Alicia Alonso – Prima Ballerina Assoluta

Alicia Alonso, Alicia Ernestina de la Caridad del Cobre Martínez Hoya born 21 of December,1920

A year later she performed publicly for the first time in Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. Alonso danced in Cuba under the name of Alicia Martínez.–The dancer’s rapid progress in her lessons came to an abrupt halt in 1937, when the 15-year-old fell in love with a fellow ballet student, Fernando Alonso whom she married. After her marriage she changed her last name to Alonso. The new couple moved to New York City, hoping to begin their professional careers. There they found a home with relatives in the Spanish Harlem section of the city. Alonso soon gave birth to a daughter, Laura, but managed to continue her training at the School of American Ballet and took private classes with Leon Fokine, Alexandra Fedorova, Enrico Zanfretta and Anatole Vilzak.- -She then arranged a travel to London to study with the renowned Vera Volkova.– Meanwhile, her husband had joined the new Mordkin Ballet Company in New York.  She had surgery to correct the problem and was ordered to lie in bed motionless for three months to allow her eyes to heal.  in 1943 to begin rebuilding her skills. However, before she had barely settled, out of the blue she was asked to dance “Giselle” to replace the ballet Theater’s injured prima ballerina. Alonso accepted and gave such a performance that the critics immediately declared her a star. She was promoted to principal dancer of the company in 1946 and danced the role of Giselle until 1948, also performing in Swan Lake, Anthony Tudor’s Undertow (1943), Balanchine’s Theme and Variations (1947), and in such world premieres as deMille’s dramatic ballet Fall  River Legend.-  (1948), in which she starred as the Accused. By this time in her career, she had developed a reputation as an intensely dramatic dancer, as well as an ultra-pure technician and a supremely skilled interpreter of classical and romantic repertories. Alonson’s long time partnership with, Youskevitch, have many times been compared to to that of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Alicia was afflicted with an eye defect and was partially blind after she turned 19. Soon she had her partners be in the spot she expected them to be. She also used lights in different parts of the stage to guide her too.

After seeing the doctor for worsening vision problems, Alonso was diagnosed in 1941 with a detached retina.-

Unable to comply completely, Alonso practiced with her feet alone, pointing and stretching to, as she put it, “keep my feet alive.” When the bandages came off, Alonso was dismayed to find that the operation had not been completely successful. The doctors performed a second surgery, but its failure caused them to conclude that the dancer would never have peripheral vision.

Finally, Alonso consented to a third procedure in Havana, but this time was ordered to lay completely motionless in bed for an entire year. She was not permitted to play with Laura, chew food too hard, laugh or cry, or move her head. Her husband sat with her every day, using their fingers to teach her the great dancing roles of classical ballet. From Women in World History, Alonso later recalled of that period, “I danced in my mind. Blinded, motionless, flat on my back, I taught myself to dance Giselle.

Finally, she was allowed to leave her bed, although dancing was still out of the question. Instead, she walked with her dogs and, against doctor’s orders, went to the ballet studio down the street every day to begin practicing again. Then, just as her hope was returning, Alonso was injured when a hurricane shattered a door in her home, spraying glass splinters onto her head and face. Amazingly, her eyes were not injured. When her doctor saw this, he cleared Alonso to begin dancing, figuring that if she could survive an explosion of glass, dancing would do no harm.

Nearly mad with impatience and still partially blind, Alonso traveled back to New York

to found her own company, the Alicia Alonso Ballet Company, which she maintained with little financial support, this company eventually became The Ballet National of Cuba.-

Youskevitch and her other partners quickly became expert at helping Alonso conceal her handicap. To compensate for only partial sight in one eye and no peripheral vision, the ballerina trained her partners to be exactly where she needed them without exception. She also had the set designers install strong spotlights in different colors to serve as guides for her movements.–Alonso knew, for instance, that if she stepped into the glow of the spotlights near the front of the stage, she was getting too close to the orchestra pit. There was also a thin wire stretched across the edge of the stage at waist height as another marker for her, but in general she danced within the encircling arms of her partners and was led by them from point to point. Audiences were reportedly never the wiser as they watched the prima ballerina.

