Dancing the New World

[ Latin American Studies ]

Dancing the New World

Aztecs, Spaniards, and the Choreography of Conquest

By Paul A. Scolieri

Analyzing the extensive accounts of Aztec dance practices in colonial-era European chronicles, histories, letters, and travel books, this volume reveals the surprising and crucial role that dance played in the European conquest and colonization of the Americas.

Latin American and Caribbean Arts and Culture Publication Initiative

May 2013

$55.00$36.85

33% website discount price

Hardcover

8.5 x 11 | 227 pp. | 40 illustrations

ISBN: 978-0-292-74492-9

From Christopher Columbus to “first anthropologist” Friar Bernardino de Sahagún, fifteenth- and sixteenth-century explorers, conquistadors, clerics, scientists, and travelers wrote about the “Indian” dances they encountered throughout the New World. This was especially true of Spanish missionaries who intensively studied and documented native dances in an attempt to identify and eradicate the “idolatrous” behaviors of the Aztec, the largest indigenous empire in Mesoamerica at the time of its European discovery.

Dancing the New World traces the transformation of the Aztec empire into a Spanish colony through written and visual representations of dance in colonial discourse—the vast constellation of chronicles, histories, letters, and travel books by Europeans in and about the New World. Scolieri analyzes how the chroniclers used the Indian dancing body to represent their own experiences of wonder and terror in the New World, as well as to justify, lament, and/or deny their role in its political, spiritual, and physical conquest. He also reveals that Spaniards and Aztecs shared an understanding that dance played an important role in the formation, maintenance, and representation of imperial power, and describes how Spaniards compelled Indians to perform dances that dramatized their own conquest, thereby transforming them into colonial subjects. Scolieri’s pathfinding analysis of the vast colonial “dance archive” conclusively demonstrates that dance played a crucial role in one of the defining moments in modern history—the European colonization of the Americas.

  • List of Appendices
  • List of Maps and Images
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. On the Areíto: Discovering Dance in the New World
  • Chapter 2. Unfaithful Imitation: Friar Toribio de Benavente "Motolinía" and the "Counterfeit" Histories of Dance
  • Chapter 3. The Sacrifices of Representation: Dance in the Writings of Friar Bernardino de Sahagún
  • Chapter 4. Dances of Death: The Massacre at the Festival of Toxcatl
  • Chapter 5. The Mystery of Movement: Dancing in Colonial New Spain
  • Conclusion
  • Appendices A–J
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Paul A. Scolieri is Assistant Professor of Dance at Barnard College, Columbia University.

"The textual, iconographic, and linguistic analyses demonstrate Scolieri's depth and breadth of understanding of the historical and cultural implications of the European colonizing of Mexico. With glossy color plates, well-reproduced black-and-white images, and ten appendixes of translated source material, the book provides a great example of in-depth research using primary sources."
―M. Keefe, The College of Brockport, Choice magazine

2014 Oscar G. Brockett Book Prize for Dance Research

Special Citation
The de la Torre Bueno Prize
Society of Dance History Scholars

Scolieri, Dancing the New World: Aztecs, Spaniards, and the Choreography of Conquest

Paul Scolieri of Barnard College talks about how dance affected Spanish opinions of the Aztecs.
Series: The University of Texas Press Podcasts

Author: University of Texas Press | Date: Saturday, 01 December 2012 | Duration: 16:01

Analyzing the extensive accounts of Aztec dance practices in colonial-era European chronicles, histories, letters, and travel books, this volume reveals the surprising and crucial role that dance played in the European conquest and colonization of the Americas.

Get the book. This podcast was produced in part by the Latin American and Caribbean Arts & Culture Publication Initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.