Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Dance Dance Evolution

Scientists have finally figured out why I fare so poorly at the clubs: my dance moves. A paper published in Biology Letters and reported in the Globe and Mail describes research determining what dance moves are most attractive to women. Close to 40 women watched video clips of 19 different males (none of whom were professional dancers) whose images were motion captured and transformed into genderless, featureless avatars to put emphasis on movement and not on looks, as well as to save them the embarrassment when the dancing videos inevitably hit Youtube (follow these links for video samples from the supplementary materials of good and bad dancing). Males danced to a core drumbeat to eliminate music likeability as a confounder, and women judged the dancing. The researchers determined what movements were correlated with what women rated as "good" dancing. From the Globe and Mail article:
The study found that female perceptions of good dance quality were influenced most greatly by large and varied movements involving the neck and trunk.The speed of the right knee movements were also important in signalling dance quality.

A “good” dancer thus displays larger and more variable movements in relation to bending and twisting movements of their head/neck and torso, and faster bending and twisting movements of their right knee,” the researchers said in a report published in the Royal Society Journal Biology Letters.
So with that information in mind, it's time to design the perfect dance move - we just need to make sure we include some good head, torso and right knee movements. I'm imagining an exaggerated version of GOB's chicken dance:
(or maybe some moves from this pizza commercial)

The authors suggest that these movements signal "traits such as health, fitness, genetic quality and developmental history," likening them to courtship rituals in other animals. Dance being culturally influenced, I'd be curious to see if the elements of an attractive dance hold up across cultures. Likewise I'd be interested to see if their results are reflected by notable great dancers or if dance crazes of bygone eras are centred around these movements. In the meantime, I'll experiment with some of these motions, but I doubt they'll be winning hearts anytime soon.