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Review

Reviewed Work(s): Everynight Life: Culture and Dance in Latin/o America by Celeste
Fraser Delgado and José Esteban Muñoz
Review by: Anita González
Source: Dance Research Journal, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Autumn, 1998), pp. 74-76
Published by: Congress on Research in Dance
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1478840
Accessed: 25-11-2018 15:13 UTC

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EVERYNIGHT LIFE: CULTURE AND identities, national boundaries, and subver
DANCE IN LATIN/O AMERICA edited bypractice in Latin/o America" (p. 4).
sive
Celeste Fraser Delgado and Jose EstebanBecause I am both a fan and a product
Muioz. Durham: Duke University Press,
of Performance Studies scholarship, I appre
1997. x + 366 pp., photographs, notes,ciate bib-the cultural studies theories that reso-
liography, index. $54.95 clothbound; $18.95 nate through the twelve essays of the book.
paperbound. Most of the writings negotiate the space be-
tween the binaries of fixed categories such
On the one hand, Performance Studies places as Western vs. non-Western or folk art vs.
dance scholarship in a wider cultural context, high art. As Josh Kun writes in his essay
creating a space where writers can bridge "Against Easy Listening," the volume at-
disciplines and establish new relationships tempts to explore the "truly hybridized cul-
between and within various subject matters. tural and interpretive space produced by the
Through its emerging discourse it is possible meeting of cultures that challenges the bi-
to compare and contrast the ethnic implica- nary logic of assimilation/resistance and lo-
tions of the television series I Love Lucy with cal/global that so much of contemporary
the performance of Cuban ethnicity in the mass culture theory relies on" (p. 300). Ex-
commercial movie The Mambo Kings (based ploration of this interpretive, hybrid space
upon a novel by Oscar Hijuelos) and, at the expands the book's influence beyond the
same time, locate this "textual" analysis realm of dance scholarship and makes the
within the multiethnic, "translational" expe- individual writings contemporary and rel-
rience of eating at Taco Bell, as Gustavo evant to a variety of disciplines.
Perez Firmat does in "I Came, I Saw, I Although there are some excellent es-
Conga'd: Contexts for a Cuban-American says in the volume, it is not easy reading. At
Culture." On the other hand, in its effort totimes the listing of multiple binaries makes
redefine viewing practice, Performanceit difficult to decipher the alternative space
Studies has created academic jargon and un- that the writers are trying to craft. In some
wieldy language that can limit the breadth of of the essays, the repeated use of these bina-
its influence to a small group of self-applaud- ries actually nullifies meaning. Several es-
ing scholars. The book Everynight Life: Cul- says elaborate upon theories of Michel Fou-
ture and Dance in Latin/o America, edited by cault, Michel de Certeau, Franz Fanon, and
Celeste Fraser Delgado and Jose Esteban Paul Gilroy who have already examined the
Muiioz exhibits both the best and the worst of hybrid cultural constructions of Latin Ameri-
Performance Studies writing. can music and dance. The most effective
Contributors to the volume come from writings are those which actually describe
a variety of disciplines: English Literature, the dance or music phenomenon in a coher-
Communications, Ethnic Studies, Spanish ent presentation. Barbara Browning's "Head
Language and Literature, American Studies, Spin," for example, which has also appeared
and Performance Studies proper. The project as a chapter in her book, Samba: Resistance
emerged from a "Politics in Motion" con- in Motion (1), explores the multiple mean-
ference held in North Carolina sponsored by ings of the Afro-Brazilian capoeira in a nar-
"the Mellon Foundation and two North rative presentation that is both personal and
evocative. Using an autobiographical ap-
American Universities" (p. 4). As Delgado
proach, she describes the performance style
states in the preface, the book's perspectives
on Latin American dance and performance as it mutates in Brazil, New York and her
are generated by North American scholars own performing body.
who have an interest in examining "culturalIn a similar way, Jorge Selessi in "Med-

