insular under Alonso’s direction, in part because the company could not afford to engage top-rank foreign choreographers, but also because Alonso’s conception of classical ballet was locked in the aesthetic of a bygone age. At age eleven, she started training in classical ballet at Sociedad Pro-Arte Musical. During the decades to follow Alicia Alonso had cross-world tours through West and East European countries, Asia, 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. While Alicia was happy with the success of the company, she wanted to showcase more Cuban dancers than non-Cuban dancers, leading her to open a ballet academy in Havana.[16]. Alonso ruled the newly instituted Ballet Nacional de Cuba with a rod of iron and came to believe, not unreasonably, that its fortunes were tightly linked to her celebrity and charisma. For all its overseas tours, the BNC, along with its adoring local public, became artistically insular under Alonso’s direction, in part because the company could not afford to engage top-rank foreign choreographers, but also because Alonso’s conception of classical ballet was locked in the aesthetic of a bygone age. 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. 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 herself. Alonso was born on 12 December, 1920 in Havana, Cuba. Alicia Ernestina de la Caridad del Cobre Martínez y del Hoyo was born in Havana on December 21, 1920, her family dating back to 16 th century Spanish Florida conquistadors. Alonso danced solos in Europe and elsewhere well into her 70s. Cuban ballet legend Alicia Alonso, who developed a new Latin-influenced style and taught well into her 90s despite being practically blind for most of her dancing career, died on Thursday. She was married to Pedro Simón Martínez and Fernando Alonso. In her early twenties, when she was afflicted with eye problems that left her almost blind, Alonso was obliged for months to remain motionless in a hospital bed. [2] She is best known for her portrayals of Giselle and the ballet version of Carmen. Her father, Antonio Martínez de Arredondo, was a veterinarian who disapproved of ballet. When her doctor saw this, he cleared Alonso to begin dancing, figuring if she could survive an explosion of glass, dancing could do no harm. [9] Her first serious debut was in Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty at the Teatro Auditorium on 26 October 1932. Overcoming near blindness and numerous other obstacles that would have crippled lesser people, Cuban dancer Alicia Alonso (born 1921) became one of the greatest ballerinas in history and has starred in the most famous ballets all over the world. Along with her husband and his brother, choreographer Alberto Alonso, she used her fame and not inconsiderable earnings to establish her first company in Havana in 1948. The dancer helped start the American Ballet Theatre, then built the Cuban state ballet program. [11] There they found a home with relatives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, near Riverside Drive. She also had the set designers install strong spotlights in different colors to serve as guides for her movements. Audiences were reportedly never the wiser as they watched her dance. HAVANA (AP) — Alicia Alonso, the revered ballerina and choreographer whose nearly 75-year career made her an icon of artistic loyalty to Cuba’s socialist system, died Thursday at age 98. [14], Alicia Ernestina de la Caridad del Cobre Martínez del Hoyo. 1966 – Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris for her role in the ballet. She got married to a fellow ballet student, Fernando Alonso, at age 16. There are few examples of blind professional ballerinas. "[4], Finally allowed to leave her bed, dancing could still not be considered. She established a ballet tradition in the unlikeliest of places and developed a training system that has produced some of the world’s finest dancers. La Habana 15.XII.1931, No 12 – p. 9. This, in her mind, meant she had to remain in the public eye, onstage. Some of her former students have danced or dance with the American Ballet Theatre, the Boston Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet, the Washington Ballet, the Cincinnati Ballet and the Royal Ballet, among others. At age 39, Alicia Alonso was also likely doing what many ballerinas of that age are forced to do, thinking about what comes next. She was an actress, known for Giselle (1965), Un retrato para Romeo y Julieta (1971) and Alicia Alonso y El Ballet Nacional de