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Book Chapter

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The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Ballet


Since the 1990s, many dancers from Cuba have found work in North American and Western European ballet ensembles. This chapter describes how their international dance careers reflect high-skilled labor migration in the global economy, as well as the decentralizing expansion of ballet’s labor market. Migrant Cuban dancers cite a depressed local economy and the artistic stagnation of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba as fundamental reasons for looking for work in international ensembles. Their exodus is also political—extending into the present practices and discourses associated with the Cold War concept of defection. The numerous departures constitute a detrimental form of brain drain for Cuban ballet, which loses precious human capital and is relegated to the subaltern role of labor supplier for the international ballet community. Yet, this diaspora could also fuel brain gain—a scenario in which émigrés such as Carlos Acosta return home to reinvest in local institutions the knowledge and resources acquired abroad.


Cuba, ballet, dance, migration, diaspora, labor, high-skilled labor, brain drain, brain gain, Carlos Acosta

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Licensed to Smith College and distributed CC-BY under the Smith College Faculty Open Access Policy.


Peer reviewed accepted manuscript.

Chapter 17 from The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Ballet; Kathrina Farrugia-Kriel (ed.), Jill Nunes Jensen (ed.)

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