the science of daddy dancing – and why it’s good for you

In his early 20s, Prince William was often seen stumbling out of nightclubs after a night of swinging. Now, however, it seems as if the clock has struck 12, that this youthful frolicking has transformed into something much more painful: dad dancing.

In a viral video recorded during a Taylor Swift concert, the heir to the throne was filmed with his arms raised and his chest moving rapidly – ​​and somewhat stiffly – back and forth in time to the music.

At Glastonbury this weekend, tens of thousands of men will also ‘shake it off’ in a similarly energetic way.

While scientific studies have confirmed that older men do indeed dance differently than their younger counterparts — and this may have evolved as a way to signal their declining biological fitness — experts argue that daddy dancing should be celebrated, not planned, because of its many benefits that it can offer. to take.

“When I look at Prince William dancing, I just see someone who is smiling, he’s happy, and dance is doing those wonderful things,” said Dr. Peter Lovatt (AKA Dr. Dance), the head of dance psychology at Movement in Practice and author of The Dance Cure. “We know that dancing is really good for social bonding, and that when people dance together they report liking and trusting each other more. Even when you dance with strangers, you get those effects of increased trust and familiarity.”

Lovatt became interested in the phenomenon of daddy dancing after several studies suggested that the way people groove and boogie was influenced by their hormones, with women rating men who had been exposed to high levels of testosterone in the womb as more attractive and masculine dancers.

Skeptical of such claims, Lovatt began bringing people into his lab and testing them himself. He even temporarily relocated his lab to a nightclub and took short video samples of hundreds of people dancing, testing their hormone exposure, and then asked other people to rate their movements for attractiveness, dominance, masculinity, and femininity.

“What we discovered was that the way people move, both men and women, is influenced by their hormonal and genetic makeup. When people watch other people dance, their ratings of their attractiveness vary depending on the way they move. ” said Lovatt.

Men with high testosterone levels tend to coordinate larger movements in different parts of their bodies, making their contours more interesting and breaking up the rhythm of the music, rather than dancing briskly to the beat.

A separate study by Dr Nick Neave of Northumbria University found that young women rated men as good dancers if they had a varied repertoire and more movements that involved tilting and twisting their torso and neck. However, most men showed highly repetitive movements that used their arms and legs but not the rest of their body.

Such studies could indicate that human dance serves a similar role to the elaborate courtship dances that certain birds and animals use to attract a mate. “Possibly when we’re young and in the prime of our lives, we’re communicating something about how wonderful our hormones and genes are,” said Lovatt, who likened the aging man to a browning apple in the middle of a bowl of fruit.

“It has been suggested that as we age, the way we dance signals to others that we may be less fertile, less attractive, and less than ideal partners.”

Still, he feels uncomfortable reducing the evolutionary significance of dance to this one factor. In addition to increasing familiarity and trust, other studies have suggested that improvised dancing – or “groovy moves” – also changes the way we think and solve problems.

Lovatt said: “We know that anxiety and depression are associated with being stuck in negative thinking patterns, and when people go dancing, those negative thoughts are disrupted for a moment. Their mood improves and they break those fixed thinking patterns.”

For Dr Ian Blackwell, a visiting lecturer at Plymouth Marjon University and organiser of the World Dad Dancing Championships, the research into William’s dancing is a reflection of the way society still expects men to conform and not express themselves. “It’s a shame that every time a father gets up to move house, it has a negative connotation – it’s embarrassing for him and the children, it’s embarrassing for the public.

“We know the value of dancing for health, well-being and making friends. It is something we should celebrate.”

Despite further research by Lovatt showing that some men avoid dancing because they fear being judged, men’s confidence in their dance abilities typically grows as they get older – and by the time they hit their mid-60s, “it goes through the roof”.

Reigning World Dad Dancing champion Robin Woods, father of three from Paignton in Devon, said he was not shy about sharing his triumph on Facebook. “I think the people who know me from when I went out a lot – and always ended up on the dance floor – were happy that I was finally recognized,” he chuckled.

“It’s a nice thing – it’s not a serious thing – so it’s okay for me to kid myself.”

Woods, who describes his usual dancing style as ‘freestyle’ with influences from James Brown and Michael Jackson, didn’t even know what dad dancing was when he entered the competition, which is judged by children and takes place every September at DadFest in Devon.I just assumed it would be a bit more enthusiastic and amateurish than normal dancing – so I just went for it and exaggerated everything I did.”

He won the title after an exciting dance-off with two other finalists, performed to Mr Brightside by The Killers and Baby Shark by Pinkfong.

Blackwell said that while the clip of Williams’ dance was too short to judge whether he had a chance of winning, “he would be very welcome to come to DadFest in September so we can see the full extent of his moves and whether he’s got a decent Lawnmower Starter, Big Fish, Little Fish, John Travolta or Lasso.”

A visual guide to daddy dancing

Reigning World Dad Dancing champion Robin Woods shows off some classic moves to get men dancing – plus one of his own.

Lawn mower starter

Clamp your front foot onto an imaginary gasoline lawn mower, then repeatedly swing your arm and clenched fist upward, as if you were trying to start the machine.

Rusty robot

This internationally recognized dance move for dads is similar to the robot body-flattening move, but rustier. This imitates the mechanical movements of a faltering Tin Man robot.


Imagine you are a miner, hunched over a pneumatic drill and moving your arms up and down to the rhythm of the drums.

Daddy dip

One of Woods’ own inventions, the award-winning move involves leaning back and landing on one hand, then pushing back up and landing on the other hand. “I’ve been doing it for years,” Woods said. “Maybe I just figured out I can do it without falling over again.”

Baby shark

A dance for the whole family to do – doo doo, doo doo, doo doo. It involves imitating the movements of baby, mom, dad, grandma and grandpa shark when they go swimming.

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