Assistant Professor of the Theory and Practice in Dance
Dance History and Literature, History & Aesthetics in Latin American Dance, Salsa, Dance Theory
Lester Tomé, PhD, assistant professor, works in the Dance Department and is 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, dance ethnography, salsa, contemporary choreography and performance, cultural studies, and research methods and writing. His recent courses include European and North American Concert Dance since 1900, Dance and Culture, Salsa I,Comparative Studies in Latin American Dance,Interrogating Dance Globalization, Salsa in Theory and Practice, and, at the graduate level, Contemporary Trends in Choreography and History and Literature of Dance. Before joining Smith College in 2009, he taught at Bryn Mawr College, Denison University, Temple University and University of the Arts.
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 is a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow and affiliate researcher at Harvard. These awards, together with Smith’s Picker and Harnish Fellowships, have supported his work on a book manuscript that examines the development of ballet in Cuba as a case study of both ballet’s globalization and the cultural production of the Cuban Revolution.
In his research, Tomé explains how the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, founded in 1959, adapted ballet, a genre equated with European culture, social elites, white bodies and homosexuality, to the ideology of a postcolonial, nationalist and communist regime that promoted racial democracy and institutionalized homophobia. He also elucidates articulations of a national aesthetic in ballet choreography of Afro-Cuban inspiration, as well as in the troupe’s performances of classics such as Giselle and Swan Lake. Additionally, he considers Cuba’s supply of first-rate dancers to European and North American ensembles in light of increasing transnationalism and high-skilled labor migration in the world of ballet.
Tomé has been interviewed for NPR’s Weekend Edition and invited to give talks at Columbia University, Harvard University and Haverford College. His articles, in English and Spanish, have appeared in the journals Dance Chronicle, Dance Research Journal of Korea and Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana, as well as in the specialized magazineCuba en el Ballet. He has contributed chapters to the books Alicia Alonso: Diálogos con la Danza (2004), The Cambridge Companion to Ballet (2007) and The Cuban Diaspora: Post-Soviet Migrations and Exiles (forthcoming).
He regularly presents his work in conferences of the Latin American Studies Association, the World Dance Alliance, the Congress on Research in Dance and the Society of Dance History Scholars. In 2012, he founded the latter organization'sWorking Group for Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Dance Studies, which he has chaired since then.
Tomé holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Havana and a doctorate in dance from Temple University. His dissertation was titled The Cuban Ballet: Its Rationale, Aesthetics and Artistic Identity as Formulated by Alicia Alonso(2011).
He worked as a dance critic for CMBF-Radio Musical Nacional (Cuba) and El Mercurio(Chile). In the US, he collaborated with Dance Magazine and the Durham Herald-Sun.During this phase of his career, he published interviews of dancers and choreographers such as Alicia Alonso, Paul Taylor, Glen Tetley, Moses Pendleton, Elizabeth Streb, David Parsons, Julie Kent, Svetlana Zakharova, Gillian Murphy, Viviana Durante, Angel Corella and Damian Woetzel. Also, he authored the program notes for the 2004-05 and2005-06 seasons of the Ballet de Santiago, in Chile. 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.
Top Left: Photo of Lester Tomé by Joshi Radin.