Cuba (1979). She was married to Pedro Simón Martínez and Fernando Alonso.She died on October 17, 2019 in Havana. She is most famous for her portrayals of Giselle and the ballet version of Carmen. She consented to a third procedure in Havana but this time was ordered to have bed rest for an entire year. [12], She staged versions of Giselle, Pas de Quatre, and Sleeping Beauty for the Paris Opera. Cuban ballet legend Alicia Alonso, who developed a new Latin-influenced style and taught well into her 90s despite being practically blind for most of her dancing career, died on Thursday. The most famous is Alicia Alonso, a Cuban prima ballerina and choreographer who … He said of Alonso's impact: Alicia Alonso’s work as director of the Ballet Nacional and as prima ballerina put the company on an international level. Alicia Alonso, the revered ballerina and choreographer whose nearly 75-year career made her an icon of artistic loyalty to Cuba's socialist system, died Thursday at age 98. In 1967 and 1971 she performed in Canada, where reviewers noted that Alonso was still the greatest ballerina of her time. She continued to serve as the director of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, and is quoted as saying, she will remain "in charge of the ballet until after she is dead". The company was founded by Alicia Alonso, her husband Fernando and Fernando's brother Alberto on October 28, 1948 as Ballet Alicia Alonso. Alicia Alonso, Actress: Giselle. Alicia Alonso was born in Havana, Cuba in 1921 and began studying ballet as a child. Her vision difficulties helped inspire her interpretation of the role, wrote Barbara Steinberg in Dance Magazine.[14]. If Alonso had had no more than personal interest in mind, prudence might have suggested she remain where her career began, in New York. What prompted the constant stream of defections had more to do with artistic frustration than material ambition. 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Her brothers were named Elizardo and Antonio. From the age of nineteen, Alonso was afflicted with an eye condition and became partially blind. Exalted in the ballet world broadly, Cuban exiles reviled her, seeing her as the "cultural equivalent" to Fidel Castro. History. Against doctor's orders, she went to the ballet studio down the street every day to practice. The BNC’s dancers, however, have it relatively easy. Alicia Alonso Martinez is the Cuban prima ballerina assoluta and choreographer. [4], She died at Centro de Investigaciones Médico Quirúrgicas in Havana, Cuba, on 17 October 2019 from a health complication at the age of 98. Combined with the lack of opportunities in Cuba, her behavior led many talented dancers to defect. Both of these schools were annexed to the professional ballet company by 1956. Alicia Alonso, the revered ballerina and choreographer whose nearly 75-year career made her an icon of artistic loyalty to Cuba’s socialist system, died Thursday at the age of 98. [citation needed], Alonso worked with the Ballet Russe until 1959, during which time she performed in a 10-week tour of the Soviet Union, dancing in Giselle, the Leningrad Opera Ballet's Path of Thunder, and other pieces. [citation needed], 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). Amazingly, her eyes were not injured. Alonso ruled the company with an authoritarian hand. Her performances earned her the coveted Dance Magazine Award in 1958. [15], She commuted between Havana and New York to recruit the world's best teachers to train her new students. 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. Alicia Alonso, Cuban ballerina highly regarded for her convincing portrayals of leading roles in the great works of classical and Romantic ballet. Alicia Alonso, also known as Alicia Ernestina de la Caridad dei Cobre Martinez Hoya born December 21, 1921 in Havana, Cuba is a Cuban artist, ballet dancer and choregrapher and dance director. [7][8], She performed publicly for the first time on 29 December 1931, aged 11. She is remembered for her role as Carmen and Giselle in La Scala. Her dance studies began in childhood with flamenco lessons in Thus, while at home she became a cultural heroine with a state-funded ballet company and school at her disposal, Cuban exiles reviled her as an egomaniacal opportunist willing to make a pact with the devil. Even then, the cult of personality continued. Her first marriage ended in divorce in 1975, and Alonso married editor and dance critic Pedro Simón Martínez that same year. Alicia Alonso sits, tiny, old, preserved as if by her own willpower in an exotic majesty that feels exciting to encounter. 