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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The process of and need for fusion in dance: How and why hip hop and salsa are constantly evolving
by Gray, Cory Selena Barash, M.F.A., Mills College, 2015, 47; 1590257
Abstract (Summary)

This thesis examines the elements of improvisation and what it means to be “completely in the present” through fusion dance. I examine both solo and partner social dances with an emphasis on salsa and hip hop, which are both African-derived forms of dance technique. Hip hop and salsa have become complexes, or umbrella terms, as there are many types and styles of each that have been formed throughout their developments. This is the beauty of fusion dance. There is never a moment where a dancer can be in the past, because by drawing from previous forms, the dance and dancers are constantly creating the future. New moves are always being invented, and new styles of dance are continuously forming. Fusion is able to stay present and growing because of the spiral of information that comes in and gets redirected where necessary. This spiral is discussed with regard to concepts such as “flow,” from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, “liminality” from anthropologist Victor Turner, and “the aesthetic of the cool” from art historian Robert Farris Thompson. “Cool,” primarily a Yoruban concept, revolves around processing a great deal of situational information and presenting oneself with social stability, composure and balance. This is vital to African-based social dance and the improvisation-based dance setting as all of the previously named or identified elements are also required in order to achieve mastery of the craft and ultimately, transcendence. Transcendence cannot be achieved without first, an ability to feel the rhythms within the body. This is part of the technical training which seems true for most fusion dances within the African Diaspora. In my Cuban research (summer 2014, winter 2015), I noticed that in every single interview I conducted, I was told that in order to understand Cuban dance and music, you had to “feel it.” This has also been communicated to me in my West African drumming classes, hip hop dance classes, and varying salsa dance classes. The concept of someone being able to “feel it” is a connection with dance, music and ability to process information that becomes transcendent. Feeling the rhythms in the body is just as important to learning the physical dance steps in the beginning. The complexity of all elements needed extends far beyond any one simple explanation. Through exploring and defining this concept of fusion, I reveal a holistic approach to how dancers “feel it” and how they can achieve transcendence. I explain that music and dance cannot live one without the other, and the connection between them is crucial for the ability to learn these styles and keep them alive.

These vital components assist my explanation of how, why and at what moment dance fusion occurs. My thesis explores the immense attraction of such dance fusion and how it is possible to transform music and body energies into visible excitation and complexity in the outside world. It attempts to explain how (and why) an audience member or dance partner can see a difference between two dancers, even if they are performing the exact same movement and it relates what is needed to have constant dance dialogue and creativity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Murphy, Ann
Commitee: Daniel, Yvonne
School: Mills College
Department: Dance - Choreography and Performance
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 54/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Fine arts, Dance
Keywords: Dance, Flow, Fusion, Hip hop, Salsa, Social dance
Publication Number: 1590257
ISBN: 978-1-321-79192-1
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