Questioning Dancing

I’ve been looking into a new hobby and I’ve heard about this new trend that all the kids seem to be doing. Until now I’ve just quietly nodded my head in the shadowy corner of the room sort-of-near the beat hoping no-one would notice me. But maybe I’m ready for the big time. Maybe I’m ready to bust a move? Maybe I can, you know, move? But where do I start? Arms? Legs? Torso? Eyebrows? Do I need to watch Footloose, or perhaps another Kevin Bacon movie? Hey editor, does Apollo 13 or Mystic River have any dancing? Surely dancing in zero gravity would be easier, right? Who KNOWS? Maybe Cody Atkinson, but probably not hey, he has no rhythm whatsoever.

So what is dancing?

Ah come on. Really? (checks an unblemished set of encyclopaedias because that’s where the budget for this column goes, like all of it, on old Funk and Wagnalls reference material, including Encarta). Apparently, dancing is to move your feet, body or both rhythmically in a pattern often to music.

That’s dancing?

Yeah, give or take, moving your body to music. Without having lecherous masses jeer at you from the sidelines.

Wait, isn’t that what Dancing With The Stars is?

Nah, that’s a piece of shit, a waste of time for almost everyone involved that added nothing to the cultural framework of the nation except to humanise unnamed right wing politicians and prepare their return to the public spotlight. Which isn’t a great result, to be fair.

Oh, sorry, my fault.

No problems. Dancing isn’t always a good thing. I guess.

Like when?

Oh, after say a trillion pints dancing is probably a bad idea. Or before a trillion pints.

Not much of a dancer are you?

I mean occasionally the vibe might strike, if the music fits the mood and I am well out of sight of cameras or recording devices. Then maybe. But probably not hey, because it’s hard to be pretentious and let go at the same time…

So what do most people like to dance to?

Music mostly.


Different studies over the past 30 years have shown that people can move to grooves anywhere between 94 and 176 beats per minute (bpm), however most prefer tempos in the 100 to 130 beats per minute range. That’s about two beats per second, give or take a few milliseconds here or there. But beyond that it’s a bit different strokes for different folks.

How so?

Well it turns out that the taller you are, the slower your preferred dancing tempo will be. A pair of academic studies in the USA and Germany put a drum machine set to a variable tempo, and asked a variety of participants to set it to the tempo they would dance to. The study showed that the best predictors for a person’s favourite tempo was leg length and overall height, although the effect wasn’t huge.

Well why is there always a tall dude like right in front of me at the hardcore show?

Beats me. Maybe they are three kids stacked up on each other’s shoulders? They do that these days, with an overcoat and the like. BACK IN MY DAY KIDS JUST USED TO USE FAKE IDS AND SNEAK IN THROUGH BACK DOORS TO GET INTO VEUNES…

Yeah maybe…

And it turns out age may also be a factor, although some of the research is slightly conflicting. It is generally believed that over time a person’s preferred tempo for dancing slllllloooowwwwwssss ddddooowwwwnnn.

Ah, that’s why I always get stuck behind old people on the dancefloor…

And they refuse to get over to the slow part of the dance floor. How can I overtake if there’s people everywhere on it, constantly moving? It’s all the boomers fault anyway.

(Eats avo smash, complains about house prices, pretends to read hardcopy newspaper while scrolling the BMA Facebook page.)

Well what about the beat itself? Is there a preferred type of beat that encourages “the boogie”?

Yes! Kind of. Maybe. Researchers from Oxford and Aarhus found that people preferred drum breaks that weren’t too complex or too simple – the ‘Goldilocks’ zone of beats. Most people, in an absolutely shock finding that wasn’t a waste of anyone’s time and money at all, find it quite hard to dance to improvisational jazz type drum breaks, due to its complex and unpredictable nature. Just when people think they’ve found the beat, it really isn’t the beat and it turns out they look a bit stupid.

But how about really simple beats? Isn’t that what modern dance pop is built on?

Well, kind of, but a straight drum break with no complexity doesn’t generally excite people either. Think less Ke$ha, more nursery rhyme. If it’s too simple, people won’t even bother to remember it. For example the study cites ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ as a song that people struggle to dance to, which is why democracy is flawed because that shit is a CERTIFIED BANGER!!!

Well, is there a greater point to dancing?

A greater point? Like, greater than enjoying the human experience a little more and being able to get through each day as it comes?


Well, a study in Seattle demonstrated that experience in hip hop dance can lead to better sociocognitive skills in certain areas, which may lead to supplement teaching in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields of study. Which are words that I’d never thought I’d read, let alone type.

You and me both.

But more importantly, dance and the expression of movement has been passed down through time through various different cultures and geographic regions, often providing ties to an overarching identity. Dancing is more than just cutting loose at Cube or Moose after 3am; it’s often a representation of a history greater than their own.

And you can’t get that at 3am? Damn…


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