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Tango. A multidimensional expression of Argentine identity, one that speaks to that nation's sense of disorientation, loss, and terror. Yet the tango mesmerizes dancers and audiences alike throughout the world. In Paper Tangos, Julie Taylor-a classically trained dancer and anthropologist-examines the poetics of the tango while describing her own quest to dance this most dramatic of paired dances. Taylor, born in the United States, has lived much of her adult life in Latin America. She has spent years studying the tango in Buenos Aires, dancing during and after the terror of military dictatorships. This book is at once an account of a life lived crossing the borders of two distinct and complex cultures and an exploration of the conflicting meanings of tango for women who love the poetry of its movement yet feel uneasy with the roles it bestows on the male and female dancers. Drawing parallels among the violences of the Argentine Junta, the play with power inherent in tango dancing, and her own experiences with violence both inside and outside the intriguing tango culture, Taylor weaves the line between engaging memoir and insightful cultural critique. Within the contexts of tango's creative birth and contemporary presentations, this book welcomes us directly into the tango subculture and reveals the ways that personal, political, and historical violence operate in our lives. The book's experimental design includes photographs on every page, which form a flip-book sequence of a tango. Not simply a book for tango dancers and fans, Paper Tangos will reward students of Latin American studies, cultural studies, anthropology, feminist studies, dance studies, and the art of critical memoir.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780822321910
ISBN-10: 0822321912
Format: Paperback
(139mm x 216mm x 12mm)
Pages: 160
Imprint: Duke University Press
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publish Date: 1-Jun-1998
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions


US Kirkus Review » 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. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Julie Taylor

Julie Taylor is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Rice University and is the author of Eva Peron: The Myths of a Woman.

Books By Author Julie Taylor

Modernism and Affect by Julie Taylor

Modernism and Affect

Hardback, May 2015
Recognizing and Helping the Neglected Child by Julie Taylor

Recognizing and Helping the Neglected Child

Paperback, August 2011