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Dancing and Humans: Our Historical Mating Call


Flickr Creative Commons image.

LET’S DANCE! *cue Footloose music* Now it doesn’t take a genius to realize that Michael Jackson was an incredible dancer and probably the best there ever was. While his music is timeless and loved by many, people are immensely captivated by his amazing dance moves like the famous moonwalk! Now I personally am no Chris Brown with the Cat Daddy (dance move he made up) but I can hold my own and keep a beat. Why is this important though? Well it turns out there is more to dabbing and hitting the one-two step than we originally thought. The ability to dance well may determine one’s future in being able to find and attract that special someone. Why? As I’ll explain, the answer to that is very simple. Because dancing is attractive!

You got the moves!

The sacred art of dancing has been engrained in the dynamics of human society for an extremely long time. Egyptian paintings dating as far back as 1400 BCE even depict sacramental ceremonies that include rhythmic moves to praise the gods. However, as one can lose themselves in the hypnotic essence of dance it has become a means of pure pleasure in life as all participate in this enjoyable activity. So what makes this attractive to another person? Aside from the fact that dancing is used in the fashionable manners of courting, busting a move on the dance floor relays that you have symmetry.

Now as humans we subconsciously look for symmetry in things because it is visually pleasing to us. This fact may explain why you always seem so impressed when an individual has incredible dancing abilities whether it is the same gender or not. Our famous friend Charles Darwin makes note of this from conjuring his theory of natural selection while studying and monitoring finches at the Galapagos. He claimed that dancing as a general courtship ritual is a contributing factor to natural selection.

Rutgers University took it upon themselves to investigate this theory. Researchers conducted a study with 183 dancers in Jamaica by capturing motion footage and asked study participants to rate the dancing on how they perceived it. Each group danced to the same song and there were no differences within the music so that biases could not occur. After picking the best clips of the good dancers and mediocre clips based on body symmetry, they showed them to people to see if they could perceive the body symmetry of the dancers as well and rank them from that variable.

What they found was that the individuals with more flow and coordination to their dancing were ranked more positively than their counterpart, and women responded stronger than man to more coordinated dancing. So keep that in mind people! If you know how to keep a beat and maintain balance throughout your dancing, you may have some people watching you without even knowing. Now through all of this you may be wondering how this helps you, so fear not because I am going to tell which form of dancing has been found to be the most attractive! You can thank me later…

Dang where did you learn that?!

Flickr Creative Commons image.
Flickr Creative Commons image.

You may think that spinning on your head like a breakdancer or doing the dougie really may be what it takes to impress someone, but it turns out that it is much simpler than you think. However, I will say that if you have never watched a Korean breakdancing competition you should check it out because it is incredible! With that being said a group of evolutionary biologists from Northumbria University discovered that there is a pattern to good dancing. From their research they isolated three particular areas on the human body that are important for good dancing behavior. They measured the movement, speed, and degree of angles at which they turn the neck and torso; the legs which would include the hips, knees, and ankles; and lastly the arms and the variable movement at which the wrists turn.

“To sum this all up, you have to keep the moves a little funky on the dance floor if you want to impress that special person.”

The interesting part is the way the Northumbria researchers isolated these important body parts for dancing. They filmed the dancing patterns of 30 different men and then converted the men into avatars in order to mitigate bias towards particular physical features. When they showed this footage to women they found that the men who had more varying motion were perceived as good dancers. When they looked closer at the information they gathered they found out that a lot of attention was drawn with movement of the neck and torso along with pivoting of the right knee. To sum this all up, you have to keep the moves a little funky on the dance floor if you want to impress that special person. Remember, you can’t amaze anyone dancing if you are as stiff as a branch. You need to have rhythm and “move those limbs”. (see what I just did there?)

If you are a passionate dancer and can break into a perfect moonwalk or dab exquisitely then you will have no problems being the center of attention when you dance amongst your friends. However, for those of you who struggle with maintaining a bit of flow with your dance moves or maybe you just are not sure what to do remember this; move side to side, move your head gently to the left and right and keep a bounce in your step and you should be just fine. You may just end up impressing someone. It is important to keep the legs and the body moving, but the most important thing is that you have fun and enjoy yourself because after all isn’t that what dancing is all about?

About the Author

Tyus Williams is an Undergraduate student at UGA studying in Wildlife Biology. He has a passion in Wildlife Conservation with goals to focus on the preservation of big cats for his career. Outside of his everyday life of science Tyus thoroughly enjoys watching anime and reading comics of classic Marvel series heroes. When he is not training in the ways of the nerd he finds enjoyment playing his guitar or enjoying the outdoors as he loves to hike and rock climb indoor and outdoor. If you would like to hear more from him, you can find him @thebraintwitch on Twitter or email him at tdw20511@uga.edu

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