There is one piece of Warcraft lore that won't go away, no matter how much Blizzard tries (or doesn't try) to bury it. People have waited for its arrival, breath bated, fists balled, for more than half a decade -- half of WoW's lifespan. It is... a dance studio.
It all began back when World of Warcraft's second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, was announced back in 2007. Nestled among many larger additions -- a new class, new continent, new level cap -- was word of, I kid you not, a dance studio. It was said that you'd be able to go there and pick up scintillatingly sensual new dance moves, or you know, parodies of newer bumps, grinds, thrusts, and slides from pop culture. Sounds like a neat idea, right?
Then it disappeared.
It never surfaced in Wrath of the Lich King. It was going to be released shortly after the expansion dropped, Blizzard said, but then they started giving people the cold shoulder when asked about it. The team was "hacking away" at it, they said in 2009, but concrete details were nowhere to be found.
People kept asking. And asking and asking. "Where's the dance studio?" "What happened to the dance studio?" "A riddle of sorts: you meet two brothers, one of whom always tells the truth, the other of whom always lies, and where's the dance studio god damn it?" See, there's this thing about WoW fans, as epitomized by moments like the triumphant emergence of the infamous Red Shirt Guy: they NEVER FORGET.
Time passed. The dance studio became a meme, a punchline, the "also" at the end of every "features still missing from WoW" list.
At various points, Blizzard even joined in on the joke, prompting a chorus of alternating cheers and boos. Most infamously, WoW's 2009 April Fools death barrage included a (fake) dance battle system, which was said to offer, "coordinated, player-controlled dance animations" and "crew-versus-crew challenges."
Some people figured this signaled a final death knell for the game's spiky barracks of noise and funk. Others thought Blizzard was poking fun as a way of saying, "Yeah, we fucked up, but we're working on it." The dance studio came up again at BlizzCon that year. And the year after that. And the year after that. Each time, fans got some variation on, "we're working on it, but..."
Some people have tried to seek out the dance studio over the years. They believed maybe they'd find it buried in the game code or, in this case, buried literally beneath the game world.
But it's like seeing the face of a religious icon in toast or messages from your deceased grandfather in a bowl of spaghetti-o's: people often see what they want to see, not what's actually there.
To this day, dance studio threads still regularly appear on the official World of Warcraft forums and other WoW-related boards like r/wow.
Meanwhile, Blizzard continues to have a laugh every once in a while. The Dance Studio showed up as an upgrade when the latest expansion, Warlords of Draenor, had its garrison (customisable mini-zones for players) functionality announced. Observe:
And then this year's April Fools patch notes included the line: "Once again, due to lack of use, the Dance Studio has been removed from the game."
Funny thing about the garrison dance studio, however, is that Blizzard wasn't entirely joking. There is now a dance studio in World of Warcraft... sort of. As part of a garrison mission involving the "Northrend Academy of Dance", you can acquire the "Supreme Manual of Dance," which gives one of your NPC followers the dancer trait. "Your lithe moves help you skip out of danger zones just a bit more quickly," reads its description.
So it's... another joke, more than anything. But there is a sort of dance studio in WoW, finally. That's something? I guess?
So then, is there still a real dance studio in development? It's tough to say. No one can question fans' dedication to the idea, but while Blizzard has never outright declared its pulse-pounding Rave of the Lich King dead (that I can find), it seems to have become more of a running joke than anything else.
It's interesting, though, to consider why fans have held out hope for a dance studio -- a friggin' glowy, showy temple of booty shaking stapled onto a fantasy world of war and strife -- for so long. The legacy of this thing is something that can only happen in a game like World of Warcraft, one that's been around for ages, one whose players have grown and changed over time with it. It seems like such an inconsequential feature, but it's another facet of players feeling a personal connection to their characters. It's a desire for greater freedom of self-expression.
More than that, though, the dance studio has been kept in the public conscious by its own lack of existence longer than many real, frequently updated features can boast. It's practically immortal at this point. The heart of the dance studio is not a dance studio at all. It's the conversation it's inspired, the back-and-forth between Blizzard and slavering, dance-hungry fans. Maybe Blizzard is being a gigantic jerk, or maybe they're just trying to connect with their longtime fans like an old pal bringing up a years-dead injoke. Either way, fans keep talking, and the legend grows.
Maybe there should never be a real dance studio.
I contacted Blizzard before writing this story to check in, to find out if the dance floor landed on the cutting room floor and, if so, why. They have yet to respond, which seems kinda fitting given the circumstances. I'm still hoping to hear back, and I'll update this post if I do. Until then, dance, WoWfolk. Dance your one dance, the dance of your people, with pride. Nobody -- not Blizzard, not me, not the government (well, OK, maybe the government) -- can take that away from you.