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.