Avatars help scientists find best female dance moves

A Northumbria University study has used featureless avatars of females dancing to find out which moves will best attract a mate.

NEWCASTLE (REUTERS) - Judging whether someone is a good dancer or not is pretty subjective. But Northumbria University researchers say they've found an independent way to tell who's got twinkle toes.

First they kitted out female volunteers in motion capture suits and filmed them in a T-shape pose, so cameras could map their bodies into featureless avatars.

They then used video game software to make each volunteer's avatar a similar height and weight, to avoid bias.

"After we've got a wire frame diagram of our subjects dancing around, we then have to normalise their height and their build, which would otherwise be visible, using a 3D model." said Chris McCarty, Northumbria University.

Then it was time for the women to strut their stuff to a Robbie Williams backing track.

Finally, 200 volunteers rated the dancing on a scale of 1 to 7.

"Our study found that there were four things that characterise high quality female dance. The first was large movements of the hips. The second was the ability to keep in time, to a rhythm. The third was asymmetric movements of the arms, so that the arms were doing something slightly different to one another; and the fourth was the same thing for the legs." said Dr Nick Neave, Associate Professor of Evolutionary Psychology, Northumbria University.

Earlier studies have suggested dancing is closely linked to courtship rituals and fertility.

Previously the Northumbria team examined male dancing.

"We think that when males dance, they're showing off their strength, not to females particularly but especially to other males. We do suspect that female dance moves will be signifying the same kinds of things, but in relation to things like their fertility, their health, their reproductive status; and we also think that they'll be giving off these signals to males and to females. We're yet to do this research but we do expect to find that there could be close links between a female's health and reproductive quality and her fertility, and her dance moves." added Dr Neave.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.