It has probably been a while since you dusted off the old DDR mat and put your arrow-stepping skills to the test. Most likely, you can still remember the sheer panic as those bright arrows raced towards the top of the screen and you doubted whether or not your legs would be fast or agile enough to dance your way to greatness — and that was just on the beginner level. Well, little did I know, right under our very noses, a devoted group of Dance Dance Revolution connoisseurs were breaking a sweat and breaking it down every week here at Penn State. They are known as the Dance Dance Maniacs, and I stopped by the Waring Commons Cultural Lounge Thursday night to see what’s shaking.
A sign outside the room welcomed students to come join in the fun and I entered a dark room being frantically lit by an exciting changing interface on the screen. A male student intently stomped, stepped, and hopped his way across the dance pad on the floor, while I stood there partially in shock, but entirely impressed.
DDM President Rebecca Krish and Vice President Adam Stirzel stepped away from all the fun for a bit to tell me a little more about their club. Originally a part of the Anime Club, the Dance Dance Revolution enthusiasts among the members decided to branch off into their own club. Several years later and with 40 active members, they dance their nights away every Thursday in West Commons, as well as test their skills at HUB late night and East Commons outside the Big Onion, where they’ve been known to attract a crowd. While they have their own custom-made equipment, when using the machines on campus they don’t get special treatment for being exceptional dance game players, as Stirzel assures me, “We put quarters in just like everybody else.”
Fun fact: The In The Groove machine in Findlay even has its own Facebook account: Penn State ITG Cabinet. It doesn’t get more legit than that.
So do you have to be good enough to accrue a crowd of freshmen to participate? Stirzel said not at all.
“It’s super casual. We don’t judge based on skill level or really anything. If you’re having a good time or having fun then we have completed our mission,” Krish said. “It can get pretty competitive, but as a club we just want to have fun.”
They encourage anyone and everyone to give it a shot and say all skill levels are involved and welcome, and of course a bunch of dancing maniacs know how to have fun. They play around at meetings and even create charts to current and popular songs.
“Occasionally we’ll do silly things at club. One of the funny things we’ve done is one person to an arrow… it’s actually a lot harder than it looks,” said Stirzel.
This year the club was very excited to be involved with THON by bringing their equipment to the BJC and actually get some dancers literally dancing.
“We’ve played around with different ways to get involved with THON so when they approached us it was the perfect opportunity,” Krish said.
One of the most interesting things I learned was about the existence of an even larger community of DDR fanatics. For example, Dancing Over the Weekend to New Stepcharts, abbreviated DOWNS, is a tournament in Harrisburg where DDR enthusiasts from across the nation make outrageous “charts,” which are the arrow arrangements, which no one is expected to pass. Maybe it’s my lack of grace/standard motor skills, but I don’t know why you’d want to make an already extremely difficult game more challenging. However, DDM members and others like them within the community take pride in their unique, funny, and insanely tough charts and enjoy trying their luck.
If you want to get your groove on every once in a while to some DDR classics and even your new favorite song, Dance Dance Maniacs is the place for you. In the meantime, here’s a video from their site to give a better feel for what DDM is all about.
Dance on, Maniacs.