74 Dance Research Journal 30/2 (Fall 1998)

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ics, Crooks, and Tango Queens" traces the ample, deconstructs the musical Kiss of the
evolution of the Tango from an Italian Ar- Spider Woman (based upon a novel by
gentine bordello dance for male couples to a Manuel Puig), analyzing it as an allegory
nationalist symbol of foreign contamination about AIDS. This section of the book is par-
within the Argentine landscape. Jane ticularly effective because the writers are
Desmond's essay "Embodying Difference: deeply invested in the presentation of their
Issues in Dance and Cultural Studies" also material as a reflection of their own particu-
discusses the Tango. However, her approach lar circumstances. The essay is crafted as a
is more theoretical and her essay more ex-collage of journal entries, musings, and theo-
pansive. Desmond foregrounds general pre-retical considerations of AIDS as a national
cepts of cultural studies and uses historicalcrisis for gay Latinos and Latinas. Hence,
and anthropological methods to challengethe authors use Kiss of the Spider Woman as
notions of authenticity, ethnicity and nation- a locus for the construction of homosexual
ality. She references other dance forms suchLatino identity. One thread of the argument
as African American (United States) Hip Hopposits Chita Rivera as the embodiment of sur-
culture, "hot, Latino" dance personified in vival, queerness, and cult stardom. By the
the popular figure of Carmen Miranda, and end of the essay the reader realizes that
even Chinese theatrical dance. Her interest Sandoval is himself a victim of the AIDS epi-
is in the way "dance exists in a complex net- demic. For the writers, process and product
work of relationships to other dances and become one as they poignantly write about
other non-dance ways of using the body" (p. their relationship with art, death, and each
37). I find her analysis informative and other.
thought provoking. As a general overview, A few of the essays contain passages that
it provides a clearly framed argument for are obtuse and full of Performance Studies
examining how identity can be articulated jargon that does not create meaning for the
within the syncretistic cultural dance tradi- reader. "Hip Poetics" by Jose Peidra opens
tions of Latin America. with a confusing listing of binaries to de-
Despite its strengths, Desmond's analy- scribe what Rumba dancing is not. I offer
sis of the Tango is not as culturally specific this excerpt as an example of how Perfor-
as Marta Savigliano's Tango and the Politi- mance Studies writing can obscure meaning
cal Economy of Passion (2), nor does it de- by reformulating language incoherently:
lineate the racial and ethnic communities that
have contributed to the development of the Indeed, the exchange between
dance form. Savigliano, like Selessi, finds the roles of Self and Other is most
the roots of the Tango in the fusion of Medi- convincing at the level of gestures.
terranean, African, and Native American For instance, rumba performers are
cultures and both writers view the dance as routinely both externalized and
a progressive evolution towards the expres- internalized, objectified and sub-
sion of Argentine nationalism. Savigliano jectified, by the talkers and the
goes beyond Selessi, however, in defining oglers, be they their impresarios,
and analyzing the Tango within an interna- their public, or other critical ex-
tional and transnational context of exoticism ploiters. Most likely, in the end, the
and colonial exploitation. dividing line between objects and
Some writings in Everynight Life are subjects, as well as that between
testaments of personal encounters with per- what is external and what is internal,
formance events. A collaborative essay by blurs as their mutual dependence is
David Roman and Alberto Sandoval, for ex- well established. (p. 98)

Dance Research Journal 30/2 (Fall 1998) 75

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In
Inhis
hisessay,
essay,
Piedra
Piedra
metaphorically
metaphorically
(Bloomington,
(Bloomington, Indiana
Indiana
University
University
Press, Press,
1995). 1995).

