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Making Caribbean Dance

Continuity and Creativity in Island Cultures

Susanna Sloat

Publication Year: 2010

Caribbean dance is a broad category that can include everything from nightclubs to sacred ritual. Making Caribbean Dance connects the dance of the islands with their rich multicultural histories and complex identities. Delving deep into the many forms of ritual, social, carnival, staged, experimental, and performance dance, the book explores some of the most mysterious and beloved, as well as rare and little-known, dance traditions of the region.

From the evolution of Indian dance in Trinidad to the barely known rituals of los misterios in the Dominican Republic, this volume looks closely at the vibrant and varied movement vocabulary of the islands. With distinctive and highly illuminating chapters on such topics as experimental dance makers in Puerto Rico, the government's use of dance in shaping national identity in Barbados, the role of calypso and soca in linking Anglophone islands, and the invented dances of dance-hall kings and queens of Jamaica, this volume is an evocative and enlightening exploration of some of the world’s most dynamic dance cultures.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page

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pp. i

Front Matter


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pp. iv


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pp. v-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xxxii

Music flows through the people of the Caribbean islands and it comes out in dance. It comes out on streets and stages, in homes and places of worship, at clubs and competitions. Whether the dance is old and full of surprising...

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1. Rigidigidim De Bamba De: A Calypso Journey from Start to . . .

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pp. 3-10

This thing happens in fragments. It is multilinear. I have looked for a beginning, journeying through first traumas (Hall 2001, 28) to African and French retentions, South Asian influences, shifting from songs sung extempore to processional jump up, for an end...

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2. Tangled Roots: Kalenda and Other Neo-African Dances in the Circum-Caribbean

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pp. 11-34

In this chapter I investigate the early history of what Roberts (1972, 26, 58) terms “neo-African” dance in the circum-Caribbean. There are several reasons for undertaking this task. First, historical material on early Caribbean dance and music is scattered, sketchy, and contradictory...


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pp. 35

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3. Rumba Encounters: Transculturation of Cuban Rumba in American and European Ballrooms

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pp. 37-48

While teaching an undergraduate ballroom dance class, I asked my students to read Yvonne Daniel’s description of Cuban rumba published in the first volume of Caribbean Dance (Daniel 2002, 47–51). Her depiction of the rumba guaguancó as an improvisational polyrhythmic dance in which an assertive man attempts to sexually possess a flirtatious woman...

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4. My Experience and Experiments in Caribbean Dance

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pp. 49-61

The boy was twelve years old, still in elementary school, already an avid movie fan. He had saved for a ticket to a movie premiere in one of Havana’s fashionable neighborhoods. The film was A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by the famous German director Max Reinhardt...

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5. The Africanness of Dance in Cuba

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pp. 62-66

The African-rooted legacy we inherited from the enslaved men and women of this continent in past centuries is present in many aspects of Cuban culture and in the traditional culture of the Cuban people. In different traditional cults and religions of African origin...

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6. Secrets Under the Skin: They Brought the Essence of Africa

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pp. 67-82

“Aaaaafrica” is a cry that rings out over and over above the insistent sound and sight of the drumming, singing, and dancing during Arará religious ceremonies in Perico, Cuba, as the energy level ratchets up another notch as more deities arrive by manifesting themselves in the bodies of community...

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7. Haitian Migration and Danced Identity in Eastern Cuba

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pp. 83-94

I arrive at Santiago de Cuba’s Teatro Oriente to see a small crowd of locals and tourists waiting outside. We are here to see Ballet Folklórico Cutumba, one of eastern Cuba’s premier folkloric dance troupes. Although the theater is run down and no longer has electricity or running water, its former elegance is apparent...


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pp. 95

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8. When Jamaica Dances: Context and Content

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pp. 97-131

Jamaican dance and music are inseparable, if not as tangible reality, then certainly by way of perceived reality. The adage, with reference to African, neo-African, and African-based creole dance and music, is that one “hears the dance and sees the music.”...

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9. Dance, Divas, Queens, and Kings: Dance and Culture in Jamaican Dancehall

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pp. 132-148

What do the names Kid Harold, Baskin, Pam Pam, Carlene, Labba Labba, Bogle, Stacey, Craigy Dread, Spongebob, Ding Dong, Mad Michelle, Keiva, Colo Colo, Sample Six, Sadiki, Ravers Clavers, Shelly Belly, Blazay, Timeless, Shortman, Cadillac, and John Hype have in common?...

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10. Ghanaian Gome and Jamaican Kumina: West African Influences

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pp. 149-162

“Bring out the drums!” This is a signal of an unpredictable event to come in an African performance scene like Kumina. So, too, the drums come from trees that grow with green leaves, fruits, and feed the world—life itself. African practices on the mainland and in the diaspora have, over the years...


