In 1954 an Australian ballet celebrating Aboriginality was presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the first reigning monarch ever to visit the continent. A dynamic American dancer Beth Dean both choreographed and danced the lead role of the ballet Corroboree: one young English woman watched another young, American, woman, play out the initiation of an Aboriginal youth, as a symbol of Australia’s distinctive culture and identity. As a performance transgressing boundaries of gender simultaneously with those of race and culture, Beth Dean’s performance of the Initiate is an episode in the history of Australian of Australian race relations that highlights an ongoing struggle by white women to exercise power through representing and speaking for Aboriginal people. A gendered reading of the white nationalist appropriation of Aboriginal identity shows that Dean’s Boy Initiate dances on a trajectory of white women claiming an authoritative voice on Aboriginality, stretching from the earliest colonial days and even to the present.
Intersections: Gender, Race and Ethnicity in Australasian Studies p. 54-75