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This thesis is a study of the functions of music and dance in Zumba classes held at the Forest Meadows Park community center in Tallahassee, Florida. It examines how music and dance are the generative mechanisms of communitas in this cultural space. Within the context of that exploration, this study analyzes the larger social and economic forces that surround these classes as a result of the mass-mediated Zumba phenomenon. As a multimillion dollar corporation, Zumba benefits by promoting the embodiment and creative appropriation of exotic cultures. Zumba's musics are used to create a generic image of primarily Latin peoples that idealizes them as sensualized beings, and this idea contributes to the exoticism of generic styles such as "Latin music." While engaging with this idea, I argue that this commodified Zumba experience is not an exploitative mechanism. Zumba does not intend to misrepresent various world cultures for its own gain, and that is not the experience of the Zumba practitioners at Forest Meadows. Rather, this creative appropriation is an empowering mechanism that is attained, in part, through mimetic representation wherein the copy—the Zumba culture—can gain the power of the original. In gaining this representative power, Zumba becomes an opportunity for participants to engage with a fabricated notion of "Latinness" that ultimately leads to feelings of empowerment, self-confidence, and equality. Those sentiments, which blossom from Zumba's exotic element and schizophonic mimetic representation, support the development of communitas. At the most basic level, music and dance are the generative mechanisms of that communitas experience; therefore, this study analyzes how these music and dance styles facilitate this experience.
A Thesis submitted to the College of Music in partial fulfillment of the Master of Music.
Includes bibliographical references.
Frank Gunderson, Professor Directing Thesis; Michael B. Bakan, Committee Member; Hannah Schwadron, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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