Cuban ballet dancer Alicia Alonso has received the Pablo Prize, instituted by the Pablo de la Torriente Brau Cultural Center to honor the most outstanding figures of national and international culture. The prize was awarded to her in Havana’s Museum of Dance. The distinction for the eminent ballerina and choreographer comes as she prepares to celebrate her 90th birthday in December and amidst a flurry of new honors. The subject of a recent tribute from the New York American Ballet Theatre, where Alicia interpreted her first Giselle on November 2, 1943, this October she is to receive the Ibero-American Cooperation prize from the Seville Maestranza, as well as the tribute from the Royal Ballet in London’s Covent Garden.
At the presentation of the Pablo Award, Víctor Casaus, a poet and filmmaker, emphasized the artistic sensibility and outstanding contribution of the prima ballerina and choreographer to the development of ballet in the country and to Cuban culture, while highlighting her everlasting interpretation of Giselle.
Alicia received the prize from the hands of Ruth de la Torriente Brau, sister of the writer that gives the Center its name. Pablo de la Torriente Brau was born on December 12, 1901 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and died fighting in the Spanish Civil War on December 18, 1943 in Majadahonda, on the outskirts of Madrid. The Pablo Prize has been awarded since 1998. Earlier recipients include Ricardo Alegría, director of the Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe, María Luisa Lafita, City of Havana historian Eusebio Leal, musicians Leo Brouwer, Silvio Rodríguez, Sara González and Teresita Fernández, poet Roberto Fernández Retamar, Alfredo Guevara, Barbara Dane and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center.
The ceremony concluded with a performance by Pablo Milanés who, before singing “Si ella me faltara una vez,” “Yolanda” and “Para vivir” – this last at Alicia’s request – told the diva, “I always like being with you, sharing the joy of these merited tributes, and to sing to you.”
After the official ceremony, Alicia told the press that the Pablo Prize “has profoundly moved me, because it makes me feel that I am alive, that I love life and the people around me make me love it more.”
In an exclusive for Granma International, the legendary ballerina confirmed that she is preparing a ballet based on the poem “Death of Narcissus,” by José Lezama Lima. “I can tell you that it’s beautiful, difficult, a headache, but a great inspiration. I hope that something dignified will come out of the work that I have set myself. That will depend on the artists and the goodwill of the public, in order that they understand it, comprehend it and enjoy it.”
The new ballet is to premiere in the Gala for the centenary of the birth of José Lezama (Havana, December 19, 1910 – August 9, 1976) during the International Ballet Festival, which begins on October 28.