aerial view of the Amazon river

Dance!

Spring 2007 | Volume VII, Number 1

Table of Contents

Editor’s Letter →

by June Carolyn Erlick

Tango!

El Tango en el Aula: Mi experiencia en Rochester, New York

El Tango en el Aula: Mi experiencia en Rochester, New York

Cuando era adolescente, el tango no me llamaba mucho la atención. Me parecía ser un tipo de música excesivamente melodramático, y que además gustaba sólo a los “viejos”. Como sucede con tantos argentinos criados en el exterior, el tango fue entrando en mi vida por una puerta chica, a intervalos regulares, con cada viaje a Córdoba, pasando, cómo no, por Buenos Aires. Un poco en la calle, otro poco por TV, y el resto …

How Sweet as Long as It Lasted: Contributions to a Critique of Tango

How Sweet as Long as It Lasted: Contributions to a Critique of Tango

English + Español
Tango is once again occupying a fundamental place in the world’s cultural offerings. The interest goes back a couple of decades when Astor Piazolla’s music drew interpreters of classical music and jazz. In Argentina, tango now has a privileged position in the tourist market, where from time to time it goes hand in hand with such attractions as the bife de chorizo, the star of Argentine barbecue. This outburst …

All Tangled Up in Tango

All Tangled Up in Tango

Entanglements are hard to explain. My life probably started with a tango, playing along in the radio close to my mother and my first screaming efforts to breathe. Radio was so important in people’s lives then, and tango meant a lot to my father. He sang it in the shower, whistled it on his way to work and made the house stand still in the night when he would sit at the piano and deliver a performance worthy of a place on the stage of …

Memories of Tango

Memories of Tango

English + Español
I think tango and I think of women. I think tango and I think of Perón. Let me explain: as a child I used to hear tangos sung by our maid, a woman who had left the pampa to come down to the city, and whose political leanings were the exact opposite of those of my parents. Justa was a fervent peronista. Thanks to Perón she had discovered that she could be more than a maid. My mother let her have two …

Why I Do Not Like Tango

Why I Do Not Like Tango

I’m out: I’m saying it: I do not like tango. I’m an Argentine who cannot dance tango, and has never liked it. When I’m in Buenos Aires, I love to see dancers (sleek or plump, young or old) in San Telmo, entirely focused on music and the entwined grammar of two bodies; I’ve taught tango as a cultural phenomenon in a course about Buenos Aires, and had fun watching my students’ abandon as the sweepingly nostalgic edges of the …

Tango, Samba, Modernity and Nation: It takes more than two

Tango, Samba, Modernity and Nation: It takes more than two

The story begins in a Paris cabaret, in the 1910s. Suddenly, the conductor of the orchestra—all Brazilian musicians—announces: “And now, ladies and gentlemen, a Brazilian Tango!” The story could have ended right there, if it weren’t for a group of Argentine tourists in the audience who rose up and started a fight: “This is impossible, the tango is Argentine.” Tango, indeed, was Argentine, but there was also a lively and effervescent …

Tango! Dance the World Around: Global Transformations of Latin American Culture

Tango! Dance the World Around: Global Transformations of Latin American Culture

I am passionately interested in tango and profoundly ignorant about it. When I came to the Humanities Center at Harvard two years ago, I knew that at last I had an opportunity to direct my passion towards overcoming my ignorance. This is the personal motivation behind “Tango! Dance the World Around: Global Transformations of Latin American Culture”—our October 26 and 27 tango conference, co-sponsored by …

Transforming Lives

Dance Revolution: Creating Global Citizens in the Favelas of Rio

Dance Revolution: Creating Global Citizens in the Favelas of Rio

Yolanda Demétrio stares out the window of our public bus in Rio de Janeiro, on our way to visit her dance colleagues at Rio’s avant-garde cultural center, Fundição Progresso. Yolanda is a 37-year-old dance teacher, homeowner, social entrepreneur and former favela (Brazilian urban shantytown) resident. She is the founder and director of Espaço Aberto (Open Space), an organization through which Yolanda has nearly …

