The discovery, which should get some shy shufflers moving with reckless abandon, was announced Wednesday by researchers from the University of Göttingen and colleagues from Britain’s Northumbria University.
A supple neck and torso, exercised by energetic movements, along with a high-tempo right knee and strong varied movement of the left shoulder and wrist were the key indicators that push women’s buttons when a man is on the dance floor.
The researchers believe that these movements send signals about a man’s reproductive strength by conveying health, liveliness and physical strength.
Previous studies had shown that women found men with physically strong dancing styles attractive and judged such men to be assertive, said Bernhard Fink, a behavioural scientist from Göttingen who was part of the research team.
The new study was further evidence “that dance conveys signals about a man that are decisive in partner selection,” Fink said.
The research team used a 3-D camera system to film 19 men aged 18 to 35 who danced to a basic rhythm. The moves were then mapped onto computer simulations, so-called “avatars” that had neither faces, nor distinct body qualities – removing the possibility that women were drawn to the men’s physical features.
Thirty-nine women watched the virtual dancers and assessed the quality of their dancing.
British psychologist Nick Neave, who also took part in the study, said: “This is the first study to show objectively what differentiates a good dancer from a bad one. Men all over the world will be interested to know what moves they can throw to attract women.
“We now know which area of the body females are looking at when they are making a judgement about male dance attractiveness. If a man knows what the key moves are, he can get some training and improve his chances of attracting a female through his dance style.”
The researchers now plan to use the same method for a reverse study to see what effects female dancing has on men. Their findings were published this week in Britain’s Royal Society Journal Biology Letters.