Science talks: What makes a good and a bad dancer?

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Some British psychologists claim to have solved one of life's oldest, most confounding and most embarrassing mysteries. They say they have finally identified the male dance moves "that catch a woman's eye."

The researchers, at Northumbria University, conclude that being good on the dance floor may indicate which men are in good health and have good baby-making potential.

"When you go out to clubs people have an intuitive understanding of what makes a good and bad dancer," co-author Nick Neave, an evolutionary psychologist, told the BBC. "What we've done for the very first time is put those things together with a biometric analysis so we can actually calculate very precisely the kinds of movements people focus on and associate them with women's ratings of male dancers.

"We found that (women paid more attention to) the core body region: the torso, the neck, the head. It was not just the speed of the movements, it was also the variability of the movement. So, someone who is twisting, bending, moving, nodding."

The researchers analyzed 19 men (using 3-D motion-capture technology) and created animations to show "good" and "bad" moves. The key predictors of ability were "variability and amplitude of movements of the neck and trunk, and speed of movements of the right knee."

The BBC writes, "Movements that went down terribly were twitchy and repetitive — so called 'Dad dancing.' "

See the separate "good" and "bad" clips.

Neave also took blood samples from the subjects and said initial tests indicate the better dancers were healthier.

The findings appear in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

In his post, NPR's Two-Way blogger Frank James looked at the "bad" boy and saw himself.

"I don't see the problem with that bad-dance avatar. I could have been the model for that guy.

"I prefer to think of his moves as refined and self-assured."

Science News Blogthinks the researchers need to bust some more moves.

"Based on the crazy dance moves in the video that are meant to resemble 'good dancing' we think they may need to conduct their research again."

(Posted by Michael Winter)