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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Leader-Follower: Throwing Out Gender Rules in Taiwanese Salsa Today

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 3.0 license

Salsa is a transnational and transcultural dance form that has traveled from the Americas to many other countries where it has taken on diverse meanings among its participants. In the past five years, it has become a craze among young professionals in Taiwan. In this paper, I argue that the notion of "flow" in salsa practice, the Confucian discipline of the female body, and the economic accessibility of salsa in Taiwan are contextual elements without which it is impossible to situate its social meaning. In the Taiwanese salsa scene, not only do female salsa practitioners gain agency and assert their power to challenge traditional values, but male salsa practitioners also find a space to perform femininity and to enjoy their embodiment of the female role. 

There are two imperatives for this study: 1) to subvert the dominant notion in academia about the immobile gender rules at play in salsa; 2) to illustrate the diversity of salsa practices around the world using Taiwan as a case study where it has not yet been discussed in the growing scholarship on Asian performance.

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