Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Feminist Modernist Studies







Publisher Name

Taylor and Francis Group


In late July of 1959 Chicago dance writer Ann Barzel went to Cuba. The successful revolution led by Fidel Castro to overthrow the military dictatorship of Cuban president Fulgencio Batista had happened a little over six months earlier, and relations with the United States, while not comfortable, were still imaginable. Barzel came at the invitation of her friends, the ballet dancers Alicia and Fernando Alonso, to act as a member of the selection board for auditions for the Ballet Alicia Alonso. Founded in 1948, Ballet Alicia Alonso was Cuba’s first professional ballet company (it would later become the Ballet Nacional de Cuba). It barely survived the Batista years, but with the support of Castro, it benefitted greatly from the revolution, receiving what dance historian Elizabeth Schwall describes as “hearty new government subsidies” as part of a revolutionary project dedicated to fostering the growth of the arts in Cuba. Barzel joined expatriate Ukranian dancer and Alonso dance partner Igor Youskevitch as one of the few American representatives on the panel, and Schwall argues she was treated with reverence during her visit, as “one of the outstanding people in the ballet world.” While not a professional dancer herself, Barzel had translated her early dance training and expertise into a powerful career as a dance reviewer and historian, advocating for and shaping the trajectory of dance in the twentieth century, especially ballet. Her presence at this historic audition – that the audition itself was considered newsworthy – demonstrates the significance of dance as part of global geopolitical history and reminds us that those who influence dance are not always performers and choreographers, that those who document dance influence our understanding of it.


Author Posting © Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group, 2022. This article has been posted here with the permission of Taylor & Francis Group for personal use. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Feminist Modernist Studies, VOL.5, ISS.3, on (November 11, 2022), available at