Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Stephen Blum

Committee Members

Peter Manuel

Christopher Stover

Emily Wilbourne

Howard Meltzer

Subject Categories

Dance | Ethnomusicology | Music Theory


timespace, musicality, clave, improvisation, structural feeling, proprioception


This work analyzes the musical knowledge and aesthetics acquired by improvisatory social salsa dancers who hone close listening skills through corporeal means. The connections that these dancers construct between music, self, and partner make evident an engagement with musicality that can be seen through their demonstration of kinesthetic entrainment, structural feeling of hypermetric conventions, and enactment of expressive microtiming within beat and metric structures. I introduce the concept of timespace to explain how dancers manipulate this physiological experience to create different feelings in a dance, addressing issues that dancers raised in our feedback interviews such as feel, flow, and play. Other issues, such as the flexibility and adaptability of dancers to follow and lead each other, regardless of their role in the leader/follower relationship of the partner dance, demonstrate that the more attentive a dancer is to the multivalent environment, the more rewarding the dance experience becomes. I utilize in-depth feedback interviews with participants of New York City salsa/mambo scenes, instructional videos, and musicality classes, as well as my personal experience salsa dancing for eighteen years, alongside work in music and social theory, and work drawing on phenomenology, to build an analytic foundation of musical knowledge that dancers enact within this popular dance music. This project offers readers a basic musical vocabulary and understanding of concepts that invite both dancers and musicians to make a deeper connection to the dance/music experience. As music is experienced in multiple ways, this dissertation incorporates multiple streams of theory and experience. With the help of the participants in the project, I offer the beginning of an intersensorial explanation of the dance/music aesthetics of salsa.

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