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 26 Movement. 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. Alicia Alonso was born on December 21, 1920 in Havana, Cuba as Alicia Ernestina de la Caridad del Cobre Martínez y del Hoyo. Alonso was given free rein to run the BNC in ways that thwarted the ambitions of rising talents, particularly younger ballerinas, and prompted a steady exodus of dancers, some with official blessing but most through defection. Miguel Cabrera, an official at the National Ballet of Cuba founded by Alonso, said she died at a hospital in Havana. [6] In June 1931 she began studying ballet at Sociedad Pro-Arte Musical in Havana with Nikolai Yavorsky. [22][23], Alonso's sister, Blanca María "Cuca" Martínez del Hoyo, was born in 1918. Alonso returned to Cuba and in March 1959 received $200,000 in funding to form a new dance school, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, along with a guarantee of annual financial support.[18][19]. Alonso’s public appearances always had a regal penumbra. She cultivated her iconic status because it helped her get what she wanted, to establish the institutions upon which she could build a classical ballet tradition in Cuba. All great dancers cultivate expressiveness in their hands but with Alonso it was more personal. Notoriously, Alonso would brook no opposition or competition and her friendship with the Castros gave her decisions the weight of imperial commands. Alicia Alonso (born Alicia Ernestina de la Caridad del Cobre Martínez del Hoyo; 21 December 1920 – 17 October 2019)[1] was a Cuban prima ballerina assoluta and choreographer whose company became the Ballet Nacional de Cuba in 1955. Alicia Ernestina de la Caridad del Cobre Martínez y del Hoyo was born on the outskirts of Havana on Dec. 21, 1920. She recalled, "I danced in my mind. She was 98. 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. Alonso … There is no doubt that she had the greatest dedication. The Revolution offered exciting prospects, but they were clouded by uncertainty. That’s where, after initial training in Havana, she had eloped as a pregnant teenager with her first husband, Fernando Alonso, because Cuba offered no prospect of a professional career. Fernando's brother Alberto, a choreographer, served as artistic director for the company[16] The company debuted briefly in the capital and then departed for a tour of South America. By choosing to align herself with Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution, Alonso automatically acquired enemies among those who did not. She was an actress, known for Giselle (1965), Un retrato para Romeo y Julieta (1971) and Alicia Alonso y El Ballet Nacional de Cuba (1979). To gainsay Alonso was to risk excommunication. She became the first dancer from Western to receive an invitation to perform at the Soviet Union. It took courage and determination on an epic scale and it’s hard to imagine anyone other than the fearless and indomitable Alicia Alonso achieving this. In Alonso’s case the problem is exacerbated because the contours of her life from 1959 onward were highly politicized. In conversation you could judge her mood and reactions more accurately through their articulations than by attempting to read her facial expressions. [4], Following Alonso's death, she was remembered as "dramatic, passionate and elegiac" in a tribute by Barbara Steinberg for Dance Magazine. Like many Cubans, Alonso saw Batista’s eventual overthrow as a new dawn for the post-colonial island, one filled with utopian dreams in which art and culture would play a major role. Alicia Alonso’s artistic achievements are remarkable, considering that she became partially blind and lost her peripheral vision at age nineteen. Rather than dwell on what most would have assumed was the end of a budding dance career, Alonso imagined herself as Giselle, using her hands and fingers as proxies for legs and arms as she worked out what was to become one of her most legendary roles. In the 1940’s she was first diagnosed with a detached retina, and she has been through several operations since. Beverley Gallegos, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives. Alicia Alonso was a Cuban prima ballerina assoluta and choreographer whose company became the Ballet Nacional de Cuba in 1955. Her company continued to build its powers and achievements in both Eastern and Western Europe. Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window), Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window), Copyright © 2021 Dance International Magazine. Alicia Alonso (Alicia Ernestina de la Caridad del Cobre Martínez y del Hoyo) born Havana, 21 December 1920; died Havana, 17 October 2019. Havana: She needs help sitting down, but no sooner has she done it than Alicia Alonso is tapping her foot three times and giving orders in a good-natured but authoritative tone. Alonso accepted and gave such a performance that the critics immediately declared her a star. As with most legends, it is not easy to distinguish fact from fiction. She is best known for her portrayals of Giselle and the ballet version of Carmen. Miguel Cabrera, an official at the National Ballet of Cuba founded by Alonso… [26][27] She is survived by her second husband and her daughter, a grandson, Ivan Monreal-Alonso, who is a dancer and choreographer, and three great-granddaughters. Miguel Cabrera, an official at the National Ballet of Cuba founded by Alonso, said she died at … [5] Alonso began dancing as a child. She was best known for her lively, precise Giselle and for her sensual, tragic Carmen. Pro-Arte Musical. Alonso’s work with George Balanchine and the School of American Ballet also connects her to City Ballet. [24] She married Fernando Alonso in 1937, when she was 16. It speaks to the power of imagination and force of will that propelled Alonso to international stardom and enabled her to make her Cuban homeland a major player in the world of ballet. Founder of the International Ballet Festival of Miami and Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, Pedro Pablo Peña, had since arriving in Miami in 1980 as a Cuban exile himself, helped numerous defecting Cuban dancers. The Ballet Theatre's Igor Youskevitch and her other partners quickly became expert at helping Alonso conceal her handicap. Alicia Alonso was born on December 21, 1920 in Havana, Cuba as Alicia Ernestina de la Caridad del Cobre Martínez y del Hoyo. HAVANA — Alicia Alonso, the revered ballerina and choreographer whose nearly 75-year career made her an icon of artistic loyalty to Cuba's socialist system, died Thursday at age 98. Alicia Alonso, the iconic Cuban ballerina who died in October, had extraordinary fingers. All great dancers cultivate expressiveness in their hands but with Alonso it was more personal. The biennial Havana International Ballet Festivals she organized were supposed to display the excellence of the BNC but as the years passed, in comparison with participating troupes from abroad, they more often revealed its dire shortcomings. Even the President of the Republic kissed her hand. Alicia Alonso was not averse to being described as a living legend. She performed with renowned bands such as the Vienna, Prague State Operas and Paris Opera Ballet.. She is the founder of Alicia Alonso Ballet Company in 1948. Alicia Alonso (born Alicia Ernestina de la Caridad del Cobre Martínez del Hoyo; 21 December 1920 – 17 October 2019) was a Cuban prima ballerina assoluta and choreographer whose company became the Ballet Nacional de Cuba in 1955. After a second surgery was performed, doctors concluded Alonso would never have peripheral vision. Alonso as Giselle in 1977. [citation needed], From 1955 to 1959, she danced annually with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as guest star. Alicia Alonso | Photo: Courtesy of Ballet Nacional de Cuba. 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 respectively in 1957 and 1958. In her early twenties, when she was afflicted with eye problems that left her almost blind, Alonso was obliged for months to remain motionless in a hospital bed. Alicia Alonso, a prima ballerina assoluta — the rarely bestowed highest honor in dance — and the creator of the acclaimed National Ballet of Cuba, died in Havana at 98. But her ego turned her into a tyrant. 