Man was a sun runner. That is to say, an ape that ran in the hot sun. That is our special niche. No land animal but man can run a marathon.
But man then did something unique – he started dancing. I was thinking about tribal group dances and realised that no animal but man can perform a group dance. And of course, modern humans dance a lot (except those who are stuck in their office cubicles). Dancing is a bid deal. It is a unique marker of humanity.
All human babies are dance-ready. Any parent will know that toddlers are enthused by music and will sprig to dance at the slightest opportunity.
It appears that others have been intrigued by this human ability as well. There has been some recent research in this area.
Hypothesis 1: Solo dancing is a signal of physical fitness, to attract mates
A lot of creatures dance, e.g. the peacock. Much of this is associated with demonstration of physical fitness to attract a mate. Solo dances could be an indication of physical fitness and body coordination. It is clear that dancing does improve limb coordination and can give dancers a survival advantage (martial arts are often dance-like).
However, this doesn't explain group dancing. Why do we need to dance in groups?
Hypothesis 2: Group dancing gives us a combined survival advantage.
(This is my hypothesis – I couldn't readily find something on these lines on the internet). Being sensitive to others' movements (mirror neurons), we are able to both COMPETE and coordinate through group dance. We learn from the best group dancer, but by joining in, we demonstrate our individual dancing and coordination skills. Group dancing helps increase group cohesion which was crucial when we were hunter gatherers. Even agriculture is predominantly group-based. Human tribes which danced outperformed those which didn't.
Only dancing humans survived. Non-dancers died out.
Dancing gives a huge fitness advantage throughout life. It is a great aerobic routine, and a fabulous way to keep the body well balanced and supple.
Hence the increasing popularity of Zumba (and Bollywood) dancing in gyms across the world.
And of course, God must be the world's greatest dancer. He is God, and must have great body coordination.
- Why do we like to dance–And move to the beat? Columbia University neurologist John Krakauer busts a move and rolls out an answer to this query
- Why do people dance?
- Why Do Humans Dance? by Denise Chow
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