Disruption in the Immigrant Experience: Colombian Youth Dance Their Way to Continuity

Disruption in the Immigrant Experience: Colombian Youth Dance Their Way to Continuity

Imagine you are fifteen years old. As an immigrant who has lived in the United States for a few years, you are still trying to find your place. You decide to join a group that dances the traditional dances of your country. You practice every week on Fridays, when you could be going to the movies or hanging out with your friends. Your goal is to perform in that big annual show a lot of people have told you about. That day has finally …

Dancing My Passion

Dancing My Passion

As a dancer, my mentor and role model was the Mexican-born New York dancer, José Limón. His passion permeated every class he taught and every dance that he choreographed, moving me deeply and encouraging me to put all of my own passion and deep feelings into dancing. Many of his themes were of Latin American origin. Ritmo Jondo, choreographed by his own mentor, Doris Humphrey, with music by Silvestre Revueltas, …

Colombia’s Broken Body: El Colegio del Cuerpo: The College of the Body

Colombia’s Broken Body: El Colegio del Cuerpo: The College of the Body

We Colombians are constantly asking ourselves what we can do for this torn and martyred country from the vantage point of our work activities. Anguished, intimidated and powerless, we see how the language of weapons and death has become entrenched in our society. Every day, more and more Colombians become resigned to the idea that only total warfare, dragging us down to the abyss, will allow us to find a solution. …

Dancehall Democracy: Social Space as Social Agency

Dancehall Democracy: Social Space as Social Agency

“¿De dónde es usted?”, I asked the best Latin dancer I had ever followed around a dance floor. It was several summers ago in “centrally isolated,” as the locals say, Ithaca, New York, where a friendly gay club went Latin on Wednesday nights. Once a week we broke up the bucolic boredom that helps to make Cornell University so intellectually restless. “Sorry I don’t speak Spanish,” said my partner. “Where are you from, then?” I …

The Diaspora Dances

Brazilian Breakdancing

Brazilian Breakdancing

When you think about breakdancing, images of kids popping, locking, and wind-milling, hand- standing, shoulder-rolling, and hand-jumping, might come to mind. And those kids might be city kids dancing in vacant lots and playgrounds. Now, New England kids of all classes and cultures are getting a chance to practice break-dancing in their school gyms and then go learn about it in a teaching unit designed by Veronica …

Salsa Dancers from Cali, Colombia Hop Onto the World Stage

Salsa Dancers from Cali, Colombia Hop Onto the World Stage

Once, people of the ocean, from the coast, moved to the valley, hoping to put the Andes between them and Colombia’s decades of killing. Now, 28 of their grandchildren stood on the cusp of history. No, they danced on it. Their $2-a-week-salsa dance classes and rehearsals at Luis Carlos Caicedo’s Nueva Dimension academy on the gritty outskirts of Cali had paid off. The group of grade-schoolers and teens had scored an invitation …

Cuba’s Tumba Francesa Diaspora Dance, Colonial Legacy

Cuba’s Tumba Francesa Diaspora Dance, Colonial Legacy

I arrive at Santiago de Cuba’s Teatro Oriente to see a small crowd of locals and tourists waiting in front to buy tickets. We are here to see a performance by Ballet Folklórico Cutumba, one of eastern Cuba’s premier folkloric dance troupes. Although the theater is run down and no longer has electricity or running water, its former elegance is apparent. As we enter, we see lush but tattered velvet drapes flank the stage and ornate architectural …

Danza Galesa en la Patagonia

Danza Galesa en la Patagonia

Tal vez sorprenda al lector el título de este artículo, como también sorprende a todo aquel desprevenido viajero que llega al Valle Inferior del Río Chubut, en la Patagonia Argentina. Encontrar nombres de pueblos y zonas rurales en idioma galés, niños que aprenden el idioma desde su primera infancia, jóvenes que bailan danzas galesas, alguna bandera blanca y verde con un enorme dragón rojo flameando en un mástil; afinadas voces …

