Transcultural Tango: An Ethnographic Study of a Dance Community in the East Midlands




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De Montfort University


Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed


This thesis examines the practice of an Argentine Tango dance community in the East Midlands, England. It is an ethnographic study whose objectives are to investigate this instance of a local transcultural dance practice in order to learn about participants’ motivations; their experience of and identification with Argentine Tango; and the meanings produced in the process of their participation. As a social dancer, teacher and insider researcher, I employ embodiment as a key methodological strategy in order to engage with and share the experience of dancing with participants; to gain sensory understanding and bodily knowledge of the practice; and in the process to gain access to further avenues of meaning-making amongst participants. The study considers questions arising directly from my teaching role to do with the transmission and reproduction of the dance, authenticity, the production of meaning, the construction and performance of identity and the imaginative construction of post-modern cultural practices. The nature of space and place is considered, as is Turner’s distinction between liminoid and liminal activity with regard to ritual and communitas in relation to Argentine Tango. Alongside participant discussions, I explore various perspectives on the cosmopolitan appropriation and exoticisation of Argentine Tango; the diffusion, re-territorialisation and globalisation of Argentine Tango since the late 1980s.

Data was produced using ethnographic tools, including video recording, shared reviewing and feedback from participants. The thesis analyses findings to show how participants project narratives of the imagination into their dancing, thereby providing frameworks of meaning which crucially underpin and sustain this practice. These imagined narratives are compared to journeys, both literal and of the imagination, enabling the creative construction of new identities, the exploration of self in relation to others and an escape from everyday life in postmodernity.



Argentine Tango, embodiment, performance of identity, communitas, narratives of the imagination, liminal, liminoid, exoticisation, de-territorialisation, authenticity, transmission, reproduction, globalisation



Research Institute