Assistant Professor of Dance and Director of the MFA Program in Dance
Contact & Office Hours
47 Belmont Avenue #303
Ph.D., Temple University
B.A., University of Havana
Lester Tomé is an assistant professor in the dance department and an affiliate of the Latin American and Latino/a Studies Program at Smith. He is also a faculty member in the Five College Dance Department. He teaches dance history and ethnography, cultural studies and research methods. His recent courses include European and U.S. Concert Dance Since 1900, Dance and Culture, Critical Studies in Latin American Dance, Interrogating Dance Globalization, Salsa in Theory and Practice and, at the graduate level, Contemporary Trends in Choreography, and Literature of Dance.
In 2013–14, he was the Peggy Rockefeller Visiting Scholar at Harvard University’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. During 2014–15 he was a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow and affiliate researcher at the Afro-Latin American Research Institute, at Harvard. These awards supported his research for The Body Politic: Ballet and Revolution in Cuba (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). The book illuminates transformations of the Cuban ballet as a function of the Cuban Revolution’s ideology and cultural policy, pertaining to questions of political agency, class, economy, nationalism, race, gender, and sexuality. It also examines the links between ballet performance and other performances of the Revolution’s ideology—e.g. the performance of militarism in parades, of labor in sugarcane fields, of machismo in everyday life, of interracial romance in the public sphere.
Tomé has been invited to lecture at Columbia, Harvard, Marquette, Tufts, Haverford, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Akron, the Korean Dance Society, and other institutions. He is a member of the editorial board of Dance Research Journal. Since 2012, he has chaired the Society of Dance History Scholars’s Working Group for Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Dance Studies.
As a dance critic, he worked for CMBF-Radio Musical Nacional (Cuba) and El Mercurio (Chile), while being a contributor for Dance Magazine and other publications. In 2004, he participated in the American Dance Festival’s Institute for Dance Criticism as a fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Times Foundation.
“The Racial Other’s Dancing Body in El milagro de anaquillé (1927): Avant-Garde Ballet and Ethnography of Afro-Cuban Performance,” in Cuban Studies 47 (2018).
“Swans in Sugarcane Fields: Proletarian Ballet Dancers and the Cuban Revolution’s Industrious New Man,” in Dance Research Journal 49/2 (2017).
“Envisioning a Cuban Ballet: Afrocubanismo, Nationalism and Political Commentary in Alejo Carpentier and Amadeo Roldán’s La rebambaramba (1928),” in Dance Research Journal of Korea 71/5 (2013).
“‘Music in the Blood’: Performance and Discourse of Musicality in Cuban Ballet Aesthetics,” Dance Chronicle 36/2 (2013).
“Alicia Alonso: Giselle in a Cuban Accent,” in The Cambridge Companion to Ballet, ed. M. Kant (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
Ballet as an International Dance Form
Lester Tomé wants to shine a light on how ballet has become a truly international dance form. Focusing on Cuba as a detailed case study, he insists that ballet is no longer an art form for just European and North American bodies. Likewise, he pushes his scholarly analysis beyond the Eurocentric models of ballet to highlight the experience of the Cuban dancers, choreographers and teachers “that go beyond the official histories.”