The Marquis de Cuevas : pushing the boundaries of self

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2014-08

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Abstract

Chilean dance impresario Marquis George de Cuevas was born Jorge Cuevas Bartholin (1885-1961) and is best remembered as a fashionable socialite of the 1940s and 50s who married heiress Margaret Rockefeller Strong and founded several ballet companies in Europe and America in the wake of the great Ballet Russes era. This dissertation examines how Cuevas cultivated his fictionalized public persona, an identity that is essentially queer on several levels.vCuevas participated, reflected and resisted the several labels that were imposed on him. As Spanish aristocrat, American citizen, international ballet patron, Parisian socialite, and heir to the Russian dance avant-gardes, Cuevas distanced himself from his Chilean origins. Proud of having achieved “real” success by triumphing abroad, however, Cuevas was always acutely aware of his shortcomings as a foreigner. Classed as an eccentric other, Cuevas participates in the larger discourse of cosmopolitanism, engaging with the issue of what it means to be foreign in the cities of Paris, New York and Santiago de Chile. The four chapters that comprise this dissertation explore the ways that boundaries of class, sexuality, gender, race, and citizenship are broken, or momentarily disrupted by Cuevas. I situate Cuevas’s foreign aspirations in the context of the South American obsession with Europe, and Paris in particular. I also examine how Cuevas inhabits the roles of dandy and flâneur in an attempt to fit in the modern urban context of Paris. Anxiety regarding the figure of the foreigner and social upstart is perceived in the arguable failure of Cuevas’s best-remembered social event, a grand costume ball that was to gather the most fashionable men and women of the international Café Society. Perhaps Cuevas’s most successful project was the making of his own chameleonic identity, which emerges in the letters addressed to French-Romanian author Princess Marthe Bibesco, who wrote the libretto for the ballet initially entitled The Bird Wounded by an Arrow, which also crucially establishes Cuevas’s artistic manifesto. An account of Cuevas’s life and works treads into the swampy terrain of fiction, and this dissertation offers a literary approach that considers Cuevas as a figure of legend.

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