A bunch of psychologists in the UK have finally found more insight into a question that's plagued humanity for ages: What moves make someone a good dancer? And no, the answer is not twerking.
To conduct the study, published Thursday in Scientific Reports, researchers at Northumbria University asked 39 college women to jam out to a song by Robbie Williams, who, like tea time and nationalized healthcare, seems to be something from England that will never catch on in America. The researchers used motion-capture technology to track the women's movements and then mapped those onto digital avatars, like something out of a rudimentary video game. Both heterosexual men and women were then asked to critique each avatar's dance moves to determine who was the sexiest dancer.
Here's an example of a "good dancer" as determined by the study
It turns out that the moves judged the best for women involve wide swings of the hips and asymmetrical leg movements, where the right and left limbs are moving independently from each other. These should be coupled with moderate amounts of asymmetrical arm movements, although it doesn't sound very sexy when you put it that way.
Above is an example of the worst dancer, as determined by the study.
The scientists, who also did a similar study on men, wanted to uncover more about why people dance and what kind of evolutionary function it serves. Rather than extending someone's life or helping provide food and shelter, boogying down serves another biological imperative: finding a mate. Researchers believe that the hip-swinging that makes women good dancers is an inherent trait that signals fertility. "So the basic idea that dance moves are able to convey honest information about the reproductive qualities of the dancer in question appears sound," says Nick Neave, co-author of the study. In the male study, the researchers found people were most attracted to guys who moved their upper body a lot, especially their neck and torso. This signals more muscularity, which biologically would make a male a good mate.
Of course, the anecdotal evidence that good dancing leads to sex is significantly older. Playwright George Bernard Shaw has been credited with writing that dancing is "the vertical expression of a horizontal desire legalized by music." Though today we know that dancing can serve other equally important purposes as well.