The Dragon Can't Dance

by Earl Lovelace

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How does the calypso contribute to the development of The Dragon Can't Dance?

Quick answer:

The calypso is a motif in the novel that represents one of the few respites that the hardworking people of Trinidad use to endure their hard lives. Calypso "swims" in their heads as a soothing mechanism that enables them to liberate their stagnant lives through dance.

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The music of calypso has its own mention in Earl Lovelace's novel The Dragon Can't Dance. Lovelace connects calypso, dance, and the emotional well-being of the people. No matter how hard life is, or how deep their troubles are, the solution of the people is to wait for the carnival, where they get to liberate their tension through dancing. It is one of the few respites the hardworking people of Trinidad can enjoy. It is free, widely available, and it soothes the soul. Calypso is, so to speak, the heart and soul of their culture.

Therefore, dancing to the tune of calypso brings joy into the lives of the people. Like Lovelace says:

Dance! There is dancing in the calypso. Dance! If the words mourn the death of a neighbour, the music insists that you dance; if it tells the troubles of a brother, the music says dance. Dance to the hurt! Dance! If you catching hell, dance, and the government don't care, dance!

In this excerpt, Lovelace says that "the music says," and that "the music insists" that you dance. This entails that the music has enough power to make people leave their comfort zone and engage with it. It also entails that the people are willing to engage with it as they find it liberating and happy. It is one of the few luxuries of life that they can actually afford.

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