Science has determined the most attractive female dance moves, and I’m sorry to say that the lawnmower, the sprinkler, and the move my friends affectionately refer to as “noodle arms” did not make the list.
Psychologists in the U.K. asked 39 female college students to dance to the drumbeat from a song by Robbie Williams, a popular British artist. Motion-capture technology recorded their dance moves, which the researchers then mapped onto a digital avatar. The avatar ensured that the heterosexual men and women who rated each dancer judged them by their dance moves only, and not their body type or other attributes. Think Dancing With The Stars, but with less drama and more scientific standardization.
The study was published Thursday in Scientific Reports by a group of researchers based at Northumbria University, who previously identified the sexiest dance moves for men. Whereas the best male dance moves were centralized in the upper body, the best female dance moves centered around the hips, thighs, and arms.
Here’s an example of what the paper found to be a ‘good’ female dancer, performed by an over-sexualized avatar:
Dancing is something that all humans do, but scientists aren’t exactly sure why. Boogying has probably never saved your life. Instead, it eats up time and energy that you could have used to find your next meal or to raise some offspring. But across cultures, dancing tends to be involved in courtship rituals, so perhaps dancing evolved as a way to show off your quality as a potential mate. This team hopes that by understanding the characteristics of good dancing, we can understand more about its evolutionary function.
The study’s judges gave higher ratings to dances that included bigger swings of the hips, and asymmetrical leg movements—meaning the two legs were moving differently. They also preferred medium levels of asymmetric arm movements, which study co-author Nick Neave says was somewhat surprising.
These motions might be preferred, the researchers suggest, because they provide feedback about the health and femininity of the dancer. Hip swinging, for example, is an “emphatically feminine trait” that may be used as a cue for fertility. Meanwhile, the ability to move your arms independently might indicate good motor control, “so long as this limb independence does not verge into uncontrolled pathological movement,” the paper notes.
Here’s an example of a ‘bad’ dancer:
It’s not clear how universal these findings may be. “Dance is strongly influenced by culture,” says Neave, “so there may be some cultural differences in specific movements or gestures.” However, he says, people generally tend to agree on who’s a good dancer and who’s a bad dancer. “So the basic idea that dance moves are able to convey honest information about the reproductive qualities of the dancer in question appears sound.”
So, does this mean we should stop with the noodle arms?
Not necessarily. The authors note that different configurations of moves can result in a similarly high dance rating. So a person who doesn’t like to move her arms, for instance, can still be a “sexy” dancer if she combines it with less hip swinging and more asymmetric leg movements. OR, big hip swings and fewer asymmetric leg movements. But who really wants to do that kind of math while they’re dancing?
And besides, not everybody dances to attract a mate. Regardless of how dancing evolved, it can serve different functions in today’s society—such as bonding with friends, or just plain having fun.
So, ladies, don’t give up on your favorite dance moves. As I always say, dance like nobody’s evaluating your fertility.