Tropical Interludes: The Role of the Rumbera in Mexican Cine de la Época Dorada

Tropical Interludes: The Role of the Rumbera in Mexican Cine de la Época Dorada

In a popular song from the start of the mambo boom (late 1940s-early 1950s), Cuban musician Benny Moré flirtatiously described the dancing talent of Mexican and Cuban women. He sang in his golden voice, “Pero qué bonito y sabroso bailan el mambo las mexicanas, mueven la cintura y los hombros igualito a las cubanas.” (“Mexican women dance mambo so wonderfully and so full of rhythm, they move their waists and shoulders …

Dancing in the Diaspora: El Baile de los Negritos

Dancing in the Diaspora: El Baile de los Negritos

English + EspañolDance unites Yucuaiquín, a small town in eastern El Salvador, with the city of Somerville in eastern Massachusetts. Traditionally a city of Greek, Irish, Italian, and Portuguese immigrants, the only quality Somerville had in common with Yucuaiquín before the 1980s was a population with vibrant Catholic beliefs and traditions. The hundreds of Yucuaiquinenses that found their way to Somerville in the past …

The Fun of Forró

The Fun of Forró

I went with my friend Denise and her boyfriend to the Gafieira Estudantina for a night of forró. Last year, I used to see the Estudantina’s hand-painted dance banner hanging from its second-floor balcony, whenever I was walking around the Praca Tiradentes in Rio de Janeiro. But I’d never been up there. The Estudantina, it turns out, is one of Rio’s old ballroom dance halls (gafieiras)—founded in 1932. Denise told me her mother used to …

Bodies That Sing: Forró Music in a Traditional Setting

Bodies That Sing: Forró Music in a Traditional Setting

We arrive at a doorway hidden in the shadow of a 24-hour convenience store, and dig crumpled bills from our pockets, surrendering them to the barrel-chested man in a tight black tank top. The scene is a reminder of what an inspired idea it was to leave my purse at home; the plan is to dance all night long. Having paid, we step carefully down a winding staircase and perch on tipsy-toed stools at the bar with a great view of the …

Reinventing the Dancing Body: The Impact of Japanese Culture on Brazilian Dances

Reinventing the Dancing Body: The Impact of Japanese Culture on Brazilian Dances

The interest in Japanese culture from food to dance has deep roots among us in Brazil as we have the biggest Japanese colony in the world, outside of Japan itself. Therefore, the images of Japanese culture are much more than a landscape to be contemplated. Once a friend who was born in a small city in the interior of São Paulo told me that he only discovered that the word “konnichiwa” (hello) was Japanese and not Portuguese …

Shaping Identity

Ballet Folklórico Mexicano

Ballet Folklórico Mexicano

Ballet folklórico—traditional Mexican folk dancing—has become a defining element of Mexican popular culture at the national and international levels, despite the prevalence of foreign influences in modern Mexican “pop” culture. Although its history is chaotic, ballet folklórico has successfully carved itself a niche in the Mexican psyche . Periodic waves of Mexican nationalism during the 19th and 20th centuries reinvigorated folk …

Dancing Devils in Puno, Perú: A Summary

Dancing Devils in Puno, Perú: A Summary

English + EspañolI remember the setting well because the name captivated me: Ruinas del Gran Hotel. It was exactly that: the remains of a luxurious building that, from the 1940s until the earthquake that destroyed Managua the day before Christmas Eve of 1972, had lodged distinguished guests and stars of the international jet set. It was located on Avenida Roosevelt, in what had begun to be remembered in my …

Lessons in Güegüense: An Old Dancer

Lessons in Güegüense: An Old Dancer

English + Español
I remember the setting well because the name captivated me: Ruinas del Gran Hotel. It was exactly that: the remains of a luxurious building that, from the 1940s until the earthquake that destroyed Managua the day before Christmas Eve of 1972, had lodged distinguished guests and stars of the international jet set. It was located on Avenida Roosevelt, in what had begun to be remembered in my …

