PAPER TANGOS by Julie Taylor


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paper 0-8223-2191-2 This very personal, idiosyncratic volume is not a celebration of the tango’so common these days—but a meditation on it as an expression of Argentine identity and history. Taylor is a ballet-dancer-turned-anthropologist whose initial encounter with Argentina was a cultural study of ritual dance; she ended up in Buenos Aires learning to dance the tango. Here she broaches several themes of Argentine identity that she finds encapsulated in the tango but that have resonance beyond the country’s boundaries. The tango as Taylor presents it is the embodiment of contradiction: the blank face and still upper body opposing the rapid movement of legs; the macho pose of the male versus his inner feeling of sadness and loss (a paradox of male identity that Taylor situates in the barrios of Buenos Aires where the tango was born); the apparent romance between the couple and their actual solitude within the dance. On a more personal level, the author conveys the passion with which devotees approach the tango, attending daily late-night dance sessions where they argue over style with as much ardor as they dance. But tango, according to Taylor, is also an expression of violence, defined in a range of ways: as dominance (of male over female), as terror (of the military junta over the Argentine people), as sexual abuse (of the author herself when she was a girl). Similarly, ambiguities in Taylor’s own sense of identity are mirrored in a corresponding ambiguity that she finds in Argentina: —the particular forms of disorientation, loss, and uncertainty of the nation’s fate inculcated by years of terror.— An original and profound study of the power of a dance to express the heart of a culture.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8223-2175-0
Page count: 136pp
Publisher: Duke Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998