Date of Award

December 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Thomas M. Malaby

Committee Members

W. Warner Wood, Gregory T. Carter


Ballet Folklorico, Ethnography, Gender and Sexuality, Habitus, Identity, Soft Power


This thesis studies how Mexican Americans living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago produce connections to their Mexican heritage and culture through the performance of ballet Mexicano folklórico. Through ethnographic interviews of current and former folklórico dancers, as well as participant observation of adult folklórico dance practices, I contextualize the experiences of the interviewees using the anthropological theories of habitus, continuous and discontinuous selves, double-consciousness, liminality, and collective effervescence, as well as the works of Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault, and Frantz Fanon, with the discussion of folklórico as an art, and the concept of institutional use of dance as a form of soft power. Diasporic populations can frequently feel disconnected from the traditions and culture of their homelands, and may look to recreate those experiences in the places that they now call home. In this paper, I will be exploring how Mexican American use ballet folklórico and the studio they have enrolled in to create a space where they are free to learn and experience their ethnic culture, and in the case of several students, how they explore aspects of their own gendered lives within the context of Mexican culture. By analyzing the ways in which these students retain, construct, and maintain various parts of their identities through folk dance, a better understanding of Mexican culture and other ethnic minority cultures in the United States can be reached.