Academic journal article Western Folklore

National Rhythms, African Roots: The Deep History of Latin American Popular Dance

Academic journal article Western Folklore

National Rhythms, African Roots: The Deep History of Latin American Popular Dance

Article excerpt

National Rhythms, African Roots: The Deep History of Latin American Popular Dance. By John Charles Chasteen. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004. Pp. xii + 257, preface, acknowledgments, illustrations, glossary, notes, index. $45.00 cloth, $22.95 paper)

Inspired by his experience living in Colombia and his formal education in Latin American history, author John Charles Chasteen, in National Rhythms, African Roots: The Deep History of Latin American Popular Dance, traces the lineage of popular dance in Latin America. Reaching beyond the expected confines of history, he evinces a larger ambition to wed dance to identity from an intercultural perspective. His book is divided into three sections: an introductory chapter, a section on the carnival roots of dance, and an historical analysis of Latin American popular dance. The introductory chapter lays the groundwork for the study that follows. Through elucidation of his term "transgressive national dances," Chasteen illustrates the cultural and racial complexities that surround his subject, arguing that because Latin American popular dances cross several lines at once-race, class, and sex-they are "transgressive cultural forms [that] challenge social controls." But his term interrogates political as well as social structures: "Social controls, in turn, hold political structures in place" (5). Ultimately, Chasteen makes a claim for the role that Latin American popular dance plays in not only reflecting the social and political identities of individuals and cultures, but in generating those identities.

Chasteen's first major section is entitled "The Transgressive Close Embrace and Popular Carnival, 1870-1910," and consists of four chapters that contextualize Latin American popular dance a century ago in Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Havana. His multiple focus on three Latin American countries-Brazil, Argentina, and Cuba-links each group's national transgressive dance form-the samba, the tango, and the danzó, respectively-and shows how each functioned in its society (sometimes positively, sometimes negatively) at the turn of the twentieth century. In the book's five-chapter concluding section, "The Deep History of Latin American Popular Dance," the author delves further into the history of his chosen dance forms, emphasizing both African and European influences on Latin American music and dance. …

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