Dancers are born not made accordingly to new study

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Dancing ability could be down to genes, according to a new study released today, which reveals that successful dancers are most likely to be Taureans with dark hair, dark eyes, small feet and no siblings.

The study, commissioned to celebrate the launch of new series The Secret Life of the Ballroom, which follows ten ordinary people as they prepare to enter the world of competitive dancing for the first time, was led by statistician Dr Geoff Ellis and looked into the traits professional dancers share. The study also looked into the attitudes of the British public towards dancing, including their own and their partner’s ability.

A team of statisticians worked with a random sample of over 100 of the most successful international dancers from across a range of disciplines including ballroom, ballet and contemporary to analyse genetic and social factors. Physical attributes such as shoe size, family status, hometown and star signs were analysed to discover statistically significant patterns. This was compared to the national average.

Statistician Dr Geoff Ellis, who led ‘The Secret Life of the Ballroom Report’ for W, says, “The results give credence to the theory that dancers are born, rather than made – though the public survey would suggest that the majority of us still enjoy getting our dancing shoes on!  Even though there are various physical and social factors that would seem to lend themselves to being successful as a dancer, thankfully that still doesn’t stop anyone from giving dancing a go and enjoying it as much as those in new series ‘The Secret Life of the Ballroom’, for example.”

Family dynamics

Key amongst the findings was the percentage of only children to find fame as a dancer, as children without siblings were found to be 69% more likely to become dancers than average.  Middle children from families with three or more children are the least likely group to show an aptitude for dancing (this group are 47% less likely than average and a staggering 220% less likely than only children to become professional dancers).  Only children who’ve had glittering careers in dance include Ginger Rogers, Mikhail Baryshnikov & Roy Castle.

Shoe size and height

Across both sexes dancers to have daintier feet – on average two sizes smaller than average for both male and female dancers (UK size 7.5 for male dancers and size 5 for female dancers compared with sizes 10 and 6 overall average respectively).  Both male and female dancers are likely to be slightly taller than average – female dancers average 163cm compared with national average of 162cm, while male dancers average 177cm compared with national average of 175cm.  Successful dancers with these traits include Wayne Sleep and Prince, both of which have shoe size six, as well as Britney Spears and Josephine Baker, who are both show size fives.  Brothers Jordan and Ashley Banjo of Diversity fame are some of the tallest dancers at (198cm) and (196cm) respectively, and ballet superstar Darcey Bussell (170cm) and Dutch exotic dancer Mata Hari (178cm) are both considerably taller than the national average.

Star sign

Taureans are the most likely star sign to be lighting up the dance floor (12% compared with average of 8%), while Aries are most likely to have two left feet (accounting for just 4% of the sample).  In fact Earth signs (Capricorn, Taurus and Virgo) are the most likely to be pro dancers (31% compared with 25%) while Fire (Aries, Leo and Sagittarius) and Air (Libra, Aquarius and Gemini) were the least likely to show dancing prowess (21% compared with 25%). Famous Taurean professional dancers include the likes of Margot Fonteyn, Fred Astaire, Brendan Cole and Darcey Bussell.

Hair and eye colour

The physical looks of successful dancers has also been revealed – with a strong predisposition for dark coloured eyes and hair.  According to the research, four fifths of famous dancers (82%) have brown or black hair, higher than the UK national average of 74%, and 61% of pro dancers have brown or hazel eyes, compared with the national average of 49%. Dancers who’ve got these aesthetics include Rudolph Nureyev, Anton du Beke, Bruno Tonioli, Margot Fonteyn and Craig Revel Horwood.

Is it all in the genes or where you’re born?

The study also looked into the heritage of famous dancers, proving ability is quite possibly inherited, with 18% of the professional dancers analyzed having at least one parent who also had a career as a dancer and a further 16% who had a parent who worked in the arts (but not dance). Of the dancers in the sample that were British, there was a marked propensity for coming from London and the South East with 45% of British dancers originating from there despite only 27% of the British population living in this region.  Dancers from London who’ve had their name in lights include the late Bruce Forsyth, Darcey Bussell, and Len Goodman.

In fact, national treasure Len Goodman has the perfect profile of a dancer, as he’s a taller than average Taurean (183cm), with brown eyes and brown hair – in his youth.

What do Brits think…

When it comes to the public’s view of dancing, a survey of 2,000 Brits revealed that three quarters of us (73%) believe that you are ‘born with two left feet’ – and even though nearly eight in ten (78%) enjoy dancing, only 10% think they’re any good at it!

Which may make those with natural rhythm luckier in love, as over four in ten (44%) Brits say that they’d be more likely to be attracted to a potential partner if they were a good dancer.  In fact, Brits rank dancing skills almost as highly as sexual prowess in the qualities they rate most highly in a partner, with 10% and 14% stating this as one of their top factors.  However, a third of those in relationships (37%) reveal they don’t think their partner can dance; though men (47%) are more likely to say their partner is a good dancer than women (26%).  Overall, one in ten (11%) would even go so far as to say that their current or most recent partner’s dancing ability was ‘terrible’.

Across the UK, Londoners are most likely to say they are a good dancer (21%) followed by those in Northern Ireland (15%), while the Welsh (5%) and those from the North West (5%) are least likely to say they’ve got skills on the dance floor.

In terms of most popular styles, ballet (42%) is the one we’re most likely to have taken a dance class in as a child, though ballroom (38%) tops the list of those we’ve tried out as an adult – which also tops the list of the dance style we’d most like to try out, at 31%, followed by disco (17%) and contemporary (13%).

Steve North, General Manager at W, says: “It seems that even though many of us love a good boogie, we’re not that confident in our dancing skills!  It’s interesting to see that there could be a whole range of factors from shoe size to star sign that need to come into alignment to be a superstar dancer – but it’s great to see how many people get out there to enjoy strutting their stuff across the country in the new series of ‘The Secret Life of the Ballroom’, which we hope inspires even more people to get their dancing shoes on.”