Sacred Dance in the Peruvian Highlands

Sacred Dance in the Peruvian Highlands

Long ago, a young shepherd named Marianito Mayta lived in the mountains above Mahuayani, caring for his aging father and tolerating the abuse of his lazy older brother. One day, a boy appeared who began to help Marianito with his chores. The Ocongate priest soon learned of this strange boy, whose white garments never ripped or stained, and, accusing him of stealing clothing from the church’s saints, decided to catch the rogue. …

Knowledgeable Bodies: Basque Traditional Dance and Nationalism

Knowledgeable Bodies: Basque Traditional Dance and Nationalism

Imagine you are vacationing on the beach in Spain. What if you step out of your hotel on the first morning and see masses of people swarming toward you, brandishing flags and shouting in a language you don’t understand, as masked policemen clad in black and red jump suits and big black boots encourage orderl? Down at the plaza, silent attention to speeches alternates with loud chanting. Fists jut into the air, unmoving. …

Más Allá de los Clichés: Dance and Identity in Cuba

Más Allá de los Clichés: Dance and Identity in Cuba

In 1955, the prolific Cuban scholar and ethnologist, Fernando Ortiz, claimed “dance is the principal and most enthusiastic diversion of the Cuban people, it is their most genuinely indigenous production and universal exportation.” Dance may not be the Cuban diversion, but the identification of Cuba with dance certainly surfaces in the popular imagination—most recently in Hollywood’s Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, and decades …

Caboclo Ritual Dance: Bringing the Juke-Joint into the Church

Caboclo Ritual Dance: Bringing the Juke-Joint into the Church

To give oneself to dance is to experience the moving body as sacred. For anyone who believes that the alienation of the body from the spirit is simply an inevitable symptom of modernity, I offer a personal challenge: are you certain you’ve danced already? But if you have and remain unconvinced, I leave you with this mini-narrative about a peculiar type of ritual popular in urban Brazil. May it inspire your thoughts for the next dance! …

La plena inmortal

La plena inmortal

La tradición medieval y renacentista encarnada en La danza de la muerte me ha fascinado desde mi temprana adolescencia. Los esqueletos musicantes y danzantes que sacan a bailar a papas y emperadores, reinas y marquesas, labriegos y médicos, cortesanas y monjas, estas calacas que sonrientes y fiesteras los invitan a participar del último jolgorio, la postrera jarana, el parison del estribo me han tentado por más de medio siglo a …

The Meanings of Samba: What has happened to the dance of racial democracy?

The Meanings of Samba: What has happened to the dance of racial democracy?

I like dancing, and no better dance than samba. My samba, though, always feels, as it no doubt looks, like a stilted attempt at the dance, rather than the real thing. I can recognize that in videoclips from Rio’s Sambadrome, in the street during the Carnivals of Olinda and Salvador, or when Brazilian friends dance in celebration of a World Cup victory. Real samba is a body unselfconsciously flowing in response to a syncopated beat, melding …

Beyond the Tourist Gaze

The Flight of a Moment

The Flight of a Moment

Dancers are often thought to move their muscles, yet neglect to develop their brains. Dance is absent from most academic studies. Perhaps this is because dance takes place in the flight of a moment. It cannot be placed on a wall, filmed for television or recorded for later listening pleasures. It is something alive and vivid—something that can show national identity or its evolution in history. Cuban choreographer and dancer Ramiro …

Beyond Tourism: Are Blocos Taking Back Carnaval?

Beyond Tourism: Are Blocos Taking Back Carnaval?

A tall and thin, tan, dark-haired young carioca—a native of Rio de Janeiro—is costumed as an indigenous Brazilian. Her long feathered skirt covers flip-flopped feet; atop, a simple cotton tank is adorned with necklaces, armbands obscuring her upper arms. The thick stripe of yellow paint across her eyes and dart of red across the bridge of the nose don’t reveal her intent: soon she is jumping up and down, then swinging round and …

Danzas y Juegos en las Alturas

Danzas y Juegos en las Alturas

La difícil transición democrática paraguaya iniciada luego de un cruento golpe de estado contra el dictador Alfredo Stroessner (02-03-89) ha significado para los artistas un nuevo escenario lleno de desafíos emergentes. Desde entonces hemos visto las dificultades de construir un lenguaje lleno de vitalidad, compromiso y de alegría de vivir en libertad….

