NEWCASTLE Upon TYNE, England — The gender stereotype that men tend to have two left feet more often than not, yet women can hit the dance floor with natural grace and rhythm may have more truth to it than others. One study examines why women are so good at dancing — and researchers confirm that it has to do with the movement in their hips.
The research, based out of Northumbria University in England, acknowledged the importance of dancing, particularly in the context of courtship and finding partners. The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
To study this topic, researchers used motion-capture technology to record 39 heterosexual women ages 18-30 dancing to a basic drum beat. Then they created avatars of the women dancing to avoid any defining characteristics, such as height or body size. Finally, they asked 200 people (57 males and 143 females at least 18 years old) to watch and rate the participants’ dance skills.
Raters had to grade the dancers on a scale of 1 to 7, and the drum rhythm was muted during the viewings.
The researchers found that good dancing came down to three characteristics. Those who were considered better dancers had a greater swing of the hip, asymmetric movements of the thighs, and intermediate levels of their arm movement.
As for why, the study author, Dr. Nick Neave, associate professor of psychology at the university, broke it down to the basics in an interview with the New York Times.
“One is, they’re showing off their reproductive quality, perhaps their hormonal status, to males. Another is, they’re showing off how good they are to female rivals,” he said. “When you look at males and females walking, the key difference is, males have this shoulder swing and females have this hip swing.”
Previous research has found that women are rated as better dancers when their fertility is high versus low, and that female lap dancers make higher tips when they’re ovulating. In this case, they wanted to take it a step further and try to figure what exactly is so attractive about the way that women move.
The study also explained that the asymmetric thigh and arm movements could demonstrate a woman’s good motor control, which might then send the message that she’s healthy as “long as this limb independence does not verge into uncontrolled pathological movement,” the study says.