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