Dancefloor anxiety has long been associated with the troubles of adolescence but the tendency to be a ‘wallflower’ emerges at the age of four, a study suggests.
Researchers claim a child’s fourth birthday marks a turning point when he or she senses that peers may view their dance technique with a critical eye.
While more than half of children aged three and under eagerly take to the dancefloor, their enthusiasm apparently wanes after their fourth birthday.
By the age of twelve, just twelve per cent are willing to dance in front of strangers.
‘This unwillingness to perform likely perpetuates beyond school dances, affecting the willingness of adults to engage in such playful behaviour as well,’ say the researchers at Harvard and Illinois Universities, where the study appears in the journal Child Development.
They have identified a point at which a child begins to interpret human behaviour and understands social norms.
One side-effect is increasing sensitivity to criticism and a realisation that one’s own behaviour – such as dancing and singing – could be viewed critically.
To prove the validity of their research, children were asked to choose two activities to carry out in front of researchers from a list of four, involving colouring, writing, singing or dancing.
Results showed fifty per cent of three-year-olds chose to dance, down to thirteen per cent at eleven and twelve per cent at twelve. Not one child aged eleven or twelve chose both singing and dancing.
‘Our results may explain why adults aren’t willing to dance. And some may secretly like to dance but may not be willing to move and groove in front of others because they know their moves will be viewed critically by others,’ says Dr Lan Nguyen Chaplin, who led the study.
I can well understand the reason behind embarking on such a study, but since I’m an avid viewer of the BBC television programme Strictly Come Dancing, where a number of participants are selected because of their lack of dancing abilities and put through a rigorous regime of dance tutoring by professionals, I have come to the conclusion that some adults unbeknown to them, once put to the test, can discover a latent talent that was bursting to reveal itself – and what a pleasant surprise when it does.
Would I by any chance include myself in this category, where revelation can manifest itself when called on by circumstances? Not on your nelly, is my short answer.