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Science Confirms: These Are The Hottest Dance Moves

A study has identified some of the common body movements that seem to characterize the best female dancers, in a social setting at least: hip swings, plus some coordinated asymmetry in the arms and legs. The study's authors also offer up some theories about why these particular moves get dancing queens noticed. 

The team asked 39 young women, ages 18 to 30, to dance to a drum pulsing at 125 beats per minute. None of the subjects was a professional dancer. They were asked to “pretend you're in a nightclub, this track comes on—just dance as you would if you were completely happy and chilled out.”

The researchers used motion-capture technology to record the dancers, and then turned them into identical on-screen avatars with noticeably female figures but no other identifying traits. They asked 200 crowdsourced viewers—57 men and 143 women—to rate the dancers on a seven-point scale from extremely bad to extremely good. And as it turned out, the best dancers all had certain moves in common.

For one thing, they swung their hips more than the lower-rated dancers did. This finding probably isn't so surprising to anyone who's watched people dance, and evolutionary psychology explains why: sex and dance are closely linked. Dancing in a social setting is commonly viewed as a courtship ritual. Some research has shown that men find women's body movements more alluring when the women are ovulating. Swaying hips, therefore, may help to signal a woman's fitness—and even her fertility—to a potential mate. From an evolutionary standpoint, dancing women are "showing off femininity with hip movements. They're also showing off to other females what good quality they are."

The top dancers also seemed to throw more pleasing shapes, striking a balance of asymmetrical arm and thigh movements. "If all the limbs are moving in exactly the same way, it looks very robotic and very odd. And if people's movements are very asymmetric—one arm doing something completely different than the other arm—again, that looks quite weird." The team discovered that there was an optimal level of asymmetry, which they think may have something to do with showing off finely-tuned motor skills to a potential mate.

A psychology professor points out that these telltale movements may come as a package. "The whole body is going to move if you move the hips”.  He speculates that motion may flow differently through the body when a dancer is more relaxed. "That would be a nice direction to take this research further.”