Almost since the dawn of man (and woman) there has been dancing, it has appeared throughout the centuries as forms of worship, an integral part of ceremony and of course, a celebration.
Men would gather around huge bonfires to praise their gods, whilst women would entice high rolling tribesmen with the swaying of their hips, in some ways dancing hasn’t changed that much after all.
Any visit to a nightclub on a Friday and you will see dance is still used in a very similar way; it is a ritualistic and celebratory act that brings larges groups of people together.
The social meanings behind dance have changed greatly since our loin cloth wearing ancestors: it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll see someone dancing in order to worship a deity or to announce the presence of a great leader, instead we dance for fun, for exercise, for celebration, for the sheer love of music, the list could go on.
With the reasons behind our dancing changing it is inevitable that the meaning of dancing itself has changed. Though it was once something that bridged the gender divide, dancing is now largely a feminine activity; loved by women the world over and detested by the men they force to do it with them.
As of yet there are no definitive scientific investigations as to what has caused this genuine phenomenon, but there are certainly a few theories.
Although dancing is a highly physical activity, something normally associated with our testosterone filled brethren, male dancers have become somewhat of a rarity in recent years. One theory is that dancing has become very sexually evocative and men can’t help but feel that their dancing abilities might in some way reflect their sexual abilities.
Now we all know that having two left feet when you’re upright doesn’t necessarily effect how you handle yourself (and others) when you’re on your back but with performance anxiety on the rise in Western cultures it is no wonder men fear performing on the dance floor as much as they fear performing in the bedroom.
And what is there to contest such a theory? As for centuries women have been employed to dance for the sexual and voyeuristic pleasure of men.
Dancers are performers, their dance something to watched and enjoyed by others; simple psychoanalysis (and common sense) show that looking is often the way in which we determine the sexual (and at an instinctual level, reproductive) potential of our mates; despite what they say, looks are important.
By looking at dancers – male or female – the watcher can’t help but judge their sexual potential, so no wonder having no rhythm has got the boys worried!
On an even deeper psycho-social level there is even more to this idea, a woman judging a man is one thing, but for a man to look at another man while he’s dancing, well then things take a whole other turn.
As general societal rule heterosexuality trumps any other kind of sexual preference, allowing a man to watch another man dance implies that he is judging the male dancer within the same categories as a female dancer; and social rules always win out, and no guy wants his friends to call him “gay”.
This is less of a problem for female dancers however, as society encourages women to be physically appealing to their male counterparts and so the girls are allowed to enjoy dancing in a more traditional form. Women view dance as an act of social integration and interaction, one look at any dance floor and you are likely to see more women dancing in groups than with a single male partner.
This is because dancing at it’s core is a form of self expression, something that has been deeply ingrained into the female psyche as something which women are taught to share and voice openly, whilst men, as a general rule, are far more closed off with their emotions (… obviously) and less likely to interact with a large group of people on an intimate level.
When large groups of women gather together they talk of their mutual feelings, when large groups of men gather together they watch sports almost entirely ignorant of their companions. This behaviour goes back to the roots of human development where men would go and hunt alone whilst women were left on mass to protect children and the home territory… sound familiar to anyone else?