Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Imaginary Peer Review

Dance Activity and Perceived Risk Taking by Dr William Routledge
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?


Red said...

I always feel like I'm taking a chance when I dance...especially if I dance to "Take a Chance on Me" by ABBA.

Anonymous said...

I avoid taking embarrassing dance chances by only dancing with myself.

Daltana said...

It's always a very high risk dancing, unless one is doing the "Time Warp."

ad said...

What's your opinion on Idol's thesis "Dancing with myself"? What are the inherent risks there, Imaginary Reviewer?

bootlegmarkchapman said...

Let's not forget the recent hypothesis of the alternative theoretician Vanessa Anne Hudgens, who posits that basically, all we are going to do is dance, and that furthermore, all you are required to do as part of this procedure is "make a chance" - at the same time making clear her expectations that dancing is inevitable while abdicating some element of responsibility for creating the conditions under which dancing may take place.

Which is awful uppity for someone whose mimsy I have seen.

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Red: The 'Abba Variable', as it's known, adds a certain metaphysical layer to one's dance-chance-taking.

Jeff: But that does increase the chance of dancing with tears in your eyes (thinking of the memory of a love gone by), which is, I would say, fairly embarrassing in itself.

Dealer Man: The Time Warp is one of the riskiest dances out there! That pelvic thrust really drives you insane(ayeahyeahyeahyeah)!

Ad: Again, Dancing with myself is risky for the possibility of getting tears in one's eyes. Also, doing anything by oneself raises the imagary of sitting by a rain-swept window and singing "all by myself" while drinking cocoa, which, as we all know, is very risky indeed.

Mr Chapman: Indeed. This is similar to the theory raised by Jamiroquai, who states that "there is nothing left for [him] to do but dance." His ultimate conclusion is that this is due to the canned heat in his heels tonight.

Also, I'm never surprised if seeing someone's mimsy causes uppitiness, especially if said vision is accidental.

Anonymous said...

To prance in France is almost guaranteed to enhance the chance of romance.

It worked for me.

Jillian said...

I suggest that anyone experiencing fear or nervousness about dancing should start off with a Safety Dance (they're doing from from pole to pole!).

Note: Just to be sure of the wording for this comment, I watched the Men Without Hats video of the Safety Dance. And now I feel a little, um...perplexed.