it was evident in the quality of the final result. From the very beginning, when conceptualising, to character building, costumes and makeup — everything comes together in magnificent harmony. The song list is as iconic as it always has been, the choreography urges you to jump up and give it a go — and the new features have me itching to get better at the game, so I can dominate the leaderboard amongst me and my friends.
One of the things I picked up when comparing the editions was the introduction of facial expressions as well as character development for the dancers you mimic on screen. Why the changes? Matthew Tomkinson, Creative Director of “Just Dance” explained, “One of the choreographers that I worked with in the past said to me, ‘you know, Matthew, you don’t only dance with your body, but you dance with your face.’ There are so many emotions that you can convey through the face — so that was one of the elements [we added].”
What I failed to initially mention is that the first time I played “Just Dance” was with my friends in LA. I’d been living there briefly and joined in after my bestie Gigi urged me to try it on her birthday. Because it was her birthday, I agreed, and was honestly kind of sore that I had to admit I wanted to play again. A few months later, I moved back to Sydney, and we haven’t been able to play together since.
Lucky for us, our drought is about to end because the 2024 edition of “Just Dance” features a Challenge Mode, which means players can complete a map — and their friends can challenge them afterwards to see if they can beat their score. With this new edition, Gigi can play a map over in LA — and then the next day, or whenever I get a chance, I can challenge her score. If I beat her, she can challenge me again — and so on and so forth until we’re masters at it. And if she decides she wants an actual challenge while I develop my skills, she can actually go up against anyone across the world who’s set their score up to be beaten.
If you’re wondering if playing the map enough times to master it works up a sweat — you’d be right. So it’s a great way to trick yourself into physical activity. If you actually enjoy working out, “Just Dance 2024” has brought back their iconic Just Sweat mode with some exciting updates. The new and renamed Workout mode includes a calorie counter on screen, so you can track how well you’re doing based on your movement and speed. There are even tracks that are dedicated to getting your body moving — and it tracks the total calories you’ve burned throughout the entire time you play, so you can build out routines for yourself. Who the heck would want to go to the gym when they have access to this?!
Those are just two new features out of a world of updates — like song sharing, where you can play “Just Dance” maps with your friends regardless of if they own the edition (2023 or 2024) that the song is on — as long as the host of that game owns it.
A Night in the Château de Versailles
And now for the pièce de résistance — “Just Dance 2024 edition” goes beyond the song and dance. In a collaborative effort with the Palace of Versailles as well as the CNC (the French National Centre for Cinema and the Moving Image), “Just Dance” have created an immersive map that features traditional Baroque style dancing with a bit of a twist — masterminded by French choreographer Pierre-François Dollé.
The figures you see on screen (which I learned are called coaches) are adorned with costumes provided by the Palace which are actually used for performances there. This was essentially to stay as true to the characters and the historical context as much as possible. The extensive 3D build-out of the space is also incredibly impressive — and once enhanced with the “Just Dance” visual aesthetic — transforms into a magical scene you won’t be able to tear your eyes away.
In the map, the coaches explore the Versailles Palace. This means you’re essentially touring and discovering the gorgeous historical site while you sweat and dance it out with them. And something about the 18th century architecture fused with the futuristic colourful glow of the “Just Dance” visuals makes you feel as though you’ve been transported to a different timeline.
When speaking with Paul Chaine, the head of digital content for the palace, he spoke of the importance of making and keeping it accessible — both digitally and physically. “The Palace of Versailles is for everyone,” he explained, “and for us it’s important to bring [it] to the people, so thanks to this collaboration and the “Just Dance” production, we will have the Palace of Versailles and the gardens of Versailles inside the living room of a global audience — and we also want those people, those players, those dancers to think ‘Wow, that’s so cool! Why shouldn’t we go there?'”
I then asked about how much the game reflected the real deal and he explained, “Everything you see in the video, in the game, does exist for real.” adding, “It’s not that digital is replacing the real thing, or the real thing is replacing the digital — both exist and for us it’s important to have both experiences. We want people to play the game, to dance the game, to have fun with their friends, family, parents, cousin — with everyone and then to think, ‘We need to go there and see it for real!'”
Plus, tell me you don’t want to fantasise about attending a ball and performing one of those iconic choreographed dances with an enticing stranger. This one’s definitely a winner, baby!
Paris 2024 — and the Olympic arena at the heart of the palace gardens.
The infamously glorious parties of the Palace of Versailles are only part of the reason why this collaboration makes perfect sense. If you weren’t already aware, the 2024 summer Olympics and Paralympics are being held in France — in fact, some of the events will actually take place in the palace gardens. I mean, are you joking? I haven’t actively watched the Olympics in quite a while, but you better believe I’m going to be all over it next year just to see it all unfold.
Now I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on this edition of “Just Dance” — and if you can’t either, you can check it out and find out more here.