News »

All her greatness to the service of the homeland

AliciaOur Alicia Alonso, who during 88 years as a dancer, choreographer and teacher contributed with her brilliant art to taking Cuba’s prestige to the top of the world, died in Havana’s CIMEQ Hospital, at 11:00 am October 17, just two months and three days before her 99th birthday.

Born On December 21, 1920, in Redención, a working class neighborhood in the municipality of Marianao – into a modest family established by Army veterinarian Antonio Martínez Arredondo and Ernestina del Hoyo y Lugo, a fine seamstress – this illustrious Cuban, in her early years, found in dance the calling that would guide her throughout her life.

Her stellar trajectory, which began in the Pro-Arte Musical Society of Havana’s Ballet School in 1931, was forced to take a new direction when she was obliged to travel abroad due to the low level, prejudices and elitism faced by ballet at the time in Cuba. Tracing her professional career is a mammoth task; including musical comedies in Broadway, the Ballet Caravan, the Ballet Theatre of New York, the Washington Ballet, and the Russian Ballet of Montecarlo, triumphing as a guest star in the most important companies, festivals and galas of this artistic genre worldwide. Her exceptional status as prima ballerina assoluta did not come from a capricious, unjustified reputation, but from her mastery of a vast repertoire of 134 works that ranged from the great ballets of the romantic and classical tradition, to creations of contemporary choreographers.

On November 28, 1995, in the Masini Theater in the Italian city of Faenza, she ended her career as a performer, having already established a record that would be hard to match, not only for the length of time she danced, but also for the excellence of her performances.

The greatness of Alonso, for her people, lies not only in her representing us successfully in 65 countries, receiving standing ovations, too many to count, from Helsinki to Buenos Aires, from New York to Tokyo and Melbourne, but in placing all her honors at the service of her homeland, among them 266 international awards and prizes, 225 national awards, and the 69 chorographical creations – romantic, classical and contemporary – she created, seeing the fruits of her work as her modest contribution not only to Cuban culture, but to world dance.

Over 50 years ago, upon her return to Cuba bearing foreign honors, she said without hesitation, “All my hopes and dreams consist not of going abroad to represent any other country, but my own national flag and my own art. My desire is that there is no one left who does not shout: Bravo for Cuba! when I dance. If I can’t do that, sadness would be the reward to my efforts.”

This patriotic position led to the foundation, together with Fernando and Alberto Alonso, on October 28, 1948 of the now Ballet Nacional de Cuba (BNC), and in 1950, of the Ballet Academy, with her name, where she had the historical task of training the first generation of dancers under the technical, aesthetic, and ethical values of the now worldwide renowned Cuban School of Ballet. For 71 years, particularly after the triumph of the Revolution, with great determination she was able to place the BNC among the most prestigious companies in the world, set guidelines for a training system that has now spread throughout the country and is a guarantee for Cuban ballet, while promoting a movement of international cooperation that Cuba has taken to almost fifty countries in America, Europe, Asia and Africa. She is Alicia, the guide and mentor, whose unifying gift made possible in 26 International Ballet Festivals, to bring together the most celebrated personalities of the dance in a celebration of art and friendship. And it is also the Alicia we have seen give her best as a teacher, either on the most prestigious stages or the most rustic platforms, in public squares, factories, military units, knowing that reaching the people, wherever they are, was always a way upward and never downward.

Those who had the privilege to be by her side, know the extraordinary human being she was, whose courage and firm discipline was never defeated by physical ailments, ups and downs, or misunderstandings.

She was our Alicia, the one who despite her cosmopolitanism, always longed to hear the roosters crow, enjoy the salty air of Havana’s Malecón, contemplate the mariposa and coralillo as the most exquisite flowers, or be fascinated with scientific advances and the mysteries of the universe. “A tenacious, frantic, heroic impulse – shot against illness and time – made perfection relentless,” as Juan Marinello once described her.


Make a comment

Your email address will not be published. The mandatory fields are marked. *