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Creolizing Contradance in the Caribbean

Peter Manuel

Publication Year: 2009

The contradance and quadrille, in their diverse forms, were the most popular, widespread, and important genres of creole Caribbean music and dance in the nineteenth century.  Throughout the region they constituted sites for interaction of musicians and musical elements of different racial, social, and ethnic origins, and they became crucibles for the evolution of genres like the Cuban danzón and son, the Dominican merengue, and the Haitian mereng.


Creolizing Contradance in the Caribbean is the first book to explore this phenomenon in detail and with a pan-regional perspective. Individual chapters by respected area experts discuss the Spanish, French, and English-speaking Caribbean, covering musical and choreographic features, social dynamics, historical development and significance, placed in relation to the broader Caribbean historical context. This groundbreaking text fills a significant gap in studies of Caribbean cultural history and of social dance.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. v

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1 Introduction: Contradance and Quadrille Culture in the Caribbean

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pp. 1-50

A region as linguistically, ethnically, and culturally diverse as the Caribbean has never lent itself to being epitomized by a single music or dance genre, be it rumba or reggae. Nevertheless, in the nineteenth century a set of contradance and quadrille variants flourished so extensively throughout the Caribbean Basin that they enjoyed a kind of predominance, as a common cultural...

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2 Cuba: From Contradanza to Danz

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pp. 51-112

If in the last century Cuban music has been known primarily for the mambo, the chachachá, and the son that generated salsa, in the nineteenth century by far the most predominant and distinctively national music was the contradanza, in the diverse forms it took over the course of its extended heyday. The contradanza (or “danza,” as it was later called) was also...

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3 Puerto Rico: The Rise and Fall of the Danza as National Music

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pp. 113-154

Present-day Puerto Ricans live in a world throbbing to the beat of reggaet

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4 The Dominican Republic: Danza and the Contradanced Merengue

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pp. 155-187

In 1890 Puerto Rican poet Lola Rodríguez de Tió wrote the oft-quoted lines, “Cuba and Puerto Rico are the twin wings of the same bird; they receive flowers or bullets in the same heart.” Rodríguez de Tió was referring to the close cultural and political ties between the two islands, which remained sister colonies of Spain until 1898, many decades after the rest of Latin America had broken free. For its part, the Dominican...

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5 Creole Quadrilles of Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, and St. Lucia

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pp. 188-208

On a late October evening in Laplaine, a village in southern Dominica, I was watching a quadrille performance during the selection rounds of the Heritage Festival, an annual contest that celebrates Dominica’s culture. All contestants were members of cultural groups representing villages or communities from the southeast district that had been succeeding each other on stage in separate sets of adults and children to perform the quadrille...

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6 Haiti: Tracing the Steps of the M

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pp. 209-230

The contredanse was the foundation of many of the social dances that emerged in the Caribbean in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The degree of cross-fertilization between different types of social dance that are separated by political and linguistic boundaries, however, makes the task of tracing the origins of specific dance musics difficult and ultimately, perhaps, futile. By seeing musical genres, especially music associated with couple ...

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7 The English-Speaking Caribbean: Re-embodying the Colonial Ballroom

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pp. 231-270

The relationship between people of African descent in the Anglophone Caribbean and Western dance reaches back into the eighteenth century, if not earlier. At any rate, this is when colonial writers first began taking note of slaves adopting the music and dances of European society. Since that time, European dances in this part of the Caribbean have received considerable attention, and perhaps none as much as the quadrille. In the literature...


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pp. 271-272

Contents of the Compact Disc

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pp. 273-274


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pp. 275-281

E-ISBN-13: 9781592137367

Publication Year: 2009