Fancy a dance? It seems you’re not the only one. Humans are always looking to place themselves in the past, present and future; to understand where we come from. It’s so exciting that dancing could provide a link between the innate behaviour of ourselves and our closest relatives. Finding a common trait like this can help us trace our own waltz through evolution.
In Kyoto in 2014, Primatologist Yuko Hattori was trying to teach a mother chimpanzee to keep a beat on a keyboard. As the chimp attempted to tap out a rhythm, her son was taking it one step further in the room next door.
Hattori was shocked to find the son swaying as though dancing – spontaneously without training or the promise of a reward.
Andrea Ravignani, a cognitive biologist at the Seal Rehabilitation and Research Centre in the Netherlands, believes the discovery could help us to understand the evolution of dancing in humans.
Subsequent experiments even recorded the chimps howling or ‘singing’ along too. Hattori and her team played tuneless beats too and found that the animals moved just as much. This is in line with their behaviour in the wild. However, it highlights the development in humans as we’re more likely to move to sounds in a rhythmic pattern (like music) than not (speech, for example).
The huge step here is the finding that the chimps have the spontaneous reaction we do – they’re not responding to training or a treat. The researchers believe it’s here they’ve found the connection to what we as humans would call dancing.