Asheville Salsa: An Ethnography of Social Order in Dance

Alexandra Griffin


Salsa dance was popularized in the Puerto Rican barrios of New York in the 1970s and has since been commercialized and globalized; a hybrid of Latin dance that has been redefined and transformed depending on regional and cultural influence.  In Asheville, salsa events tend to draw an Hispanic crowd that does not represent the white-dominated constituency of the city. This ethnography aims to capture the contextual meanings of salsa within the Asheville community, as viewed through the lens of a visibly white, female, middle-class, early-twenties participant-observer. This study followed four locations in which salsa served as a unifying social event that either fostered supportive relationships or served as a social hub. Gender dynamics and the racial breakdown influences the constituency and social ordering in the salsa community as understood by Tia DeNora, a music sociologist. By attending weekly social events to learn salsa and conducting informal interviews with dancers, normative and social expectations were explored within each community.  This project explores the nuances and importance of the salsa community in Asheville, taking into account gender and racial dynamics and how they their impact within dance spaces.


Social Order; Gender Dynamics; Salsa Dance

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