The book opens a rare window into Nordic culture seen through the prism of dance. While it grants the reader new insights into the critical role of dance in the formation and imagining of a region, it also raises questions about the interplay between dance practices and politics.
Gonzalves traces a genealogy of performance repertoire from the 1930s to the present. Culture nights serve several functions: as exercises in nostalgia, celebrations of rigid community entertainment, and occasionally forums for political intervention. Taking up more recent parodies of Pilipino Cultural Nights, Gonzalves discusses how the rebellious spirit that enlivened the original seditious performances has been stifled.
In describing the multiple ideologies of person, gender, and community that townspeople embody and explore as they dance, Cowan presents three different settings: the traditional wedding procession, the "Europeanized" formal evening dance of local civic associations, and the private party. She examines the practices of eating, drinking, talking, gifting, and dancing, and the verbal discourse through which celebrants make sense of each other's actions. Paying particular attention to points of tension and moments of misunderstanding, she analyzes in what ways these social situations pose different problems for men and women.