Juliet McMains is Professor in the Department of Dance at the University of Washington in Seattle. Before checking into Glamour rehab, she was a professional ballroom dancer who traveled the country armed with a case of rhinestones and tanning creams. Juliet has since converted her addiction to finding and losing self in kinetic dialogue with another human through improvisational social dances, especially tango, salsa, swing, and contact improvisation.
As a teacher, she strives to help her students unlock artistic expression at the intersection of creative agency, technical integration, empathetic listening, and musical attunement. She is proficient at both roles (leader/initiator and interpreter/follower), and is continually striving to redress gendered hierarchies in social dance practice. She is also committed to recovering the centrality of African aesthetic values in Latin and American social dance traditions as part of her ongoing efforts to develop antiracist pedagogies. Her choreography, whether for the camera or live audiences, brings Western artmaking strategies into dialogue with social partner dances.
She has published numerous articles and books on salsa, ballroom dance, tango, rumba, and swing, all genres in which she has been immersed as a practitioner, teacher, researcher, and community builder. Although Juliet digs deep into the history and structural/aesthetic logic of each form, she allows her knowledge of each discipline to inform her investigation of the others. She is not such a purist that she is above taking out a salsa partner with a gancho. Juliet has a Ph.D. in Dance History and Theory from the University of California at Riverside and a B.A. in Women’s Studies from Harvard University.
As faculty at the UW, Juliet is inspired on a daily basis by her colleagues who are master teachers, artists, and all around fantastic humans who let her drop in on their classes, enabling her to continue dancing ballet and modern next to 19-year olds who keep her humble. Juliet’s job as a Professor includes maintaining an active research profile, traveling abroad to present research and teach, and making art. Currently she developing a Social Dance Pedagogy Co-Laboratory, to investigate application of critical pedagogy theories to social dance teaching, bringing her own teaching and writing on issues such as open-role dancing and affirmative consent in the classroom into dialogue with work of community-based social dance teachers. She is also exploring new approaches to making dance for camera and maintains an active hobby of photobombing her partner's landscape photography.
As long as the music plays. You gotta dance. Don’t even think why. Start to think, your feet stop.
— Haruki Murakami