Digging the Dancing King


by guest blogger Renee James, essayist and blogger

I’m not a heterosexual man, but if I were, two of my heroes would be Nick Neave, PhD, and Kristofor McCarty, and my new favorite research facility would be the University of Northumbria. Neave and researcher McCarty, along with a few of their colleagues at University of Göttingen, investigated and answered an age-old question for men and women: What makes a man a good dancer? Furthermore, they tackled a second, more important question: Does a man’s being a good dancer matter to women?

Now, for every man about to write this off as nonsense, please hang in there for a minute. The notion of dancing as it relates to couples and partnering is not entirely without merit.  According to researchers J.L. Hanna and A.L. Kaeppler, dancing is an important aspect of sexuality and courtship in humans, based on a set of “intentional, rhythmic, culturally influenced non-verbal body movements.” It has to count for something!

Still not enough for you? Let me paint a little picture here; then you decide whether or not you want to know the results of the research. Imagine you’re in a club or, better still, at a wedding reception and the dancing has begun. Even if you’re there with your wife or your date, take a look at the women sitting at the tables with their eyes on the dance floor.  I guarantee you there’s at least one man out there who has captivated every woman watching. He’s comfortable and relaxed, completely in control of himself and his partner, and he’s enjoying himself. As for his partner? She’s in his arms, also relaxed and comfortable, being led around the floor with ease. Or perhaps she’s dancing opposite him, a man who knows what he knows and moves like it, too.

Who doesn’t want to be that guy?

According to the researchers, certain key areas of a man’s body tell a woman whether he is a “good” or “bad” dancer. Using 3-D camera technology, researchers captured the dance movements of 19 male volunteers and replicated them on a feature-less human avatar. They showed the results to 35 heterosexual women and asked them to rate their movements.

So what did the study tell us?

Simply put, women seem to like a lot of movement in the neck and trunk, specifically “neck flexion/extension (head nodding), trunk flexion/extension (forward/backward bending) and trunk abduction/adduction (bending sideways).” Are you a bad dancer?  You may be, especially if you keep your hands low and you don’t move your arms, trunk, or head much. The study summary offers much more detail than this, and Neave is continuing his research beyond the dance floor. He hopes to learn whether or not these key dance movements also influence how a woman perceives a man’s reproductive quality, his vigor, strength, and overall health.

As a side note, the researchers also found that men watch men dance, too, because they want to size them up in terms of competition for women.  According to Neave, “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.” Personally, this all sounds a little too caveman for me, but who can say? The subconscious is a very powerful place, and what man doesn’t feel just a little tiny bit anxious when his partner dances with another man? C’mon, a little, right?

Look, I know not everyone is interested in dancing or yearns to be “good” at it. I also know not every good dancer is a good man. In fact, maybe “bad” dancers rely more on their wit, intellect, and charm to attract a woman. I’ll grant you all of that if you’ll grant me this: There are few things in the world that make a woman feel as singularly treasured as a good dance partner. And when that partner shares (with great love) all the mistakes, missteps, and wrong moves that happen in real life, far from the dance floor, without letting go. Well, that’s even better.

Renee-JamesRenee A. James works at Rodale Inc. and also wrote an award-winning op-ed column for The Morning Call, the Allentown, PA, newspaper, for almost 10 years. Her essays were included in the humor anthology, 101 Damnations: A Humorists’ Tour of Personal Hells (Thomas Dunne Books, 2002), and are also found online at Jewish World Review and The Daily Caller. She invites you to Like her Facebook page, where she celebrates—and broods about—life on a regular basis, mostly as a voice in the crowd that shouts, “Really? You’re kidding me, right?” (Or wants to, anyway), and welcomes your suggestions, comments, and feedback to the mix.

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6 Responses to Digging the Dancing King

  1. Donna in Delaware April 11, 2014 at 11:34 am #

    Renee, this could not be more timely. For the last couple of days, no actually, the last couple of months, I told my husband that I would like to find some hoity toity fundraiser, or ball to attend, so that I can dress to the nines and dance the night away. He said that he could understand that. I am tall, had been fantasizing about being there, and this tall, dark, suave and handsome Argentinian man walks over and asks me to dance. We dance to Michael Bluble’s and Nellie Furtado’s release of the classic Quando, Quando, Quando. It is smooth, and I am in heaven dancing with this guy who is the tango type, and knows how to handle a woman in his arms while dancing. We stop the whole place. Everyone is looking because we look good together, and we just seem to move with ease, not having danced together before, it just clicks. We sway to the rhythm, and the dance is romantic and sexy. I see only him and he, me. When we are done, we bring down the house. I consider myself a good dancer, maybe not to others, but I can cut-a-rug!

    This being said, I find that having a great dance partner, as in having a great partner in life, is probably a wish that we all have and seldom get. So I believe, that there is a correlation between the two. They are not mutually or exclusively interchangeable, but there is something to it, and shouldn’t be totally dismissed.

  2. Donna in Delaware April 11, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    If you haven’t heard the song, you should YouTube it. I get it mostly on my Sirius Radio under Love on channel 17. It is done really well, and it is so nice to hear an old classic remade.

  3. Renee April 11, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    I’m listening to Love on my way home today, Donna! And I will look up the song.

    The very first piece of writing I ever was paid for was a column about why the final scene of Dirty Dancing contains everything men need to know about women. I stand by it – even today and have added the address below. I think you’ll enjoy it….


  4. Barbara April 11, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    I absolutely LOVE to dance, and one thing on my wishlist for a new partner (I have been divorced and raising my children alone for over 13 years now) is that he likes to dance. There are other things on my wishlist too, but I envision myself enjoying my elder years dancing, so this is in the top ten. No where to go, no problem, we would just put on music and dance the night away in our home.

    My oldest son is in Argentina right now and one thing, among many, that he has learned over the past 9 months is how to dance, Argentine-style. Oh the pictures I saw of him dancing! Being there has instilled a love of dancing that I only just sparked in the previous 23 years of his life!

    Thanks Renee. I always read what you write but rarely have the time to comment. Enjoy your insight and wit.

  5. Donna in Delaware April 11, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

    DITTO RENEE! Again you are spot on! A beautifully written article! Thank you so much. That hit on everything I was feeling and fantasizing about with that dance! It was an amazing feeling. Thanks again.

  6. Donna in Delaware April 11, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    Renee, please let me know how you like the Michael Bluble remake.

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