Lester Tomé

Associate Professor of Dance

Lester Tome

Contact & Office Hours

On sabbatical academic year 2020–21.

47 Belmont Avenue #303



Ph.D., Temple University

B.A., University of Havana


Lester Tomé is an associate professor in the dance department and an affiliate of the Latin American and Latino/a Studies Program at Smith College. He is also a faculty member in the Five College Dance Department. Among the courses he teaches are Dance History: Political Bodies from the Stage to the Page; Dance Anthropology: Performed Identities and Embodies Cultures; Salsa in Theory and Practice; and the graduate seminars Philosophies of Contemporary Dance and Dance Studies: Social Theory and Research Methods.

He is the author of The Body Politic: Ballet and Revolution in Cuba (Oxford University Press, forthcoming in 2021). The book illuminates the development of Cuban ballet as a function of the Cuban Revolution’s ideology and cultural policy. It relates ballet performance to questions of political participation, socialist economy, nationalism, race and masculinity.

In spring 2021, Tomé is a resident fellow at the National Humanities Center. During 2014-15 he was a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow and an affiliate researcher at the Afro-Latin American Research Institute, at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center. In 2013-14, he was the Peggy Rockefeller Visiting Scholar at Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.

He has published in various journals and contributed chapters to The Cambridge Companion to Ballet, The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Ballet and The Routledge Companion to Dance Studies, among other publications. He serves on the editorial boards of Cuban Studies and Dance Research Journal.

Tomé has delivered lectures at Columbia, Harvard, Tufts, Haverford, Reed, Washington University in St. Louis, Temple and other institutions. He has been interviewed for NPR’s Weekend Edition and Smith’s Insight, and consulted for stories in Pointe Magazine, CNN and Yahoo News. 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.

Selected Publications

“A Cuban Diaspora: Stories of Defection, Brain Drain and Brain Gain in Ballet’s Global Labor Market,” in The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Ballet, ed. K. Farrugia-Kriel and J. Nunes Jensen (Oxford University Press, in press).

“Black Star, Fetishized Other: Carlos Acosta, Ballet’s New Cosmopolitanism, and Desire in the Age of Diversity,” in The Routledge Companion to Dance Studies, ed. H. Thomas and S. Prickett (Routledge, 2019). “Access postprint in Smith ScholarWorks.”

“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). Access postprint in Smith ScholarWorks.

“Swans in Sugarcane Fields: Proletarian Ballet Dancers and the Cuban Revolution’s Industrious New Man,” in Dance Research Journal 49/2 (2017). Access postprint in Smith ScholarWorks.

“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). Access postprint in Smith ScholarWorks.

“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.”

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