While the peacock has its grand, variegated feathers and the Greater Crested Tern offers fish to potential mates, human courtship happens on the dance floor, and it’s there that a group of evolutionary biologists looked to uncover just what makes for an attractive set of moves.
As the Washington Post reports, researchers at Northumbria University and the University of Gottingen investigated what women look for in a dancing partner, while controlling for explicit non-dancing variables like facial attractiveness, body shape, and perceived socioeconomic status.
To remove these factors, researchers recruited 30 men to dance to a core drum beat for 30 seconds, while their movements were recorded by a hi-tech motion-capture system and inputted to a “featureless, gender-neutral” digital avatar. Dancers were given no instruction on how to dance.
Researchers then asked 37 women to view each dancing avatar and rate its performance on a seven-point scale. The scores were then measured against a taxonomy of individual dance moves, isolating movements into three key bodily regions: the central body, the legs, and the arms.
Women rated dancers higher when they showed larger and more varied movements of the head, neck, and torso, and were also found to favour leg movements, particularly bending and twisting the right knee. But surprisingly, arm movement did not correlate with perceived dancing ability.
Watch: Bad Dancer Example from Nick Neave’s study
Watch: Good Dancer Example from Nick Neave’s study