equates
equates thethe
seductive
seductive
motionmotion
of the female
of the female
2.
2. Marta
MartaSavigliano,
Savigliano,
Tango
Tango
and the
andPolitical
the Political
Economy
Econom
hip
hipwith
withthethe
subversive
subversive
performance
performance
of of of
of Passion
Passion(Boulder:
(Boulder:
Westview
Westview
Press,Press,
1995). 1995).
women's
women's dance
dance
in a patriarchal
in a patriarchal
Latin Latin
3.
3. Yvonne
Yvonne Daniel,
Daniel,
Rumba:
Rumba:
DanceDance
and Social
and Change
Social Cha
America.
America. He He
seems
seems
to ignore
to ignore
the complex
the complex
in
in Contemporary
Contemporary Cuba
Cuba
(Bloomington:
(Bloomington:
IndianaIndi
interplay
interplay of gestures
of gestures
that constitute
that constitute
Rumba Rumba
University
University Press,
Press,
1995).
1995).
dancing.
dancing. After
After
reading
reading
YvonneYvonne
Daniel's con-
Daniel's con-
cise
ciseRumba:
Rumba:Dance
Dance
and Social
and Change
Social in
Change in
Contemporary
Contemporary Cuba(3),
Cuba(3),
I foundI Piedra's
foundre-Piedra's re-
ductive
ductive description
description
of Rumba
of Rumba
hip articula-
hip articula-
tion
tionasasa "get
a "get
down"down"
movement
movement
particularly SAMBA:
SAMBA:RESISTANCE
particularly RESISTANCE IN MOTION
IN MOTION by b
annoying.
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one thing,
one thing,
his metaphoric
his metaphoric
con- Barbara
BarbaraBrowning.
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Arts and
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structs
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disregard
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already already Politics
Politicsofof
developed developed thethe
Everyday.
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by
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dance
writers
writers
to describe
to describe
the nuances Indiana:
Indiana:
theofnuances of Indiana
IndianaUniversity
University
Press,Press,
1995. 199
dance
danceexpression
expressionin theinRumba.
the Rumba.
The second xxvi
xxvi
The second ++183
183pp.,
pp.,
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sible
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literary
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sis
sistotoa discussion
a discussion
of mythological
of mythological
Latin Latin
American
American females.
females.
In thisInsection,
this section,
Sikain, Sikain,
Writing
WritingCulture:
Culture:TheThe
Poetics
Poetics
and Politics
and Politics
of
Yemanya,
Yemanya, Oshun,
Oshun,
and Oya
and areOya
described Ethnography,
Ethnography,
are described
as as edited
edited
by James
by James
Clifford
Clifford
and a
embodiments
embodiments of female
of female
presence
presence
in the Latin George
GeorgeE.E.
in the Latin Marcus,
Marcus,
articulated
articulated
a crisis
a crisis
in
American
American imagination.
imagination. writing
writingethnography,
ethnography, challenging
challenging
those who
those w
Everynight
Everynight Life:Life:
CultureCulture
and Dance
andin Dancewould
in write about an "other culture" to ad-
Latin/o
Latin/o America
America
is an is
important
an important dress the self/other dichotomy. If the "other"
resource resource
book
bookforfordance
dance
scholars
scholars
in spitein
of spite
its some- is treated objectively, unexamined prejudices
of its some-
times
timesconvoluted
convolutedlanguage.
language.
The intellectual and biases may determine what is viewed and
The intellectual
content
content of of
the the
writings
writings
and theandcontextual how; if treated subjectively, the danger of
the contextual
space
spacethat
that
they
they
create
create
expandexpand
upon existing essentializing the "other" as a projection of
upon existing
paradigms
paradigms of dance
of dance
as movement
as movement one's own identity and ideals looms. Seek-
analysis analysis
or
ordance
dance as history.
as history.
As Delgado
As Delgado
and Mufioz ing to recognize involvement with the
and Mufioz
write
writeinin thethe
introductory
introductory
essay, dance,
essay,fordance,"other"
for and deflecting criticisms of
the
thevolume's
volume's contributors,
contributors,
is politics
is in
politics
mo- unexamined
in mo- viewpoints has led ethnographic
tion.
tion.Everynight
Everynight Life is
Life
a valuable
is a valuable
book be- book writers
be- into personal narratives. Dance writ-
cause it tells histories of under-documented ing is no exception.
Latin American dance styles, but it is also a Writing about dance from the inside out
necessary book because, its writers, by ac- is more tangled than writing from the out-
knowledging the human body as a carrier of side in. As an outsider one perceives the
social and political histories as well as per- dance, based on one's own knowledge and
formance histories, broaden the scope of experience, as it might also be perceived by
dance scholarship. readers. But when writing from the inside
out, the writer must convey the dance's sig-
Anita Gonzalez nificance, its movement and motion and the
Connecticut College writer's involvement as a performer, as if the
reader were able to absorb or even embody
NOTES those same feelings and implications and
emotions. Yet the reader, not having shared
1. Barbara Browning, Samba: Resistance in Motion
the experience of the writer, may find it frus-

76 Dance Research Journal 30/2 (Fall 1998)

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