DanceUs.org recently interviewed Professor Juliet McMains about her latest book, Spinning Mambo into Salsa: Caribbean Dance in Global Commerce, a history of salsa and mambo dancing in the U.S. This exclusive and informative interview can be found HERE.
Professor McMains is a dance scholar and artist whose work centers on social dance practices and their theatrical expression on competition and theatrical stages. She began teaching salsa at the university level in 1998 and was frustrated for many years by the lack of written resources on salsa dance history to assign in her classes. In 2006, with her first book at the press, she turned her attention to helping fill this void. Juliet embarked on an extensive oral history project to document salsa and mambo dance history, focusing on Los Angeles, Miami, San Juan, and New York.
In 2015, her efforts culminated in publication of Spinning Mambo into Salsa: Caribbean Dance, Commerce, and Culture (Oxford University Press), a history that is based on over 100 interviews, archival research, and ethnography. Because Juliet found the Palladium Era dancers she met during her research had such compelling stories to share, a central focus of the book explores the evolution of Palladium Era mambo into modern salsa.
For more on the history of Palladium Era mambo dancers, visit Juliet’s website palladium-mambo.com. Much of the information included on this website is culled from the interviews with Palladium Era mambo dancers who were gracious enough to share their memories.
Juliet has also published articles on rumba, salsa, swing, and ballroom dance, all genres in which she has choreographed, performed, and danced socially for many years. Her most recent passion is Argentine tango, which she dances, teaches, performs, and researches in the U.S. and Argentina. In addition to her rigorous training and experience in partner dance forms (ballroom dance, salsa, swing, tango, and contact improvisation), Juliet has extensive training in ballet, modern/contemporary, jazz, and AfroCuban folklore.