Yesterday, a bunch of my Facebook friends posted a link to a story about a new study that seems to be "the first rigorous analysis of dance moves that make men attractive to women," according to the BBC. Despite the fact that this sounds like a pretty ridiculous thing to actually STUDY, how to dance well does seem to be a major concern for the adult males of the world. Or, at least, I've dated plenty of dudes who've felt substandard under a disco ball. And at the wedding I attended over the weekend, there was more than one sheepish adult geek who apologized for his lack of body rhythm. In other words, I think plenty of dudes wish there was some way they could figure out how to look good when the deejay throws on some ABBA.
So ... what did the study find?
For one thing — surprising to the researchers — guys don't really need to worry too much about what they're doing with their arms, hands, or legs.
"We found that [women paid more attention to] the core body region: the torso, the neck, the head," study co-author Nick Neave, an evolutionary psychologist at Northumbria University in the U.K., told the BBC. "It was not just the speed of the movements, it was also the variability of the movement." Twisting, bending, moving, nodding, all in succession — that's a good thing. Repeating the same move over and over again wasn't. The most attractive men were the ones who were creative when dancing — who showed off a variety of moves — while simultaneously demonstrating that they had flexible bodies. (Check this hilariously scientific video here for a better sense of what works. Of course, you could also just take your cues from this video of Kevin Bacon and Chris Penn in Footloose.)
Neave hypothesizes that dancing provides onlookers with information about the health, age, and reproductive potential of a person — and that women like moves that show a man is in good shape, and creative.
Ladies: What do you think about all this? My take is that, okay, sure, if a guy can dance well, it's pretty attractive. Back in my days as an undergrad, I had a very brief flirtation with a guy who was in some University of Virginia frat that — if I remember correctly — required him to take swing-dancing lessons. Whatever the case may be, this dude could swing-dance with the best of them — and even though I had no idea what I was doing, he was good enough to make us both look like professionals. Was it hot? Totally. Was it hot the one time recently that I went salsa dancing? Toe! Tall. Lee.
I'd say that roughly 50 percent of what makes that kind of dancing so sexy is that it's an "excuse" for two bodies to be really, really close to each other — without engaging in anything more sexual than maybe kissing. If a guy were holding me that close while we just stood there and did nothing, it would be boring, weird, creepy. But because we're both moving — engaged in a game of sorts, with certain expectations about how we should and shouldn't move — it makes the touching somewhat secondary, and therefore more exciting. Dancing, in other words, can be a very physical and nonverbal form of flirtation.
BUT ... if I like a dude, it really doesn't matter to me if he can dance or not. And with the exception of one very crazy evening spent at Don Hill's just as a blizzard was starting, back in my wilder days, I cannot recall ever being hot for a guy first and foremost because he knew how to shake his booty.