Everybody on the Dance Floor!

Dance like the world is not watching you! All of us have heard this at least once in our lives and have also danced like the world wasn’t watching us. Professional dancers move so gracefully that they can move you to tears. Other (non-professional) persons with a deep passion for dance may move you to tears of a different kind. Well, what if I (informed by research studies) told you that dance is also a mode of communication? That dance, like language, transmits information from one person to another.

Here, I would like to introduce Dr. Peter Lovatt, also known as “Doctor Dance.” Dr. Lovatt is a dance psychologist, and a professional dancer, who runs the Dance Psychology Lab at the University of Hertfordshire. A Dance Psychology Lab! Isn’t that interesting? So what does a dance psychologist do? We have heard that dance soothes and that it can be used as therapy, but what could a dance psychologist possibly do? Well, as is written on Dr. Lovatt’s website, “Dance psychologists are interested in understanding how people communicate through dance and body movements.” They study emotions associated with each body movement, and also how stories are understood through dance.

Now let me take you through some of the interesting findings of Doctor Dance, which will help you understand why dance is a mode of communication. Dr. Lovatt has been studying how dance affects one’s self esteem (Lovatt, 2011), how dance is related to thinking (mainly convergent and divergent thinking; Lewis & Lovatt, 2013; Lovatt, 2013) and also how dance can affect the moods of those with Parkinson’s disease (Lewis, Annett, Davenport, Hall, & Lovatt, 2014). But his findings about dance and hormones were the most intriguing. He found that women who are in the fertile period of their cycle dance moving only their hips when compared with women not in their fertile period.

When men were asked to rate the level of attractiveness of various women dancing, they tended to rate women dancing only with their hips to be more attractive than women who danced with their whole body. To validate this further, he observed how women dance at various stages of their cycle, and found that the same woman dances differently in her fertile period and in her low fertile period. On the other hand, he also found that men who dance more vigorously, are the men who have high levels of testosterone in their body. These men are also rated more attractive by women when compared to men who don’t dance vigorously. What does this tell us? That we are biologically driven to dance and that the way one dances describes biological and genetic make-up. It can be seen as a way of communicating to the opposite sex. If you think about it from an evolutionary perspective, it helped women spot men who were high on testosterone to perpetuate their genes and vice versa.

 Dance is also used as a form of therapy known as dance movement therapy. This is based on the assumption that the body, mind, and spirit are interconnected and uses dance movement for the emotional, cognitive, and physical integration of an individual.

So, these studies on dancing suggest that the way we dance maybe a form of expression of our hormonal level. We may also be able to infer that dancing comes naturally to us. So, the next time you are in a club, don’t hesitate to shake a leg!

Suggested Readings:

Mood changes following social dance sessions in people with Parkinson’s disease.

The power of dance across behavior and thinking.

Dance, Thinking and Hormones

Dance and Psychology

Sharanya  Venugopal