10 September 2010


Years ago, during a time when I was single and dating, I was also pursuing activities in which I found innate pleasure or challenge -- ranging from riding my motorcycle to ushering for productions of the Arizona Theatre Company (and seeing many excellent plays for free), peer counseling, singing in the University-Community Choir, and taking French horn lessons. Adult day or evening classes in Tucson were diverse. A favorite was assorted dance classes. I'd always been a self-conscious dancer, and wanted to push my boundaries. To this day my favorite memories include the mind-body learning that took place in modern dance, group improv, and jazz dance. (Alas, there were no classes in 1930s and 1940s Swing.) I did not become even remotely a virtuoso. But it was fun, and since men were often a numerical minority, it was also a chance to meet women who were similarly broadening their horizons and learning about themselves in the process.

I've never been a fan of going to dances solo. I would much rather have a compatible partner with whom to create and improvise, not tied down to a small set of memorized moves. For those who do dance to meet others, however, I've discovered a recent study by evolutionary psychologists at Northumbria University. The findings (which focused on male dancers -- a followup will focus on female dancers) suggest that women are more attracted to men whose dancing includes creative and vigorous movement of the neck and torso -- subconscious signals of a man's health and vigor, and (for younger dancers) of reproductive quality.

My thought is that upper body movement is fine, but the study appears to have neglected, in both its design and its findings, the foundation of great dance -- legs and hips. Watch any salsa, hip-hop or tango dancer, and you are certain to notice elaborate and expressive step patterns and movement of the pelvis. The best dancing is a whole-body experience -- including slow swaying to romantic music.

Here is a link to the study -- their method for generating computerized figures is intended to eliminate viewer bias toward an individual's appearance. Be sure to check out the two videos which demonstrate movements which are appealing or less-than-appealing to most women.

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