Dance Symmetry Project


Is dance just for fun or does it carry important hidden messages? 

We address this question by collecting and analyzing dance data specific to populations where dance has high cultural importance.   We focus on the possibility that dancing ability may correlate with the dancer's degree of bodily symmetry, commonly used in evolutionary studies to measure developmental stability and hence genetic quality. A study captured a large dataset of dances from Jamaican teenagers participating in the Jamaican Symmetry Project.  The subsequent analysis of the resulting motion data reveals a strong positive correlation between symmetry and dancing ability. The effect is stronger for men than for women, and women rate dances by symmetrical men relatively more positively than do men. It works both ways, because symmetrical men value symmetry in women dancers more highly than less symmetrical men. So in Jamaica at least, dance appears to be a matter of sexual selection and reveals important information about the dancer.

Project Members



"Dance reveals symmetry especially in young men", Brown, W.M., Cronk, L., Grochow, K., Jacobson, A., Liu, K., Popović, Z., Trivers, R. in Nature Vol. 438 Num. 7071.
[project] [paper] [front cover] [editor's summary] [Nature's podcast]

Dance Capture and Visualization

Collection of images describing the motion capture process.
Video description of the dance extraction process.
hires avi (45 MB), hires mov (101 MB), lowres avi (11 MB), lowres mov (11 MB)
Final dance: view1, view2
Symmetrical male dancer example.
Asymmetrical male dancer example.

Funding Support


Last Modified: December 21, 2005