Education & Family

Dancing can bring people together, say researchers

John Travolta and Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction Image copyright Alamy
Image caption John Travolta and Uma Thurman get a little closer in this legendary dance scene from Pulp Fiction

As every disco-lover knows, when one dancer mimics another a special kind of bond can happen.

Now Oxford University academics have found barriers can be broken down between groups of children dancing in the same way.

Researchers taught 100 children, aged seven to 12, several dance moves, split them into small groups and asked them to perform in front of each other.

Those who danced in a similar way with each other felt closer, the study said.

But the children who danced differently from each other, and at a different tempo, felt no sense of bonding.

Different groups of children were taught basic moves such as swinging their arms in time to the beat, out of sight of each other.

They were then asked to perform the moves face-to-face with other groups for around three minutes.

'Ill feeling'

Children were asked how they felt about their own group and the others, both before and after the dancing.

They reported they felt closer to their own group beforehand, but more connected to children in the other group afterwards.

However, there was no evidence of bonding between groups of children who performed different moves to different beats.

Lead author Bahar Tuncgenc, a PHD student at Oxford's Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, said: "Throughout our lives, we find that there are groups we identify with and those we feel distinctly cool or even negative towards.

"These feelings determine our attitudes and strongly influence how we socialise.

"This study shows how simple dance moves, such as swinging arms or stepping from side to side in time, draw children together emotionally, even if they started out in different groups."

She suggested that future studies could look at whether similar activities forge bonds in cases where there is a history of ill feeling.

"These findings may help those developing social and educational interventions for increasing cohesion and co-operation among groups where there are economic, ethnic or religious divides."

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