Why do women love the movie Dirty Dancing? Chances are, it is down to Patrick Swayze's dance moves, which to this day, never fail to impress. According to research led by Northumbria University in the UK, a man's dance moves provide clues about his physical qualities. But it is not only women who pick up on these clues; so do men.
The researchers, in collaboration with investigators from University of Göttingen in Germany, published their findings in the American Journal of Human Biology.
For their study, the team recruited 30 males aged 19-37 years. All participants were filmed as they danced to a basic drum rhythm. They were also required to carry out a vascular fitness test, and their upper and lower body strength was assessed.
The researchers then turned each man's dance moves into video clips of virtual humanoid characters (avatars). Men and women were required to view these clips and rate them on dance quality.
Biomechanical indices were extracted from the men's dance moves, which were correlated with the ratings.
Men pick up certain clues from other men's dancing more than women do
The results revealed that handgrip strength and arm movements of the dancers were predictors of dance quality ratings. Both men and women rated stronger males with larger, more variable and faster arm movements as better dancers.
However, men picked up clues of upper-body strength from male dancing more accurately than women.
The researchers found no association between physical fitness of participants and perceived dance quality.
Below is a video of the dance moves that positively and negatively provide clues of male strength:
The investigators note that past research has suggested that when men dance, they provide clues to the opposite sex about their physical attributes.
But they say these findings suggests that heterosexual men may also be taking note of these clues in order to identify a potential love rival. Study co-leader Dr. Nick Neave, a psychologist at Northumbria University, refers to this as "intrasexual rivalry" - men are sizing-up the strength of their competition.
Dr. Neave explains:
"Upper-body strength is highly related to fighting ability as it reflects the ability to do damage, especially in intra-sexual conflicts. The ability to gauge strength before potential conflicts is sensible, especially to other males."
Uncovered: dance moves that catch a woman's eye
In another study from the team, published in the journal Biology Letters, they uncovered certain dance moves that women alone find attractive in males.
For this study, 19 men aged 18-35 years were filmed dancing to a drum beat for 30 seconds. Again, dance moves were turned into video clips, which were rated by 35 women.
The investigators found that men who had large and varied movements of the neck and trunk were perceived by females as being "good" dancers. Men who adopted a left leg motion in their dance moves were deemed "bad" dancers by women, while arm movements did not appear to matter.
"We now know which area of the body females are looking at when they are making a judgement about male dance attractiveness," says Dr. Neave.
"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."