It consisted of irregularity, change, sliding forward, not keeping in
step, collisions of things and affairs, and fathomless points of silence
in between, of paved ways and wilderness, of one great rhythmic
throb and the perpetual discord and dislocation of all opposing
Musil was writing about cities.1 He could have been writing about dancing. He could have been writing about the dancing of the Puerto Rican community in the city of New York. He could have been writing about the moves they made, the moves they didn't make, and the way others responded. He could have been writing about the power they won and the power they lost. Musil tried to capture the feverish action of city life. His words came very close to capturing the devilish energy of the city. In some ways, they didn't. It's not that Musil didn't have the language skills. It's just hard to accurately describe anything while trying, at the same time, to capture the speed and direction of its movement. Even cameras have a hard time with this. We have, as a result, cameras that are better for taking still pictures and others that are better for taking moving pictures.
Wo rds don't easily capture the movements, rhythms, invitations, rejections, compliance, conflict, notice, communion, and anonymity of what takes place on the social dance floor. They don't always reveal the internal mechanisms and external social pressures that produce the cacophony and complexity of activity on the dance floor. Words don't always reveal the usually invisible moments of influence that result from all that activity and what inspires it. Words wrapped up in observations, insight, explanations, and theory are, however, all we have.
Dancing was the key to Puerto Rican power. It was the Puerto Rican entrance onto U.S. dance floors, in New York City and elsewhere, and the reaction of those they encountered there that created the opportunity for