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date: 25 May 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Through a brief history of Latin dance within the American ballroom dance industry, this paper reveals how participation in Latin dance by non-Latinos in the United States has, throughout much of the twentieth century, relied on and reinforced harmful stereotypes of ethnic Latinos. The author argues, however, that when Latin dance is practiced in integrated communities in which Latinos and non-Latinos share the dance floor, such stereotypes can be weakened. Two case studies of integrated Latin dancing are offered as examples: mambo dancing at New York’s Palladium Ballroom in the 1950s and salsa dancing practiced at international salsa congresses since 1997. In both cases, the evidence suggests that Latinos are able to strengthen their own ethnic identity through participation in Latin dance while simultaneously challenging non-Latino dancers to move toward a more nuanced understanding of Latino people and cultures.

Keywords: ballroom dance, ethnic identity, Latin dance, Latino, mambo, Palladium, racial stereotype, salsa, congress style salsa

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