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date: 26 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In 1956, the Mexican American modern dance choreographer José Limón presented The Emperor Jones, an all-male dance based on the 1920 Eugene O’Neill play. Limón’s Emperor loosely follows the plot of O’Neill’s play, which famously tells the story of an African American Pullman porter who makes himself emperor of a “West Indies” island. To portray O’Neill’s characters, Limón put himself and his all-male cast in black body paint. Limón’s painted body is examined as three bodies: a brown Mexican body; a white “American” body (with the privilege to represent the Other); and the black body of the Brutus Jones character. Focusing on Limón’s homosocial casting, performance techniques, and engagement with minstrelsy, this article shows how Limón’s freedom to dance as a brown, black, and white body did not reveal the decline of raced and gendered borders, but rather their resilient presence as part of the field on which his dances were produced.

Keywords: modern dance, José Limón, race, gender, minstrelsy, homosocial

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