Too many guys dread showing off their dance moves in a crowd. Too much judgment involved: Who wants to look like a fool? There are times, dude, you just got to put it on the line. If you want a no-fail way to appeal to women, why not talk to the evolutionary biologists before you step onto the dance floor.

“We have identified specific movements within men’s dance that influence women’s perceptions of dancing ability,” wrote the authors of “Male dance moves that catch a woman’s eye,” published in Biology Letters. “We suggest that such movements may form honest signals of male quality in terms of health, vigour or strength, though this remains to be confirmed.”

A team of evolutionary biologists led by Dr. Nick Neave, School of Life Sciences, Northumbria University, enlisted 30 men between the ages of 18 and 35 to participate in their investigation of dance moves. None of the participants were professional dancers, or had any physical injuries or health problems that might affect their movements. Having focused their motion capture cameras, the researchers fit a guy up with reflective tape and asked him to dance to a constant core drum beat without giving him any instructions on how to dance. Then, the team translated each guy’s recorded moves into an animated virtual character — a featureless, gender-neutral, humanoid avatar. And here’s where it gets interesting: Using these avatars, 37 heterosexual women between the ages of 18 and 35 were asked to rate dance quality for all the male dancers. You can see for yourself in the YouTube video below which moves the women liked best.

Where’s the Science?

All the way back in 1859, Charles Darwin suggested that male characteristics evolved based on female sexual choices. In human terms, the men chosen by women for sex (and reproduction) get to pass on their genetic traits. Although many scientists have emphasized the appeal of male sexual “ornaments” (such as the antler size in antelopes or the plumage of a peacock), other scientists proposed that females evaluate males based on the quality of their movements, especially those observed by the females during the performance of mating rituals. Movements that contain elements of vigor and/or skill, according to Neave and his colleagues, “are most likely to indicate health and genetic quality.” Among humans, then, dancing ability may be the key factor in signaling sex worthiness to women.

Evolutionary biology is all about changes in the gene pool in populations over time. Scientists in this subfield of biology research how different species change over time and what causes them to do so. In this case, then, biology can describe the features of men's movement most likely to encourage a lonely woman to select one partner from the many hustling their moves on the dance floor.

Source: Neave N, McCarty K, Freynik J, Caplan N, Honekopp J, Fink B. Male dance moves that catch a woman’s eye. Biology Letters. 2014.