Ladies: hands up if you want to attract a partner on the dance floor

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Awkward shuffling on the dance floor - often known as ‘dad dancing’ - really does make people less attractive to the opposite sex, a new study suggests. 

While some might think a restrained two-step is the safest option to avoid the embarrassment of over-exuberance, in fact letting yourself go is the best way to catch the attention of a potential suitor. 

Northumbria University invited dozens of women to dance then asked 200 people to judge who they deemed the most attractive.

They found that vigorous hip swinging, and hands flung left and right with abandon were the signs of a good dancer, and the best way to entice a prospective partner.

Good dancing: wave your hands in the air like you just don't care Credit: Northumbria University 

Dr Nick Neave, associate professor at the Department of Psychology said dancing offered important hints about reproductive potential.

“When you are dancing you are painting a complex biological picture which shows your age, health, motor skills, hormonal status, personality and intelligence to others,” said Dr Neave.

“Dance is not just a bit of fun, it is a serious way of expressing yourself to other people.

“Both men and women were in strong agreement that the movements of the hips signalled a more attractive dancer.”

Using 3D motion-caption, Dr Neave and his team recorded 39 women whilst they danced to a basic rhythm provided by a drum beat.

The authors then rendered their movement patterns onto computer avatars, thereby retaining their distinguishing movements, but removing all information about their individual appearance.

200 people were then asked to rate the dancing ability of each of the 39 avatars based on a 15 second section of video footage.

Bad dancing: feet ain't got no rhythm  Credit: Northumbria University 

The authors found that in women the degree of hip swing and uneven movements of the thighs and arms contribute independently to a perceived higher quality of dance.

The researchers suggest that a strong hip swing might be an emphatically linked to femininity and child-bearing abilities while the ability to move limbs independently of each other, may attest to well-developed motor control.

“Males focussed more on the asymmetric movements of the arms, while females focussed more on the movements of the legs,” added Dr Neave.

“We suspect that when females dance they are showing off not only to males as potential partners but also to females as potential rivals – it looks as if the sexes are then using slightly different cues to judge a female when she is dancing

“We think that these movements form honest signals as to the reproductive qualities of the dancer in question.”

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The team are now planning to look at whether a female’s hormonal status affects how she dances. Previous studies have found that women’s faces become more symmetrical around the time of ovulation, and therefore more attractive.

A study in 2007 even found that female lap dancers earn more tips around ovulation.

The team also wants to see if sexuality makes a difference to dance moves, for example whether moves alter if a dancer is trying to attract a partner of the same sex or opposite sex.

The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports.