The National Journal of Musical Psychiatry, Vol. 22, pp 205-241
A year ago, Doctor William Routledge wrote his groundbreaking study on the increase in disinterest permeating through the hip-hop industry. Entitled Rapathy, the paper (reviewed in these pages last February) told of the worrying tendency of rap fans to wave their hands in the air out of boredom, as if they just did not care. Now, the eminent musical psychologist has published his latest work after twelve months of intense study.
Doctor Routledge investigated various people in nightclubs and social events where music was playing. He was interested in the behaviour of the attendees at these functions, and he made various observations, noting them down in what he describes in the methodology section of the paper as “a jotter with a picture of Hannah Montana on the cover”.
Routledge noticed a strange trend in the behaviour of the subjects. Immediately prior to, and during, the act of dancing, most of the people displayed classic signs of nervousness and fear. They appeared to be enjoying the dancing, but levels of perspiration and body language seemed to indicate that the people were fearful of something. As Routledge notes:
“The subjects, whether at a disco or a party, all seemed to want to dance. They
seemed to be enjoying the dancing. But yet, at the same time, it was as if some
kind of risk was involved. They felt like they were taking a chance.”
This chance-taking has been noted before by many researchers, but not with such a detailed level of study. Ciccone & Timberlake (2008) found that people would “Take a chance tonight” before they “groove [themselves] to the world.” A 1984 study by Estefan and Sound Machine says that to dance is to “take a chance today”; this appears to be just as relevant a sentiment in 2009 as it was then.
Routledge notes these prior studies in his introduction, and also mentions other research which shows that this phenomenon is not limited to any specific genre of music. Kee (2004) proves its existence in gospel (“By faith take this chance/as an act of faith get on up and dance”), and Cheetah Girls et al (2006) have found it to be present in tango (“Take a chance/feel the tango/when you dance”).
But why should people be feeling like they are taking a chance when they dance? What possible reason could there be for this perception of risk?
One reason, Routledge believes, could be insecurity in one’s dancing skills. But while this is understandable for many amateur groovers, even when a dancer gains experience and confidence in their abilities they seem to be feeling like they are taking a chance with the boogie.
Routledge considers the addition of an evolutionary explanation. He believes that dancing is one way to try and attract a mate. As the author puts it himself:
“Many people feel that by having a dance they could find some romance. For
example, if, when they dance, they make an obvious glance they may enhance their
chance of a romantic advance. As long as they don’t prance. In France.”
But by putting themselves out in the open, they may also be increasing the opportunities for competing suitors to confront them, leading to what Jackson (1997) described in his paper, Blood on the Dance Floor. By heightening their own awareness of risk, this evolutionary adaptation on the part of the dancers means that if they sense danger, they are more ready to take flight to the bar or bathrooms, for example.
Routledge’s conclusions are both intuitive and elegant, and show that he is once again the master of the field of musical psychiatry. His prose, diagrams and font choice are all of the highest order, and this reviewer is once again humbled by an excellent paper. I for one can’t wait until he completes his next essay, On the Veracity of Atmospheric/Ocular Comparison, or Why Don’t Your Eyes look anything Like the Skies?