Eric Van Young PhD, book back cover endorsement from distinguished Professor of History specialized in Latin American History, University of California, San Diego

August 1, 2015

Argentine-born clinical psychologist and tango aficionada Beatriz Dujovne has written a charming and perceptive book about the iconic Argentine dance, one of the great popular art forms of the twentieth century.  It is a book that can be read in a single leisurely evening (preferably accompanied by a good bottle of Malbec), or in doses, as one would read absorbing short stories.  Equal parts history, travelogue, memoir, and ethnography, In Strangers’ Arms is both an evocative ballad dedicated to Buenos Aires, where the tango developed, and an affective and aesthetic anatomy of the dance form.  Dujovne’s account is deeply intelligent and well researched without being dry or academic. The quintessentially porteño dance is for its devotees not only a form of expression, and its clubs (milongas) and festivals venues of sociability for women and men of all ages, but really a way of life.  The author explores such aspects of tango culture as the porous but clear boundary between sensuality and sexuality on the dance floor, the heterogeneous origins of the form in late 19th– and early 20th-century Buenos Aires, and early debates about it as an expression of authentic “Argentineness.”  Dujovne emphasizes its early and widespread social acceptance in Argentina and then the world at large, as opposed to the danger, lurking violence, and social marginality of the demi-monde of prostitutes and pimps often associated with its mythified origins.  Most importantly of all she plays with the tension between the commodification of the tango for export, including what foreigners seek out when they visit Argentina, and the dance’s reality for everyday people.  Across her pages dance the American actor and tango devotee Robert Duval, along with a gallery of famous tango artists and national icons including Astor Piazzolla, Carlos Gardel, and Francisco Canaro. But there is also a host of wise-cracking waiters, intellectual cab-drivers, casual dance partners (the “strangers” of the title), and the author’s friends, as well as the famous dead, including Evita Perón and those who repose with her in the Buenos Aires cemetery La Recoleta, the porteño equivalent of Paris’s Père-Lachaise.  This is an absorbing, illuminating, and entertaining book about a city, a way of life, and a dance recognized the world over.

error: Content is protected !!