1966 – Anna Pavlova Award of the University of Dance, Paris, 1970 – Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris, together with her company, 1974 – Order of Work of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, 1998 – National Prize for Dance from the Ministry of Culture of Cuba, 1998 – Gold medal from the Circulo de Bellas Artes of Madrid, 1999 – UNESCO Pablo Picasso Medal for her extraordinary contribution to dance, 1973 – Honorary doctorate in art from the, 1980 – Received an international homage in Paris, organized by, 1981 – Council of State of the Republic of Cuba gave her the Order Felix Varela, 1987 – Honorary doctorate in dancing art from the Superior Institute of Arts of Cuba, 1993 – Received the Commendation of Isabel Catholic Order, given by the, 1996 – Public recognition was given in her honor at the Scientific, Artistic, and Literary Ateneo of, 1997 – The Ballet Nacional de Cuba honored Alicia Alonso on the 50th anniversary of Theme & Variations, a ballet created by, 1998 – Art & Letters Order, Commander Degree, from the Ministry of Culture and Communication of France, Received the highest official awards from the countries of Mexico, the, 2011 – Honorary Citizen of Mérida (México) and, Holds membership in the Advisory Council to the Ministry of Culture in the National Committee of Writers and Artists Union of Cuba, Holds membership in the Collaborating Council of the Governing Boards of the, This page was last edited on 12 January 2021, at 01:47. Castro permitted Alonso to perform again in the United States in 1975 and 1976. For all its overseas tours, the BNC, along with its adoring local public, became artistically. Not that she didn’t take personal advantage. [15] This company eventually became Ballet Nacional de Cuba. The biennial Havana International Ballet Festivals she organized were supposed to display the excellence of the BNC but as the years passed, in comparison with participating troupes from abroad, they more often revealed its dire shortcomings. She staged Giselle at the Vienna State Opera and the San Carlo Theater of Naples, Italy, as well as La Fille Mal Gardée at the Prague State Opera, and Sleeping Beauty at La Scala. Unable to comply fully, Alonso practiced with her feet, pointing and stretching to "keep my feet alive", as she put it. She is all strong colours, wearing a royal blue dress and matching turban, black glasses over her famous eyes, her skin stretched tight over a … It was never clear if she was joking. Fernando Alonso died in 2013. This, of course, is a gross distortion. Alicia Alonso, one of the finest ballet dancers of the 20th century, died Thursday in Havana. “Is Alonso still dancing?” became a ballet-world joke decades before, in her seventies, she reluctantly hung up her pointe shoes. She 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. [17], When Fidel Castro took power from the Batista government on 1 January 1959, Castro vowed to increase funding to the nation's languishing cultural programs. HAVANA (AP) — Alicia Alonso, the revered ballerina and choreographer whose nearly 75-year career made her an icon of artistic loyalty to Cuba's socialist system, died Thursday at age 98. Many Cubans have defected, most to escape the routine hardships of their everyday existence. [6], Progress in her lessons came to an abrupt halt in 1937 when Alonso fell in love with a fellow ballet student, Fernando Alonso, whom she married at age 16 [11] The couple moved to New York City, hoping to begin their professional careers. Nothing mattered to her but ballet. She gave birth to a daughter, Laura, in 1938, but continued her training at the School of American Ballet. Her husband sat with her every day, using their fingers to teach her the great dancing roles of classical ballet. Alicia Alonso will remain a controversial figure in ballet history but her place in it is nevertheless assured. They are paid meagrely but regularly, lunch is provided and, unless they are considered a serious flight risk, they get to tour abroad. She was Cuba’s uncrowned queen. [21] As director and leading dancer of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, she taught many now notable dancers in Cuba and beyond. 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. She is best known for her portrayals of Giselle and the ballet version of Carmen. Alonso's desire to develop ballet in Cuba led her to return to Havana in 1948 to found her own company, the Alicia Alonso Ballet Company,[4][11] supported largely through her fame and earnings. She was 98. The 2015 documentary film Horizontes features her life, as well as that of a middle-aged and a young dancer in Cuba. Alicia Alonso was born in Cuba; she is a ballerina and choreographer. HAVANA - Alicia Alonso, the revered ballerina and choreographer whose nearly 75-year career made her an icon of artistic loyalty to Cuba’s socialist system, died Thursday at age 98. [13] However, before she had barely settled, out of the blue she was asked to dance Giselle to replace the Ballet Theatre's injured prima ballerina Alicia Markova. After her breakthrough 1943 Ballet Theatre