Alicia Alonso

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Dance Be­comes Light

A WOMAN WHO HAS REAPED AP­PLAUSES FROM AU­DI­ENCES ALL OVER THE WORLD AND EN­JOYED AB­SO­LUTE IN­TER­NA­TIONAL RECOG­NI­TION FOR HER GREAT­NESS AS A DANCER, HER ABIL­ITY TO SOUND OFF, HER BOLD­NESS TO RE­VIVE CLAS­SICS OF THE TRA­DI­TIONAL REPER­TOIRE, FOR HAV­ING BUILT A COM­PANY AND HAV­ING FOUNDED THE CUBAN BAL­LET SCHOOL AND BE­ING AN IN­SPI­RA­TION.

«She truly is a wa­ver­ing light. She is del­i­cate, un­du­lat­ing, al­most translu­cent.» DULCE MARIA LOYNAZ

li­cia Alonso, prima bal­le­rina as­so­luta and di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Bal­let of Cuba, is one of the most rel­e­vant fig­ures in the his­tory of dance and the

guid­ing light of clas­sic bal­let in Ibe­rian-amer­ica. She was born in Ha­vana, where she started her bal­let stud­ies at the Bal­let School of the Pro-art Mu­si­cal So­ci­ety in 1931; she moved to the United States where she con­tin­ued her train­ing with En­rico Zan­fretta, Alexan­dra Fe­dorova and other fa­mous pro­fes­sors from the School of Amer­i­can Bal­let.

In 1938, Alonso made her de­but as a pro­fes­sional in the mu­si­cal come­dies Great Lady and Stars in your eyes in Broad­way. One year later, she joined the Amer­i­can Bal­let Car­a­van, which later be­came the New York City Bal­let; and in 1940, she was ac­cepted in the re­cently founded Bal­let Theatre of New York, which marked the be­gin­ning of a bril­liant stage in her ca­reer as supreme in­ter­preter of clas­si­cal and ro­man­tic reper­toires. She shared the stage with Mi­jail Fokine, Ge­orge Balan­chine, Leonide Mas­sine, Bro­nislava Ni­jin­ska, Antony Tu­dor, Jerome Rob­bins and Agnes de Mille, among other lead­ing fig­ures of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury chore­og­ra­phy.

She was the prin­ci­ple dancer in the world pre­mieres of Un­der­tow, Fall River Le­gend and Theme and Vari­a­tions; and with the Amer­i­can Bal­let Theatre, she per­formed in sev­eral Euro­pean and Amer­i­can coun­tries as prima bal­le­rina. Back in Ha­vana, she founded the Alicia Alonso Bal­let, now Na­tional Bal­let of Cuba, while still danc­ing with the Amer­i­can Bal­let Theatre, the Monte Carlo Rus­sian Bal­let and her own com­pany, which was hardly of­fi­cially rec­og­nized un­til 1959, when the Cuban revo­lu­tion­ary govern­ment of­fered Alonso full sup­port.

Her ver­sions of great clas­sics (Giselle, Grand Pas de Qu­a­tre, The sleep­ing beauty, La fille mal gardée, Don Quixote) are fa­mous world­wide and have been danced by top bal­let com­pa­nies like the Paris Opera Bal­let, the Vienna Opera Bal­let, Corps de Bal­let of San Carlo, the Prague State Opera, the del Teatro La Scala of Mi­lan, the Royal Dan­ish Bal­let, among oth­ers.

As an out­stand­ing fig­ure of the cul­tural world, Alonso has been awarded the hon­orary de­gree of Doc­tor Hon­oris Causa by the Uni­ver­sity of Ha­vana, the Higher In­sti­tute of Arts of Cuba, the Polytech­nic Uni­ver­sity of Va­len­cia, Spain; and the Uni­ver­sity of Guadala­jara, Mex­ico. In 1982, the Mex­i­can govern­ment pre­sented her with the Or­der of the Aztec Ea­gle and in 1993 she was awarded the Span­ish Or­der of Is­abella the Catholic, whose Grand Mas­ter is the King of Spain. In the same year, the Com­plutense Uni­ver­sity of Madrid opened a Dance Pro­fes­sor­ship named af­ter her. Later, the Alicia Alonso Dance Foun­da­tion was cre­ated as well as the Higher In­sti­tute of Dance –also bear­ing her name– as part of the King Juan Car­los Uni­ver­sity.

In 1996, the Sci­en­tific, Artis­tic and Lit­er­ary As­so­ci­a­tion of Madrid of­fered her a pub­lic homage and she was named Mem­ber of Honor of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Stage Direc­tors of Spain. Two years later, Alonso was awarded the Gold Medal of Madrid’s Cir­cle of Fine Arts; she was made Com­man­der of the Or­der of Arts and Let­ters by the French Min­istry of Cul­ture, while in 2002, the Cuban Govern­ment be­stowed on her the ti­tle of Na­tional Hero­ine of Work and the Or­der of Jose Marti, the high­est dis­tinc­tion granted by the state.

Ear­lier in 2000, she re­ceived the Dance Price of Benois for her life­time artis­tic con­tri­bu­tions and two years later she was named Am­bas­sador of Cuba by the is­land’s For­eign Af­fairs Min­istry, while in Paris she was ap­pointed UNESCO’S Am­bas­sador of Good­will. In 2003, the French pres­i­dent con­ferred her the of­fi­cial de­gree of the Le­gion of Honor and in 2005, she was granted the Irene Li­dova Prize in Cannes for her artis­tic ca­reer. More re­cently, the King of Spain pre­sented her with the Gold Medal to the Merit in Fine Arts granted by that govern­ment.

Ex­ce­len­cias joins the homage paid this year and in a very spe­cial way to Alicia Alonso, the woman who has been a source of in­spi­ra­tion and a guid­ing light for many gen­er­a­tions of Cuban dancers, and with a style of her own, who has con­quered an im­por­tant place in in­ter­na­tional bal­let

PHO­TOS MAU­RICE SEY­MOUR & JÜR­GEN VOGT

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