Colloquium Series: Visions of Racial Democracy and Spectacles of Interracial Eros: Black-and-White Duets in the National Ballet of Cuba

  • Friday, April 13, 2018 • 4:00 pm
  • Umrath Hall, Room 1 40
April 13, 2018 – 4:00pm
Umrath Hall, Room 140
Lester Tomé-Assistant Professor of Dance, Smith College

Upon the advent of the Cuban Revolution and following its reform of race relations, the National Ballet of Cuba sought to transform a dance form until then equated with European culture and white bodies into an artistic expression that reflected the nation’s African heritage and multiracial composition. As an outcome of that troupe’s racial integration, by the 1970s interracial partnering became a distinctive feature of Cuban ballet. This presentation focuses on interracial duets as choreo-erotic spectacles that were ambiguous ideological signifiers. The duets of black and white dancers simultaneously exposed and concealed historical taboos of interracial love and miscegenation. Through these performances, choreographers and dancers romanticized the discourses of mulatez (racial hybridity) and ajíaco (cultural stew), which the state deployed to legitimize the false claim that the Revolution had eliminated racism.

Lester Tomé, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Smith College Dance Department and the Five College Dance Department. He is the author of The Body Politic: Ballet and Revolution in Cuba (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). He has been a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (2013-14) and a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities (2014-15). His articles have appeared in Dance Research Journal, Dance Chronicle, Cuban Studies and The Cambridge Companion to Ballet, among other publications. He is a member of Dance Research Journal’s editorial board and coordinates the Dance Studies Association’s Working Group for Latin American, Latino/a, and Caribbean Dance Studies.

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