debut as Giselle, replacing an injured Alicia Markova, Alonso emerged as one of the most dazzlingly accomplished and versatile ballerinas of her generation. After seeing the doctor for worsening vision problems, Alonso was diagnosed in 1941 with a detached retina and had surgery to correct the problem. [10] Early in her career in Cuba, she danced under the name of Alicia Martínez. Human nature is inevitably complex and self-delusion one of its most recurrent characteristics, but Alonso’s fateful decision in 1959 to align with Castro was as much fired by idealism as any promise of personal advantage. She was promoted to principal dancer of the company in 1946 and danced the role of Giselle until 1948, also performing in Swan Lake, Antony Tudor's Undertow (1943), Balanchine's Theme and Variations (1947),[13] and in such world premieres as deMille's dramatic ballet Fall River Legend (1948), in which she starred as the Accused. From the age of nineteen, Alicia was afflicted with an eye disorder that left her partially blind. [25] They had a daughter, Laura Alonso, who danced and taught with the National Ballet. [4] In 1938, she made her debut in the U.S., performing in the musical comedies Great Lady and Stars In Your Eyes.[12]. [11] Following the operation, she was ordered to have bed rest for 3 months so her eyes could completely heal. When the bandages came off, she discovered the operation had not been completely successful. She often said she would live to be 200. One is compelled to ask whether Alonso could imagine a future for Cuban ballet beyond her own existence. Alicia Alonso. Alicia Alonso By: Vanderbilt University, Center for Latin American Studies Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, located just about 100 miles south of Florida. Throughout her career Alicia Alonso has struggled with her eyesight. It was a time of growing popular unrest, and when Fulgencio Batista became Cuba’s American-backed military dictator in 1952, Alonso’s sense of patriotic revulsion was genuine. She later founded and directed the Alicia Alonso Ballet Company, which eventually became the Cuban National Ballet. [4], Alonso was born "on the outskirts" of Havana in 1920, the fourth child of Antonio Martínez Arredondo, lieutenant veterinarian of the army, and Ernestina del Hoyo y Lugo, a dressmaker. Died: October 17, 2019 ALICIA Alonso, who has died aged 98, was the revered ballerina and choreographer whose nearly 75-year career made her an icon of … She had no succession plan and, in the end, as age took its inevitable toll, the Ministry of Culture decided to bring some clarity to the BNC’s rudderless condition by naming Valdés as Alonso’s “deputy,” in effect giving her the responsibility and authority to begin the difficult task of equipping the company to survive its founder, which it will. The best among them, such as Viengsay Valdés, who now heads the company, have emerged as stars in their own right. Alicia Alonso Alicia Alonso was a Cuban ballerina and choreographer whose company became what is now the Ballet Nacional de Cuba (Cuban National Ballet). She remained a sought-after prima ballerina during this hectic time, dancing twice in Russia in 1952 and then producing and starring in Giselle for the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1953. [20] Alonso officially founded the school in 1960, and within several years her dancers were winning international dance competitions. Blinded, motionless, flat on my back, I taught myself to dance Giselle. Into her 60s she limited careers of younger dancers whom she regarded as competition to her own dancing career. [citation needed], Alonso traveled back to New York City in 1943 to begin rebuilding her skills. Alicia Alonso, the nearly blind matriarch of Cuban ballet, on Friday denounced U.S. sanctions as an "inhuman and unjustifiable siege" that has … [3], From the age of nineteen, Alonso was afflicted with an eye condition and became partially blind. She was so talented that she gave her first public performance at the age of 11 in a The Cuban government from the 1960s through the 1980s did not allow Cubans to perform in the United States, to some extent for fear of defectors, and monitored those with contacts outside Cuba via phone cables and letters. Marcos R. 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She married Fernando Alonso, at age eleven, she danced annually with the of. She married Fernando Alonso, Cuban exiles reviled her, seeing her as the `` cultural equivalent '' to Castro.