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pp. 163

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11. Chimin Kwaze: Crossing Paths, or Haitian Dancemaking in Port-au-Prince

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pp. 165-178

In 1999, Djenane St. Juste, the principal dancer and a choreographer for JAKA (Jen Artis Kanga Ayisen), appeared as the Vodou lwa or spirit Simbi Dlo wearing a white flowing skirt, cropped white shirt, and flowing gold head covering. She projected the waterlike qualities of Simbi Dlo by gliding...

Dominican Republic

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pp. 179

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12. Dance of the Dominican Misterios

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pp. 181-197

Marisol is only ten years old, but already she has been chosen by higher powers as a servidora of Metresilí (the Dominican contraction of Maitresse Erzulie, as she is known in neighboring Haiti), the Vodú-spiritist misterio whose protector is Our Lady of Sorrows, Nuestra Señora de los Dolores. She must now serve her for life...

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13. How to Dance Son and the Style of a Dominican Sonero

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pp. 198-202

Being a teacher has forced me to take shelter in a method to implement a pedagogy, because not all people who know how to dance, know how to teach. The most important thing in learning to dance is that the future dancer must have the interest and willingness to learn to dance...

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14. The Drums Are Calling My Name

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pp. 203-208

Drum-proofing the Dominican night can become a challenge vaguely related to that of counting the sands of a desert or tallying with accuracy the exact number of hairs on one’s head. A tête-à-tête between a well-endowed vedette...

Puerto Rico

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pp. 209

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Contemporary Dance in Puerto Rico, or How to Speak of These Times

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pp. 211-224

Countries with a dance tradition and history allow, even invite, the isolation of periods or genres when one is writing about them. But countries with a recent development of professional dance and a history of theatrical dance that does not date back very far, such as Puerto Rico, demand...


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pp. 225

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16. Bele and Quadrille: African and European Dimensions in the Traditional Dances of Dominica, West Indies

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pp. 227-244

In the Commonwealth of Dominica, two dance genres reflect the island’s creole heritage. One, which comprises the bele—bele pitjé, bele soté, bele djouba, and related dances such as the rikitik—carries the hallmarks of its African forebears. The other, which includes group dances such as the quadrille...

St. Lucia

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pp. 245

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17. Helen, Heaven, and I: In Search of a Dialogue

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pp. 247-262

So here I am at the intersection of modern dance and . . . I am a kinesiophile; I crave movement information, and I am compelled to see how it all fits together. As a West Indian straddling aesthetic worlds, my process focuses on investigating the visceral communication inherent in the Caribbean dance...


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pp. 263

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18. Dance in Barbados: Reclaiming, Preserving, and Creating National Identities

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pp. 265-282

As the first volume of Caribbean Dance demonstrated, dance is an extremely fruitful site at which to explore the dynamic ways in which Caribbean identities are constructed. The essays in the earlier book, together with this present collection, clearly show that this cluster of islands and territories...


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pp. 283

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19. Big Drum Dance of Carriacou

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pp. 285-294

The first time I traveled to Carriacou was in July 1966 to do field research on the Big Drum Dance for my master’s degree thesis (in physical education, with emphasis on dance anthropology) at the University of California, Berkeley. M.G. Smith, a professor from Jamaica, told me that in all the islands of the Caribbean...

Trinidad and Tobago

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pp. 295

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20. Tradition Reaffirming Itself in New Forms: An Overview of Trinidad and Tobago Folk Dances

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pp. 297-320

An underlying African presence coupled with the influence of Spanish, French, and British cultures accounts for the aesthetic attributes of the folk dances of Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean. The evidence is in the style, manner, movement, and body articulation of the region. What are considered folk dances...

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21. A Narrative on the Framework of the Presence, Change, and Continuity of Indian Dance in Trinidad

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pp. 321-336

I have always loved dancing, but cannot claim to be a trained dancer. Yet I have performed as a dancer, in Indian and African dance, on television, at formal occasions, at Best Village competitions, and at cooking nights in communities across Trinidad. I have always been a keen student of the art...


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pp. 337-356

About the Contributors

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pp. 357-362


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pp. 363-393

E-ISBN-13: 9780813048291
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813034676
Print-ISBN-10: 0813034671

Page Count: 432
Illustrations: 43 b&w photos, map
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Dance -- Caribbean Area.
  • Dance -- Anthropological aspects -- Caribbean Area.
  • Dance -- Caribbean Area -- African influences.
  • Dance -- Caribbean Area -- European influences.
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