Associate Professor of Dance
Contact & Office Hours
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. He teaches dance history and anthropology, as well as cultural studies, social theory and research methods in dance.
His courses include Dance History: Political Bodies from the Stage to the Page, Dance Anthropology: Performed Identities and Embodied Cultures, Dancing Today: Aesthetics of Contemporary Dance, Critical Studies in Latin American Dance, Inquiries into Dance and Globalization, Salsa in Theory and Practice, and, at the graduate level, Philosophies of Contemporary Dance and Literature of Dance: Social Theory, Research Methods and Cultural Studies.
He is the author of articles in Cuban Studies, Dance Research Journal and Dance Chronicle, and chapters in The Routledge Companion to Dance Studies, The Cambridge Companion to Ballet and The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Ballet, among other publications.
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 an affiliate researcher at the Afro-Latin American Research Institute at Harvard’s Hutchins Center.
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—for example, the performance of militarism in parades, of labor in sugarcane fields, of machismo in everyday life and of interracial romance in the public sphere.
He is a member of the editorial boards of Cuban Studies and Dance Research Journal. Since 2012, he has chaired the Dance Studies Association’s Working Group for Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Dance Studies.
Tomé has been interviewed for NPR’s Weekend Edition and Smith’s Insight, and consulted for stories in Pointe Magazine, CNN, and Yahoo News. He has been invited to lecture at Columbia, Harvard, Tufts, Marquette, Temple, Haverford, Washington University in St. Louis, the Korean Dance Society (South Korea), the National Center for the Humanities and Social Science (Spain), the Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center (Chile) and other institutions.
As a dance critic, he worked for CMBF-Radio Musical Nacional (Cuba) and El Mercurio (Chile), and was 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.
“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, in press).
“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).
“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 Journalof Korea 71/5 (2013).
“‘Music in the Blood’: Performance and Discourse of Musicality in Cuban Ballet Aesthetics,” Dance Chronicle 36/2 (2013).
“Alicia Alonso: Gisellein 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.”