My Time as a Brazilian Passista

My Time as a Brazilian Passista

Although my behind is not all that curvaceous and I lack melanin in my skin tone, I somehow managed to pass for as a mulata passista. I am neither mulata nor a trained passista—a young woman, generally with a tiny outfit and curvy physique, who usually dances in front of the bateria during Rio´s carnival parade. I was a Harvard sophomore studying abroad in Rio de Janeiro and my training in ballet, modern and world dance had …

Disabling the “Tourist Gaze”: Protecting and Projecting Cultural Heritage through Dance

Disabling the “Tourist Gaze”: Protecting and Projecting Cultural Heritage through Dance

We hurried along the slim embankment on the bohemian side of the river as night fell in the city, nervously evaluating our distance from the dimly lit bridge that would carry us to a more cosmopolitan borough. Imagining the theater’s great gilded doors slammed closed before our arrival in the famed sixth district, we struggled to increase our pace, forsaking many sidewalk cafés en route to the night’s festivities but our stiff, …

Dance and the Cold War: Exports to Latin America

Dance and the Cold War: Exports to Latin America

It was November 1954 in the middle of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviets had been investing heavily in exporting their artists, and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was convinced we needed to compete in that arena. In November 1954, the José Limón Dance Company was sent by the State Department to perform in Latin America, thus launching the first government-sponsored …

Making a Difference

Making A Difference: Connecting the Diaspora with Caribbean NGOs

Making A Difference: Connecting the Diaspora with Caribbean NGOs

E.One.Caribbean, an initiative based at LASPAU, seeks to engage the Caribbean diaspora in reinvigorating their home countries by providing financial, volunteer, and capacity-building resources to NGOs whose work addresses the social problems that threaten long-term economic and cultural viability. The program was developed by Norris Prevost—a longtime member of the Parliament of Dominica and recent graduate of the …

Making A Difference: Insects and Internet: Saving a National Treasure in Hispaniola

Making A Difference: Insects and Internet: Saving a National Treasure in Hispaniola

On July 11, 2007, the oldest university in the Americas, the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD), marked the first anniversary of the entry of its natural history collections into the digital global community. These priceless collections record the changing abundances of species over the 20th century, including many species new to science and some that are perhaps already extinct. The collections of insects alone are …

Book Talk

Review of Connecting Lines: New Poetry from Mexico

Review of Connecting Lines: New Poetry from Mexico

Lou Dobbs and other talk show hosts want us to believe that a so-called Mexican invasion is denying “true” Americans their jobs, democracy and destiny. Few among them comment on a peaceful, more subtle Mexican “invasion” that will help us see why fears of blending Mexican and U.S. culture are misplaced. One by one, since the turn of the century, anthologies of a Mexican poetry trumpeting innovation and diversity have been …

Review of The Hispanic World and American Intellectual Life, 1820-1880

Review of The Hispanic World and American Intellectual Life, 1820-1880

Iván Jaksić’s highly original and engaging scholarship on the origins of U.S. academic interest in Ibero-America brilliantly reveals previously unknown trans-Atlantic and Western hemisphere intellectual networks. His research focuses on the life, interactions and contributions of those Jaksić calls“the pioneer American scholars and lifetime students of the Hispanic World”—Washington Irving, George Ticknor, Henry Wadsworth …

Review of Going Local: Decentralization, Democratization, and the Promise of Good Governance

Review of Going Local: Decentralization, Democratization, and the Promise of Good Governance

This methodologically rigorous and carefully crafted book is an exercise in good scholarship. Like its subject of good governance, it is an embodiment of leadership, performance, accountability and a commitment to constructive policymaking. Merilee Grindl has already made her reputation as a painstaking scholar of governance, bureaucracy and policymaking in Latin America and across the developing world, but Going Local …