Elizabeth Schall

  • Fellowship year:2015-2016
  • University: Columbia University
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Latin America
  • Dissertation Title: Dancing with Revolution: Dance, State, and Nation in Cuba, 1930-1990
  • In spite of longstanding economic straits, Cuba boasts a world-renowned dance establishment that has played an important role within Cuban society and in Cuban international relations. My dissertation explains why. This study starts from the proposition that the intimate connection between dance and politics accounts for the historical significance of the art form. To understand this relationship fully, the project defines dance and politics broadly. Dance includes ballet, modern dance, folkloric dance, spectacles in cabarets, television, and on the streets during carnival. Politics signifies interactions between dancers and the state, as well as ideas expressed choreographically about racial difference, gender hierarchies, and social change. Over the period under investigation, dancing and watching dance were significant political practices part of Cuban daily life. Examining archival materials of dance institutions, performance programs, and state and citizen discourses regarding dance, my dissertation contends that Cuban citizens navigated socio-political shifts and expressive parameters by dancing, shaping dance institutions, and asserting the value of their work with the help of ideological frameworks, particularly regarding revolution and nationhood. My project provides the first historical study of the politics of Cuban dance that foregrounds the power structures of dance enterprises and how they differed by genre, geography, and generation.