What dance moves make a woman more attractive? According to scientists, those with greater hip swing and asymmetric thighs and arms movements are rated best.

Dancing is an activity that is observed everywhere in the world, across all cultures. Scientists have long noted that it is often expressed in courtship contexts, and can serve to attract potential partners.

While there has been many studies of human courtship, showing how certain physical traits or vocal qualities offer an advantage, little has been published about the dance movements that are more likely to attract partners – especially in women.

In the study, published in Scientific Reports, researchers have now identified what movements are considered "appealing" when it comes to women dancers. Their findings may help shed a light on dance's role in human courtship and partner selection.

In previous research, scientists have shown men who are greater risk-takers and who have a stronger handgrip are rated as being better dancers. "In women, there is some evidence that dance attractiveness might reflect fertility: women's dance is rated more attractive during high-fertility than low-fertility, and female lap-dancers earn more tips around ovulation," the team wrote.

"In order to fully understand what dance movements can convey to potential partners, we need to know which dance movements are appealing."

Northumbria University

Dancing avatars

To test which female dance moves are more attractive, the team recruited 39 women aged 18 to 30 years from northern England. They were recorded while they danced to a basic rhythm during thirty seconds. The scientists then created avatars based on their movement patterns. They showed videos of these avatars to 57 men and 143 women. These participants rated the dance performance of the avatars on a scale of one to seven.

Analysing the ratings obtained by each avatars, the researchers were able to pinpoint which movements contributed to making a "good dancer".

They found that three types of movement contributed independently to high-quality female dance: more asymmetric movements of the thighs, and intermediate levels of asymmetric movements of the arms, and greater hip swing.

The scientists suggest that these movements may be rated as attractive because they serve a purpose - hip swing could be solely a feminine trait, while the ability to move limbs independently of each other could show good motor control.

dance moves
Scientists have pinpointed the movements rated as most appealing among female dancers Istock

These traits may suggest potential fertility and point towards female partner who may provide reproductive benefits. Researchers say their findings offer new clues about how dance is used in human courtship.

"Women dance to entertain men in many cultures," they wrote. "A study in a nightclub found that female dancers were more likely to attract male attention than vice versa, and men pay greater visual attention to attractive than unattractive dancers. ... Here, using cutting-edge motion-capture technology combined with powerful multi-level models, we have uncovered a set of specific movement parameters associated with perceived female dance quality.

"We are now in a position to further consider the potential signalling value of such movement patterns, for example by assessing the links between the movements and female reproductive quality (health, fertility etc)."