Donald byrd: Re/making “beauty”

Thomas F. DeFrantz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


What are the terms of “beauty” as an action that may be achieved in dance? How do African-American artists approach the performance of “beauty?" In a preliminary consideration of these questions, this paper offers a case-study analysis of two works by choreographer Donald Byrd: The Harlem Nutcracker (1996), a revision of the Petipa-Ivanov ballet set to Duke Ellington’s swing adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s score, and Life Situations: Daydreams on Giselle (1995), a postmodern version of the quintessential Romantic ballet. Working through prisms of feminist and Africanist aesthetic theory, I suggest strategies to critique identity formation within dance performance as a function of aggressive irony, inversion, and the triumph of technical precision. Byrd’s choreography constructs “beauty” as a function of black Atlantic1 performance practice, as an act that may be socially progressive in its intentions, and an action that may hold material consequences for its performers and audiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDance Discourses
Subtitle of host publicationKeywords in Dance Research
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781134947126
ISBN (Print)9780415423090
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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