Dad Dancing

It might not have the grace of the Foxtrot or the style of Argentine Tango but Dad Dancing is the new dance craze sweeping the country. Dad Dancing is fun, big and most importantly its impossible to get wrong! You don't need a partner, you can dance it to any type of music, and no-one's going to correct your technique.

Dad Dancing is a form of freestyle dance characterised by complete freedom of movement. The most obvious examples of Dad Dancing can be seen when people make large, uncoordinated, and uninhibited movements. But Dad Dancing is just as likely to be seen when people make small, shuffly, wobbly movements.

When someone is really Dad Dancing, in the true sense of Dad Dancing, they are completely in their own world, they are dancing for themselves, and their movements are simply the external expression of what they feel inside.

The Origins of Dad Dancing

Dad Dancing can be traced back to the earliest family celebrations where, typically, men in their 30s and 40s would dance, using movements that were not in the height of fashion, and embarrass their children. Dad Dancing is universal, there are Dad Dancers in Tokyo, Toronto, Tallahassee, Toowoomba and Tunbridge Wells.

The Science of Dad Dancing

From an evolutionary perspective (Darwin, 1871) dance is an integral part of the mate selection process. Research has shown that the way we dance is related to our hormonal and genetic make up, such that men dance differently depending on their level of the sex hormone "testosterone" and women dance differently depending on the stage they are at in the ovulatory cycle. Most importantly these differences in dance movements are picked up by people watching others dance and they form the basis of ratings of attractiveness. In short, high testosterone men, and women at the fertile stage of their ovulatory cycle, are rated as more attractive than men with low testosterone and women at the less fertile stage of their ovulatory cycle.

So, dance moves signal our hormonal and genetic make up. But what has this got to do with Dad Dancing? Well, we know that when men are past their reproductive prime they start to dance differently compared with when they were in their reproductive prime. In a survey of 14,000 people, which included over 8,000 men, Dr Peter Lovatt found that men in their 30s and 40s used bigger and less coordinated dance moves than men in their teens and 20's. Lovatt also found that women rated larger and less coordinated dance moves as less attractive than the slightly smaller and more coordinated dance moves often displayed by people in their teens and 20s.

Therefore, from an evolutionary perspective, Dad Dancing might have evolved as a way of signalling to women that men are past their reproductive prime.

The Health Benefits of Dad Dancing

There are many health benefits associated with dance. Dance can be good for a person's general health, their psychological well-being, and their mood and for general levels of fitness. However, dance can also cause some people tremendous stress and anxiety.

Dr Lovatt has carried out a large-scale survey asking people either why they dance or why they don't dance. One of the main reasons that people don't dance is because they feel self-conscious, and one of the reasons they feel self-conscious is because they feel afraid of making a mistake while they are dancing. This feeling was expressed by a large number of people over the age of 30 who said that they were afraid to dance because they no-longer knew the latest most fashionable dance moves.

One way to over-come this feeling of not knowing the latest dance moves is to learn some new ones. In large cities there are lots of opportunities to learn formal dances. For example, people can learn the Ballroom and Latin dances, they can take up Salsa or Line Dancing. However, to learn these dances might require the existence of formal classes, a large space in which to dance, a partner and money for lessons, which simply might not be available. In addition, learning these types of dance comes with another difficulty. You have to learn the steps. You have to get it right and there are often lots of people around who, when you step on their toe, will tell you that you have got it wrong - and this can be stressful and damaging for your health.

The other way to over-come the feeling of not knowing the latest dance moves is to just do what comes naturally. Forget about what's fashionable, forget about dancing for other people, forget about getting things wrong and just dance for the sheer pleasure of being alive. Most of all, just dance like no-one's watching. When we dance in this way we are in a position to gain all of the health benefits of dance without suffering from the counteractive effects of stress and anxiety associated with learning to do something "right" and being afraid of getting it "wrong".

Dad Dancing is the perfect form of dance to improve your health because it doesn't rely on you knowing what to do, it is not tied to any particular form of music or fashion, it doesn't require a partner, a large space, or a formal class or money and it is impossible to get wrong.

Is Dad Dancing "Bad" Dancing

Dad Dancing is not bad dancing. Dad Dancers can be highly skilled, coordinated dancers who have a wide repertoire of moves and who can connect with the music and other people while they are dancing. Dad Dancers can be a dream to dance with, because they are relaxed, unashamed and free. Because of the free nature of Dad Dancing it can also be big, wild, and uncoordinated.

Do you need to be a Dad to Dad Dance?

You do not need to be a dad to Dad Dance. You don't even need to be in your 30s or 40s, or even be male, to Dad Dance. Everyone who enjoys dancing in a relaxed, free and uninhibited way can enjoy the many benefits of Dad Dancing.

Tips for getting started with Dad Dancing

Next time you're alone, plug yourself into some music, close your eyes, forget who you are and start moving. You'll be amazed what happens next.

Dr Peter Lovatt

24th April 2010

© Peter Lovatt. All rights reserved. 24th April 2010.

About the Author

Peter Lovatt, PhD

Peter Lovatt is a psychologist and dancer based at the University of Hertfordshire.

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