Glamour Addiction.

29 Nov

I just finished reading this book,
Glamour Addiction:  Inside the American Ballroom Dance Industry
by Juliet McMains ».  I first heard about this book from one of the dance forums.  This is not the easiest read for your typical attention-deficient salsa gigolo, because the writing is as scholarly as a PhD’s thesis … which the author has, by the way … but for anyone interested in a bit of context to go with their social salsa, this is a read I would highly recommend.

200 pages, on-the-dot, with several full-page glossy and black & white pictures, plus 26 pages of endnotes, plus 12 pages of references, this book would make a nice gift for any social salsa addict or dance scholar.  I say this, because the book is quite sympathetic towards the social salsa scene, and maybe 1/4 of the book’s analysis includes history and comparison relevant to social salsa.  However, if the intended giftee is, in any way, associated with DanceSport », one may want to include a voucher for a private lesson or two, to help make the reading easier on the ego.

Not to say the book isn’t objective … how can it not be objective, to some extent?  The author was, and still is, part of both the DanceSport and social salsa worlds.  Nevertheless, I could see, how, if one was deeply invested in DanceSport, the analysis in the book would challenge one’s sense of place and perspective.  I kept waiting for McMains’s other stiletto to drop in her analysis of social salsa, and to some degree, it did, but you could tell that she kept her weight forward on that foot.

So, what was my take-away from reading this book?  I have an understanding now of why “social ballroom salsa” looks like ballroom salsa, and can probably extrapolate this to why any particular dance looks like it does, and I can consider this without being overly judgemental.  I also have a new understanding of why, by its very improvisational nature, there seems to be little homogeneity or standardization in social salsa, and I can compare and contrast the trajectory of social salsa to the history of how DanceSport became standardized.

Will any of this make me a better salsa gigolo?  Hmm … I do feel Smarter for reading this book.  More importantly, my obsessive-compulsive self won’t feel guilty about posting another “only-vid” post in this blog (why do I feel guilty about posting a post that only shows a YouTube vid, with no accompanying expanse of words? … I feel this need to justify or validate the existence of those only-vid posts by alternating them with all-text or mostly-text posts … maybe I need a salsa psychologist … also note my obsessive-compulsive need to alliterate at every opportunity, otherwise, I would have gone with “salsa blog psychologist”).

Really though, there are lots of big words in this book.  Surprisingly, and refreshingly, the big words go together to present a cogent, and thoughtful analysis of DanceSport, with a healthy chunk of analysis of social salsa.  To anyone interested, the book is also much “juicier” than that Bachata book.  And for anyone who’s not really interested in reading this book, but just wants to see how the author dances social salsa, here are a couple nice social salsa clips of Juliet McMains with Jesus Morales »:

Yummy.  Juliet McMains looks good, too.


4 Responses to “Glamour Addiction.”

  1. Maria December 4, 2007 at 1:15 pm #

    Thank you so much for reading and reviewing this book! I first heard of Juliet McMains when I was planning on going to the conference on research in dance in NYC this November. Reading over the program booklet, a session about the false dichotomy of the on1/on2 debate. Oh my god, somebody did doctoral level research on this subject? I had to go. Then I dislocated my toe and ended up not going 😛

    I will definitely have to find this book.

    You can see the ballroom influence in her dancing. I wonder if that is what I look like when I dance. People always ask me if I am a ballroom dancer. I have never danced ballroom a day in my life, so it’s kind of odd.

  2. salsagigolo December 4, 2007 at 6:32 pm #

    I love dancing with salseras who have some ballroom in their background. My favourite partners have all had ballroom training. They seem to be able to follow anything, and they offer the best connection, tension or compression.


  1. Swing Time. « Salsa Gigolo in TO - December 2, 2007

    […] Yesterday and today was all snow and freezing rain. Good days to stay indoors, and watch movies. “Glamour Addiction” » inspired me to watch “Swing Time” », for the first time, featuring Fred Astaire » […]

  2. Salsa and Its Transnational Moves. « Salsa Gigolo in TO - March 2, 2009

    […] style. Her writing is very scholarly, even and fair, balanced. Almost cautious, unlike Glamour Addiction ». There’s more in the next […]

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