Afro-Latin Dance as Reconstructive Gestural Discourse: The Figuration Philosophy of Dance on Salsa

Research in Dance Education 22:1-15 (2020)
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The Afro-Latin dance known as ‘salsa’ is a fusion of multiple dances from West Africa, Muslim Spain, enslaved communities in the Caribbean, and the United States. In part due to its global origins, salsa was pivotal in the development of the Figuration philosophy of dance, and for ‘dancing with,’ the theoretical method for social justice derived therefrom. In the present article, I apply the completed theory Figuration exclusively to salsa for the first time, after situating the latter in the dance studies literature. My first section explores Juliet McMains’ recent history, Spinning Mambo into Salsa, with an emphasis on the dynamics of class, race and sex therein. My second section explores a resonant Afro-Latin dance history, Marta E. Savigliano’s Tango and the Political Economy of Passion, where she deploys salsa’s sister-dance (tango) as a ‘counter-choreography’ to the choreography of postmodern neocolonialism. And my third section applies Figuration’s four central aspects of dance (or ‘Moves’) to salsa qua member of its ‘societal’ family of dance. In conclusion, through partnering with salsa, Figuration emerges as a member of its own ‘discursive’ family of dance, while salsa emerges as a gestural discourse capable of helping reconstruct a more socially-just world from the postmodern ruins of today.

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Joshua M. Hall
University of Alabama, Birmingham


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