Alonso’s desire to develop ballet in Cuba led her to return to Havana in 1948

Fernando was general director of the company, which was at that time composed mainly of Ballet Theater dancers temporarily out of work due to a reorganization in the New York company. Fernando’s brother Alberto, a choreographer, served as artistic director for the company.-The company debuted briefly in the capital and then departed for a tour of South America.-. The performances were a hit with audiences everywhere, but Alonso found herself funding the company with her savings to keep it going despite donations from wealthy families and a modest subsidy from the Cuban Ministry of Education. in 1952 and then producing and starring in Giselle for the Paris Opera in 1953.-

Meanwhile, she commuted between Havana and New York to recruit the world’s best teachers to train her new students. She remained a sought-after prima ballerina during this hectic time, dancing twice in Rusia

Between 1955 and 1959, Alicia danced every year with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as guest star. She was the first dancer of the Western Hemisphere to perform in the Soviet Union, and the first American representative to dance with the Bolshoi and Kirov Theaters of Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg) respectively in 1957 and 1958. , North and South America, and she danced as guest star with the Opera de Paris, the Royal Danish Ballet, the Bolshoi and with other companies. She has staged her versions of Giselle, Pas de Quatre, and Sleepng Beauty for the Pars Opera.- She also staged Giselle at the Vienna State Opera and the San Carlo Theater of Naples, Italy; La Fille Mal Gardee at the Prague State Opera, and Sleeping Beauty at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.-

During the decades to follow Alicia Alonso had cross-world tours through West and East European countries, Asia

By the mid-1950s, the Alicia Alonso Ballet Company was in dire straits financially and politically. A dictator,Fulgencio Batista

Forced to work in nightclubs to earn a living, the dancers often had no energy to perform for Alonso. As the dancer became increasingly vocal in her disdain for Batista, the regime offered her five hundred dollars a month in perpetuity to stop her criticism. Disgusted, she folded her school in 1956

Alonso worked with the Ballet Rousse until 1959, during which time she performed in a 10-week tour of the Soviet Union

, had taken control and was determined to squash the heavy opposition to his rule. Supported by the island’s financial infrastructure, the Mafia, and American business interests, he mercilessly repressed anyone who stood in his path. -Declaring that all artists and intellectuals were left-wing sympathizers, he drastically cut what little funding the government had given Alonso’s ballet school and touring group. and joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo with Youskevitch., dancing in Giselle, the Leningrad Opera Ballet’s Path of Thunder, and other pieces. Her performances earned her the coveted Dance Magazine Award in 1958.

When Fidel Castro

Alonso felt strongly that she and her ballet school were “very much part of the Cuban revolution.” She wanted her dancers to bring the beauty and excitement of ballet to the island nation’s workers and farmers who had virtually no experience with artistic expression.

Because of her intense and passionate affiliation with the new communist

When the Vietnam War

Alonso danced solos in Europe

Alonso continued to serve as the director of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba in the early twenty-first century. Numerous books have been written on the ballerina, including Alicia Alonso: At Home and Abroad (1970), Alicia Alonso: The Story of a Ballerina (1979), Alicia Alonso: A Passionate Life of Dance (1984), and Alicia Alonso: First Lady of the Ballet (1993). During a November 2003 on-stage interview prior to a Cuban National Ballet performance in San Diego, California, she exclaimed, “I’m so happy to be here. And I’m happy whenever I’m on the stage. The stage is where a dancer should be, even if it’s only to walk or sit. I am at home on the stage.

As director and leading dancer of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, Alicia Alonso has been an inspiration and guide to the new generations of Cuban dancers. With her own consummate style, she has left her mark on the international world of dance. Some of her former and more famous students are now dancing at the

(1977). She has served on juries at international dance competitions in Bulgaria, Rusia, Japan,Brazil, and the United States.

