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Editor's note:
Lisa Irene Linhart
is one of the photo-journalist for the online website of Mambon2.com. This is her first contribution to the SalsaNewYork Magazine. She has decided to offer us her view (the flip side) of fellow SalsaNewYork Contributor Mr. Joe Weider's article "Good Dancing, or Whatever?!. On behalf of SalsaNewYork, I would like to thank both Lisa and Joe for sharing their views and providing insightful content to our online magazine. - Manny

To Clothe, Or To Be Clothed
-by Lisa Lisa Irene Linhardt (of Mambon2.com)

In response to Joe Weider's article entitled "Good
Dancing, or Whatever?!"
I must first start by
commending him for taking on the controversial issue
of blatant sexual costumes and choreography within
salsa routines.  I'm sure Joe's intent was sincere
when he expressed his "anger" towards choreographers
and promoters for apparently encouraging these women
to portray themselves as "sex toys".  However, the
issue is just that - these women were not forced, but
rather voluntarily wore the costumes and gladly
performed the sexually explicit routines.

Let me rewind - I am a woman who just recently started
looking for my own performance costumes and have been
keeping Joe's little comments floating in the back of
my mind the entire time. The question that was
conjured up the most was "Should the sexy, often scant
wardrobe of salsa costumes be censored?"  No. Period.
Dance is an art form of the BODY.  I cannot count the
number of times I have seen "scantily" dressed
professional dancers performing with practically
nothing on - such as a performance at City Center from
the "Ballet Folklorico de Bahia" where the women were
all topless, wearing nothing but straw skirts which
conveniently revealed g-strings underneath as a quick
turn or high kick was executed.  Or the time I was in
Cuba with the Compania de Danza Narciso Medina where
all the men wore teenie tiny g-strings which seemed to
leave nothing to the imagination, or the Alvin Ailey
male dancers who are also (un)dressed similarly.  I
can go on and on.  But that is not what these
companies are known for, and their garb is not the
first image that is conjured up.

These are known dance companies who are well
respected, and not many people consider their dress
inappropriate or vulgar.  This is not an environmental
thing, a cultural thing, but rather a conceptual thing
- they understand the difference between accentuation
and domination. The body should accentuate the ability
of the dancer and the brilliance of choreography, not
dominate. The body is a tool which executes art
(albeit "moving" art) just as a painter uses a brush
or a sculptor uses his hands. Although a more
integrated tool, the body 's costume should not
dominate the art of form and choreography. If all the
audience remembers after the performance is the
wardrobe, then the dancer has failed as an artist.

So when Joe says that there seems to be growing
tendency of salsa performances to have their women
dancers provocatively dressed, perhaps they are not
interested in having their ability and choreography
dominate their exterior appearance. If anything, they
have succeeded in entertaining, which is fine as well.
(But even then if only bare entertainment is offered,
then the least they can do is drop the double standard
and have the men in shredded clothes and thongs as
well.....but that's another issue.)  The point is that
a performer should decide before-hand how he/she wants
to be portrayed, and the audience member shouldn't
assume that everyone wants to emphasize dancing. You
would think; however, that dance studio owners would
know that the crowd which gathers at these dance
studio performances expects to see artists in their
element rather than entertainers in their skin.
Unfortunately that is not always the case, and that is
the risk audience members should take - because no
show is guaranteed to please.

Let's face it, using sex and sexuality is a brainless
way to market. Sex sells everything from cars to
laundry detergent, and what divides the line between
appropriate and obscene is completely subjective.
Ladies, it is up to you to voice how you want to be
portrayed (or market yourselves) when you are up there
on stage:  respected as a dancer in your element or
seen for nothing more than your attire.  Look, we know
salsa is sexy as all hell and our
costumes/choreography should reflect that.  It is when
they dominate and not accentuate that it becomes an
issue for me, not only as an audience member but as a

So if you are thinking about performing, take into
consideration what you deem appropriate and take
control over how you want to be portrayed so that no
one can place blame on your choreographer or your
promoter - because ultimately the responsibility
should be placed on you.  That is not to say that you
should be shy about wearing what makes you feel sexy -
wear it, flaunt it, indulge in it.  You are a dancer,
use your body as your tool (you too, gentlemen, women
aren't the only ones who should be wearing sexy
costumes ya know.).  So go ahead - feel confident
about your appearance but also, more importantly, your
dancing, and know you can't please everyone with what
you 're wearing.  Just remember to leave a cloud of
dust in their faces as you zoom by burning a hole in
the dance floor - and perhaps even leave behind a
piece of clothing or two to hang on their disapproving whispers.

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