Bard Events Calendar

Music Program and Bard Ethnomusicology Present

Wednesday, November 8, 2017
“On Social Dancing and Social Movements: Salsa and/as Resistance” 
RKC room 103
2:30 pm
A Lecture by Prof. Sydney Hutchinson (Syracuse University)
Old-school salsa dura, the “hard” salsa of 1960s-70s New York, is widely celebrated by both scholars and fans as a music of resistance. New York Puerto Ricans and other Latino New Yorkers used the form to comment on and contest the harsh conditions of poverty, segregation, and neglect their communities were facing, both in lyrics and through musical sound. In contrast, salsa romántica, one term for the highly commercial “softer” sound that emerged in the 1980s, is frequently criticized as a depoliticized style with vacuous lyrics. Both fans and scholars often lament the demise of salsa dura as a disempowering turn in Latino music history – notwithstanding important critiques from feminist scholars like Francis Aparicio, who contends that the dura/romántica binary is a gendered one that disguises a preference for (hyper)masculine ways of playing and listening to music. If in fact romántica is a music of compliance, it would seem that salsa dura’s resistance is a thing of the past. 

In this paper, the author argues that salsa is still alive as a resistant practice, but that its resistance is today to be found more in the dance than the music. In fact, resistance is built in to the dance through the give-and-take of the partner hold as well as the Afrocentric bodily practices at its core. Dancers today use salsa to resist gender norms and ethnic stereotypes, and salsa has even cropped up in the past year at the center of protests in the US and the UK. So, while looking at salsa music alone might lead to a view of the genre as calcified and irrelevant, attention to the dance reveals a living and transforming tradition that enables masses of people to move, feel, and heal together in time.

For more information, call 845-758-6822, or e-mail

Time: 2:30 pm

Location: RKC room 103