The Routledge Companion to Dance Studies
Focusing on Carlos Acosta, the Cuban performer who became the first black principal dancer of London’s Royal Ballet, this chapter proposes that a new cosmopolitanism characterizes contemporary ballet. Such cosmopolitanism, informed by the institutionalization of diversity, is achieved through the presence of Latin American and Asian dancers in European and North American companies. Inclusion of the subaltern lends these institutions an image of multiculturalism and globality that increases their social capital. Yet, ballet’s new cosmopolitanism impels subaltern dancers to negotiate the fraught politics of moving from the periphery to the center, where they find themselves both valued and devalued for their race and nationality. This essay interrogates situations in which ballet’s emerging displays of diversity, while ostensibly fostering recognition of the subaltern, may prove cosmetic and not transcend coloniality. Problematic politics of desire underlie ballet’s new cosmopolitanism whenever subaltern bodies, as in Acosta’s case, are racialized, consumed for erotic pleasure, and fetishized as signifiers of diversity. Against a background of growing xenophobia and paired with this hedonistic consumption of the other, some forms of institutionalized diversity characterize a Marcusian regime of repressive tolerance in which multiculturalism is celebrated onstage while offstage the other is stigmatized as a burden to the nation.
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Lester Tomé, “Black Star, Other Fetishized: Carlos Acosta, Ballet’s New Cosmopolitanism, and Desire in the Age of Institutional Diversity,” in The Routledge Companion to Dance Studies, ed. Helen Thomas and Stacey Prickett (New York: Routledge, 2019), 298-310.