Belfast Telegraph

Sorry boys, but Travolta can dance into my heart

By Jane Graham

I’ve spent hours today listening to black-affronted men (online, on the radio, even on the bus) pouring scorn on crazy new scientific claims that women judge the opposite sex on the way they dance.

A woman couldn’t possibly be so superficial or so ruthless as to make a decision about a chap’s chances of getting her number based on the looseness of his hips, they insist. Well, I’ve got some bad news boys — it’s all true. And I reckon it’s a damn reliable method too.

The study, carried out by evolutionary psychologists at Northumbria University, asked women to rate the dance moves of a group of men after said moves had been transferred onto faceless CGI cartoons (presumably so that results weren’t skewed by a George Clooney lookalike competing with a Bill Oddie).

The conclusions were that women paid particular attention to the ‘core body region’, and were drawn to figures which twisted and shook their torso, neck and head.

In other words, rather than being turned on by a man with twinkle-toes, women like their partners’ funky shapes to emanate from the groin. (Unsettling news then for those men who have spent 10 years of wedding discos channelling Michael Flatley, rather than John Travolta, in an attempt to enflame onlookers’ desires.)

I have always made snap decisions on men based on their attitude and aptitude regarding the dancefloor. Call me shallow, but I still think it’s a more trustworthy and fair system than judging a girl on the length of her skirt or the ampleness of her cleavage, and I haven’t met many men who have never done that.

The key is not slickness or complexity. That would make Strictly Come Dancing’s Brendan Cole attractive, and I’ve yet to meet the woman who regards Cole’s unique combination of sky-scraping ego and low-level brain-activity as irresistible, despite his undeniable ballroom skills.

The crucial qualities for me are confidence, humour, enthusiasm and joie de vivre — all of which can be expressed through the torso and head/neck/face, which might explain the research results.

John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever remains the best example (though swaggering Tom Hughes’ jiving in this year’s Cemetery Junction captures the same spirit).

His peacock strut is undercut with a self-deprecating grin and a slightly self-parodying tendency to exaggeration; the moves, full of liberated animalistic energy, appear entirely unrehearsed and effortless, as if they simply ripple through his body; and, most importantly, Travolta looks as if he’s having an absolute blast.

There is a man, a girl might whisper to herself, who knows who he is, likes who he is, yet doesn’t take himself too seriously — a man with a spark in his eyes and a big fat appetite for life. What could be more attractive?

It’s dancing that has, over the years, caused me to fancy Christopher Walken (masterful snake-hips), Al Pacino (the chutzpah with which he sweeps up Gabrielle Anwar in Scent of a Woman!), Ricky Martin (totally free, very sexy, and sadly for me, completely gay) and various boyfriends, including the one I married.

It’s also helped rule out lots of men — po-faced, self-congratulatory moves are a huge turn-off (take note men of Strictly), as are predatory, lascivious ones (ditto men of Benidorm).

As for men who turn their back on the dancefloor entirely — no thanks. A man who can’t be persuaded to let go in public is unlikely to be much fun in private. Even if he does look like George Clooney.

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