Male dance moves that catch a woman’s eye

by on March 22, 2014 at 3:43 am in Music, Science, Sports, Television | Permalink

The bottom line seems to be this:

By using cutting-edge motion-capture technology, we have been able to precisely break down and analyse specific motion patterns in male dancing that seem to influence women’s perceptions of dance quality. We find that the variability and amplitude of movements in the central body regions (head, neck and trunk) and speed of the right knee movements are especially 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. As 80 per cent of individuals are right-footed, greater movements of the right knee in comparison with the left are perhaps to be expected. In comparative research, there is extensive literature on the signalling capacities of movement…Researchers have suggested that females prefer vigorous and skilled males; such cues are derived from male motor performance that provides a signal of his physical condition.
The paper is here (pdf), via Samir Varma.

1 prior_approval March 22, 2014 at 5:19 am

And to think that a good waltz involves a partner. One, hopefully, who is not looking at right knee motions – nor experiencing them.

But then, waltzing involves much more than simple motion-capture technology can encompass.

And though a tango’s physical elements might be reducible to such a simplistic analysis, tango at its best involves elements which are at a level beyond motion-capture technology.

2 TMC March 22, 2014 at 10:56 am

Who says its the partner in the waltz that is being signaled?

3 Yancey Ward March 22, 2014 at 10:58 am

Watching as opposed to participating with? By the time you are waltzing or tangoing with a partner, you have already won her over.

4 Scott March 22, 2014 at 4:11 pm

If you are waltzing, she already said Yes.

5 Melanie March 22, 2014 at 11:14 pm

If you are waltzing she is surely just being polite!

(Sorry, couldn’t resist! I like the Lindy! 🙂

6 Michael G. Heller March 22, 2014 at 6:09 am

Dancing is good for you. And one’s constant perception of women’s perceptions of the dance quality is the only thing really that keeps you going at an adequately eleve elegance. Meanwhile, for dancing in front of your computer while you read or blog I’d recommend Eraldo Bernocchi & Harold Budd, Music for ‘Fragments from the Inside’ (this my most recent favourite). It has sufficient sonic depth to maintain ze intellectual focus on the left-right foot oscillations while frequently bending and twisting ze knees safely, and keeping ze mind loosely focused on la femme fatale in distant soft focuse. I’ve succumbed to Stephane Pompougnac 10-year best-of compilation for le same purpose. Dancing while vacuuming the house in ze chronic absence du un femme fatale my personal favourite is Ornette Coleman. If you’re cleaning slower for a change in the absence of du blog then try John Abercrombie’s Animato. But, as you also will know, it’s even posible to dance to Mahler’s 7th. Just un question de le attitude.

7 Urban Demographics (@UrbDemographics) March 22, 2014 at 8:53 am

This is the kind of paper that needs a video abstract!

8 Claudia March 22, 2014 at 9:30 am

I agree. Here’s a good video example: I am pretty sure Kevin Bacon demonstrates every move that got a low p-value on page 3 of the paper. (I can’t believe Footloose is 30 years old.)

9 Urban Demographics (@UrbDemographics) March 22, 2014 at 2:37 pm

LOL that’s great !

10 Scott B March 22, 2014 at 9:27 am

The only problem is dancing sucks. No real man ever dances, period.

11 Scout March 22, 2014 at 3:35 pm
12 Affe March 22, 2014 at 10:26 am

“Researchers have suggested that females prefer vigorous and skilled males; such cues are derived from male motor performance that provides a signal of his physical condition.”

And here I always thought my extensive knowledge of video game cheat codes (check out THESE THUMBS ladies !) and WWII German armored vehicles was the key.

13 Norman Pfyster March 22, 2014 at 10:43 am

Ah, the success of Elvis explained. Science is useful at times.

14 Yancey Ward March 22, 2014 at 11:00 am

I see I wasn’t the only one who thought immediately of Elvis!

15 chuck martel March 22, 2014 at 10:55 am

The term “dancing” doesn’t really describe current body movements to music. “Writhing” would be more appropriate.

16 Doug March 22, 2014 at 11:03 am


I’m expecting a wave of Econ PhDs hitting up Da Club and tearing it up with their scientifically calculated maximum utility dance moves.

17 Enrique March 22, 2014 at 11:44 am
18 JKB March 22, 2014 at 11:55 am

The study seems limited to males who are already the focus of attention, i.e., the only dancer on the screen. It does not seem to have broached the problem of attracting attention of females in the first place. It does support the rule that a comely woman has little risk in dancing beyond being egregiously bad. A man, on the other hand, has little to gain from dancing unless he is outstandingly good and able to capture the spotlight.

Couples dancing, however, can, if he is marginally proficient, work in an average man’s favor. Not only does it permit him to appeal to her physical sensation but it mutes any visual deficits. In addition, if he presents his partner well, he has a better chance of gaining favor with observing females, who not only naturally observe the interactions of other females but become envious when other females are presented well and draw attention from the crowd. This observation brings the man into her awareness, even if normally passed unseen and the envy aids in gaining her acceptance of an invitation to dance where the physical sensations generated by the torso (and knee) movements can bring favor and/or acclimation in the woman.

19 hoonose March 22, 2014 at 12:40 pm

As Freud said many years ago, dancing is merely a vertical expression of a horizontal desire…OK it was Robert Frost…

20 Sam March 22, 2014 at 2:01 pm

These kind of studies are made for folks on the autism spectrum who are highly functional but stupetified by the varieties of human social interaction. Neurotypicals should find these results completely obvious. But this is why the study of human nature is important. These sort of ‘obvious’ things are often known but never spoken of. First rule of the human club: don’t explicate that your behaviour is mostly mate signalling

21 Donald Pretari March 22, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Thankfully, I’m pretty sure this excludes Square Dancing, about the only dancing that I’ve ever done, being required to learn it in my High School P.E. Class. I disliked it intensely, especially since I couldn’t get over the suspicion that it was but prelude to raising a barn or some other strenuous activity.

22 Ben March 22, 2014 at 9:01 pm
23 Walter Olson March 29, 2014 at 6:12 pm

I could have engaged in mate fitness signaling all night, and still have begged for more.

24 Nicolas March 29, 2014 at 7:01 pm

I danced badly, but still got the girls. My face is wonderfully symmetrical.

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