As generations of men with two left feet have learned to their cost, having the dance floor prowess of Mr Bean is no help in the mating game.

To make matters worse for the terminally uncoordinated, it now looks as if women are right to go for men who can strut their stuff like John Travolta or Patrick Swayze - as they are more likely to be strong and to produce healthy offspring.

Nadine Hugill and Bernhard Fink of the University of Göttingen in Germany found that men whose dancing was rated as attractive and assertive by women were physically stronger than those whose moves were dismissed as below par. "We already know women use static cues such as facial and bodily characteristics in their assessments of men," says Fink. "This study shows that dynamic cues such as dancing ability might also be used to assess male quality in terms of strength and dominance - traits which eventually signal status."

The researchers recorded video clips of 40 heterosexual male students dancing to the drum track of the Robbie Williams song Let Me Entertain You. Participants wore white overalls, and a blurring filter was used to disguise information about their clothing, as well as face and body shape. Hand grip strength was measured using a dynamometer.

Twenty-five female students viewed the muted videos and rated the attractiveness of the dancers, while another 25 rated their assertiveness. Even after controlling for body weight, there were strong correlations between strength scores and both perceived attractiveness and assertiveness.

Fink had already discovered that men who were exposed to higher levels of testosterone in the womb, as indicated by the relative lengths of their index and ring fingers, were rated as more attractive, dominant and masculine by women who watched clips of them dancing. Research also shows that women generally find very masculine facial features more attractive, particularly around ovulation.

"This would make sense from an evolutionary perspective. Being able to select high-quality males on the basis of visual cues is likely to have promoted certain females through sexual selection," says Gayle Brewer, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Central Lancashire, in Preston, UK.

However, all is not lost for those not blessed with twinkle toes. "If you are unable to compete, change the game. Perhaps stay away from the dance floor and show your qualities in other ways by buying a woman a drink or showing how attentive and engaging you are," says Brewer.