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An Archeology of Cuban Ballet: Reading State Discourse in Alicia Alonso’s Ballet Nacional de Cuba


This dissertation endeavors to produce an archeological history of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba (BNC). Founded a decade before the 1959 Cuban Revolution, and nationalized as a state institution at the start of the Revolution, the phenomenon of Cuba’s ballet goes beyond the anomaly of an elite practice thriving in a socialist state. Its provocative story lies in the first two decades of the Revolution when cultural production was sutured to the moral and economic development of the new state. This state-funded company has supported the socialist ethos of the state through boycotts, producing ballets featuring themes of the Cuban Revolution, and initiating a Cuban style of ballet choreography and pedagogy taught throughout the island. This historical project mobilizes Michel Foucault’s concept of the archeology as a theoretical framework for thinking about Cuba’s 1959 revolutionary state as producing systems knowledge (or epistemes) via state apparatuses that would then sanction and mold cultural production such as a national ballet. Like the grammar by which rules and language take form, these systems of knowledge for Foucault produce what he terms as discursive traces, which in this project become state ideology and legislation as well as choreography and dance movement. This archeology of the BNC analyzes the company as a cultural institution, its classical and contemporary repertoire, and its founder and prima ballerina Alicia Alonso as articulations, or traces of official state language and are contextualized within contemporaneous representations of socialist ideology drawing from the spheres of the revolution’s economic, gender, race, and class projects.

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