She has created her own works including La Tinaja, Ensayos Sinfonicos, and Lidia. She appeared in a feature-length documentary made in Cuba about her and her work Alicia

Because of her intense and passionate affiliation with the new communist took power from the Batista dictatorship on January 1, 1959, Castro vowed to increase funding to the nation’s languishing cultural programs. Encouraged by this sudden change and eager to see her homeland again, Alonso returned to Cuba and in March 1959 received $200,000 in funding to form a new dance school, to be called the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, along with a guarantee of annual financial support. –Alonso has since described receiving a message from Castro in 1958 sent from the Sierra Maestra inviting her to head the company upon the triumph of the July 26th Movement..She officially founded the school in 1960.-, and within several years her dancers were winning international dance competitions. government in Havana,– American audiences turned their backs on the prima ballerina and she vanished from the country’s cultural radar. However, her company continued to build its powers and achievements in both Eastern Hemisphere and Western Europe.-. In 1967 and 1971 she performed in Canada, where reviewers noted that Alonso was still the greatest ballerina of her time.  ended and Richard Nixon left the presidency, Alonso was permitted to perform again in the United States in 1975 and 1976. An American reviewer said of the dancer, then 54 years old and a grandmother, “she creates more sexual promise than ballerinas half her age.”  and elsewhere well into her 70s, although her near blindness became increasingly apparent.– In 1995, she and a number of other aging National Ballet members performed in San Francisco in a piece called In the Middle of the Sunset.,American Ballet Theatre,- the Boston Ballet.-the San Francisco Ballet , The Washington Ballet , the Cincinnati Ballet and the Royal Ballet.-, among others.

is a Cuban Prima Ballerina Assoluta and Choreographer.- She is considered a legend and is most famous for her portrayals of Giselle and Carmen. Since she was nineteen, Alicia was afflicted with an eye defect and was partially blind. Her partners always had to be in the exact place she expected them to be, and she used lights in different parts of the stage to guide her of an important ballet  company in Cuba.-She began her career in Broadway musicals in New York.– Although plagued by eyesight problems, Alonso was one of the principal stars of the Ballet Caravan and later of the Ballet Theater.Alonson was born in Havana, Cuba.-. She was the one of two daughter of an army officer and his wife. The family was financially comfortable and lived in a fashionable section of the then-vibrant capital. Alonso indicated at a very early age, produced an affinity for music and dance – her mother could occupy her happily for long periods with just a phonograph, a scarf, and some records. She started dancing at the age of nine and studied ballet at Sociedad Pro-Arte Musical in Havana with Sofie Fedorova.-

.In June 2002 she was designated UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for her outstanding contribution to the development, preservation and popularisation of classical dance and for her devotion to the art-form, through which she has promoted the ideals of UNESCO and the fellowship of the world’s peoples and cultures. -She continues to direct her Ballet Nacional de Cuba, even though she is in her eighties and almost blind.


the Dance Magazine Annual Award, 1934

the Dance Magazine Annual Award, 1958

the Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris, 1966

Anna Pavlova Award of the University of Dance, Paris, 1966

the Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris together with her company, 1970

Order of Work of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, 1974

Gold Medal of the Gran Teatro by Premio Gran Teatro de La Habana in 1985

National Prize for Dance from the Ministry of Culture of Cuba, 1998

Gold medal from the Circulo de Bellas Artes of Madrid, 1998

UNESCO Pablo Picasso Medal for her extraordinary contribution to dance, 1999

Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris, 1999

Premio Benois de la Danza, 2000

To see Alicia Alonso dance, was a sight to behold.- Her unique style represented trueGenius, unable to be imitated by any other dancer in the world.-

When she danced “The Swan Lake”, it was as she floated in the air, and her movements made her look as a real swan , delicate and beautiful, -almost unreal.

GISELLE,- her favorite ballet, has never been performed the way only she was able to do. –No other ballerina has ever, and willl never be able to perform as she did.-Her political preferences CAN NOT obscure her manificent ART.

“ART” is art, and can not,– and should not iterfere with a person’s ability to perform, depite race, political preferences, or sexual inclinations.-

SHE WAS A TRUE “PRIMA BALLERINA ASSOLUTA” in all the sense of the word.

Eva de la Torriente Diaz

July 23, 2009