Soulja Boy & MC Hammer On Board For Dancejam.com

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Wired Story:

To that end, Hammer teamed up with Geoffrey Arone, co-founder of alternative web browser maker Flock, to create a new website called DanceJam that will offer slow-motion tutorials and other dance-oriented frills in addition to all the usual social networking tools.
DanceJam is “like MySpace with guardrails,” according to Arone, who said the site, currently in invite-only beta mode, is modeled on the standard social networking template but brings a host of innovative dance-related features to the party.
The new site bounces onto the scene as dance undergoes an undeniable resurgence in pop culture. The lyrics of the hottest chart-topper of the year, Soulja Boy’s “Soulja Boy (Crank That),” are little more than a recitation of the choreography employed in the rapper’s video for the song. People apparently love watching celebrities learn how to dance. And even the indie kids at the CMJ festival earlier this year were spotted shaking a tail feather or two — a marked departure from the static hipster poses spotted there in years past.

Online, the dance craze remains unfocused. There are dance-fueled YouTube hits — more people have watched the comical “Evolution of Dance” than any other video on the site — along with MTV’s Dances From Tha Hood and the booty-shaking avatars of Second Life and World of Warcraft. But, perhaps because dancing is something that happens in the here and now, nobody has figured out how to tap the trend and build a true online destination.
DanceJam could change all that. The site lets people upload videos of themselves dancing, but that’s only the beginning. In keeping with the site’s hip-hop angle, its video player is encrusted in diamond-style bling. Plus, you can post a video loop as your profile picture or leave video shout-outs rather than text comments on profile pages. In fact, pretty much any interaction you want to have with another DanceJam user can happen via dancing.
To help mere mortals keep up with DanceJam’s dance phenoms, the site’s most helpful feature is its slow-motion playback mode. Click the turtle icon under any video and the clip will slow down to help you track even the most rapid movements. A helpful three-second-rewind button serves up quick second takes.
Of course, not everyone can pull off these moves. If you have no idea that one of the most popular dances in the country right now is called the “Aunt Jackie,” you’ll appreciate that every move listed on the site — from krumping to the “chicken noodle soup” — has a description for the uninitiated.
Tutorials also appear on dance pages. Hammer himself plans to contribute two or three for the launch: “I’ll teach you how to do the West Coast Cha,” he said.
People who can actually do these dances will automatically compete to become the top dancer in any style as viewers rate videos. Directors will eventually be able to run their own contests on DanceJam, too, with the goal of casting dancers who have mastered a specific style. The next Soulja Boy could be a lot easier for the industry to track down as word spreads about these contests.
Soon, the site will launch regional features that could cross-pollinate new styles around the world in a way not previously possible. The company has already profiled 160 cities and traveled to six major metropolitan areas to gather video footage and enlist local experts. The time won’t be too far off, said Arone, when you’ll be able to look up any major city on DanceJam and learn the hottest moves in the area before booking a trip.
Arone and Hammer hope these dance-specific features will entice people to treat Facebook and MySpace as “where they live” and DanceJam as “where they hang out.” As of now, the focus is on urban dance styles, but Hammer says their vision is to encompass the entire world of dance, “from Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire … to James Brown … to MC Hammer … to Soulja Boy,” and including “cheerleading competitions, Broadway and ballet.”
DanceJam also hopes to use other social networks’ success to fuel growth. For instance, DanceJam users will be able to embed videos of themselves dancing on Facebook, OpenSocial-powered sites and other social networks.
Judging from the preview site and my conversation with Hammer and Arone, DanceJam’s future looks bright, although the company’s first appearance could have gone a bit smoother.
After TechCrunch announced that Hammer would be part of the expert panel at the TechCrunch20 conference in September, Valleywag speculated that TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington included Hammer because of his race. Then, when details surfaced that Arrington is an investor in DanceJam, allegations of nepotism were leveled at the TechCrunch founder.
The nepotism issue seems to have blown over, and as was obvious during our meeting, Hammer is no mere figurehead.
“In 1994, I — my ego — wanted to know, ‘Why can’t everyone see my videos over the internet, if the internet is so great a medium?'” Hammer said. “That led me to Silicon Graphics and Apple…. The growth area in tech today is something that I’ve been working on for 13 years. To push dance to another level — it’s exactly what I should be doing.”

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