There are two types of people at every club, and on every dance floor: the good dancer and the awkward dancer trying to fit in. People have long believed a Don Juan on the dance floor equals a good lover in bed, and scientists have found this to be true, even for women. A recent study published in Scientific Reports has identified the dance moves that make women most attractive on the dance floor, and why these moves get noticed.

One thing the best female dancers have in common is their hips don't lie. Like Shakira, researchers at the University of Northumbria in England found hip swings and asymmetrical movements in the arms and legs are the most seductive to the opposite sex. Dr. Nick Neave, associate professor of psychology at the university, believes these dance moves have two functions for women.

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"One is, they're showing off their reproductive quality, perhaps their hormonal status, to males," he told the New York Times. "Another is, they're showing off how good they are to female rivals."

For example, a woman swaying her hips from side to side, may signal her fitness, and her fertility. Meanwhile, asymmetrical leg movements — where the two legs are moving differently — and medium levels of asymmetric arm movements, could be interpreted as possessing sharp motor skills, which is important for reproduction.

Example of a "good dancer," according to the study.

Example of a "bad dancer," according to the study.

Previous research suggests women are perceived to dance most attractively when they're fertile. Researchers at the University of Gottingen in Germany found men who viewed videos of women dancing and walking were more likely to give higher scores when the ladies were close to ovulation than during a non-fertile time.

To assess the effects of dance moves on attraction, Neave and his colleagues used motion-capture technology to record the movements of 39 female college students who were dancing to the drumbeat from a song by Robbie Williams. This footage mapped onto a digital avatar and shown in 15-second clips to an audience of 200 people, both heterosexual men and women, who rated their dance moves, not their body type. Overall, greater hip swing, more asymmetric thigh movements, and moderate asymmetric arm movements, distinguished high-quality dancers from those less rhythmically in tune.

A similar study also conducted by Neave found unlike women, a man's dance quality can be predicted by the variability of amplitude of neck and trunk movement together with the speed movement of the right knee. In other words, the head, neck, and upper body were found to be the key features for good dancing for men, according to women. Left knee movement didn't seem to matter; left-legged movements had a small negative correlation with dancing ability, which means dancers more likely to do left leg motions were rated poorly.

The researchers speculate mens' dance moves could be signals of traits like health, fitness, genetic quality, and developmental history.

Neave and his colleagues are skeptical whether these findings can be universally applied. Dance is strongly influenced by culture, and there may be some cultural differences in specific movements and gestures. Nonetheless, most people tend to agree on what constitutes a good or bad dancer, which may be a strong indication of their reproductive abilities.

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This suggests maybe the dance floor is the modern mating pool where we subconsciously equate a person's dance skills with genetic advantage.

Source: McCarty K, Darwin H, Cornelissen PL et al. Optimal asymmetry and other motion parameters that characterise high-quality female dance. Scientific Reports. 2017.

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