Do you sweep across the floor with all the grace of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, or are you more in step with the natural rhythm of Ann Widdecombe? Many people claim to have two left feet when it comes to dancing, and never mind a Hand Juggle Slingshot (yep, that really is a dance move), some of us approach anything more complicated than a drunken ‘Dancing Queen’ with more than a little trepidation!
So what makes a good dancer?
While professional dancers and coaches will argue that passion, spirit or commitment are the key, the truth is that none of these will be worth anything at all without the ability to respond to the beat or pulse of the music. A sense of rhythm is a uniquely human characteristic. Or is it?!
Step up Snowball the Eleonora cockatoo, your time to shine has come…
As you can see, Snowball is able to throw some pretty nifty shapes, and it didn’t take him long to catch the attention of scientists John Iverson and Aniruddh Patel. They tested the bird and discovered that he could adapt his movements to fit the beat of music of differing beats and tempos. ‘Ah’, they thought, ‘perhaps musical rhythm is a by-product of vocal learning (the ability of an animal to mimic sounds it has not encountered before).’ So just us and some birds and then!
Ronan can certainly rock out with the best of them, but he isn’t capable of vocal learning so bang goes that theory! Moving to the beat seems to be something that many species just enjoy. And whether doing the full John Travolta or just tapping our feet, it certainly seems to be something that is incredibly important to us. But it’s not all about looking good on the dance floor – engagement with rhythm has even been shown to have a positive impact on numeracy skills in children!
So while the boffins struggle to work out exactly where a sense of rhythm comes from and who exactly has it, maybe the rest of us should just relax and enjoy the proven body-and-brain benefits of shimmying our way through the mashed potato or the bus stop!
And while you’re at it, as well as getting your kids moving to the beat, this is a great opportunity to teach your class about musical note lengths and rhythm names.
(Semibreve = 4 counts; minim = 2 counts; crotchet = 1 count).
Perform an action/movement to fit with a four beat-pattern e.g.