Alicia and the Festivals: A look at Alicia Alonso, prima ballerina assoluta 

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Here are excerpts from a Cuba Now article, “Alicia and the Festivals,” which explores the legacy and presence of Cuba’s Alicia Alonso, prima ballerina assoluta, her history with the Cuban National Ballet, and her participation in the International Ballet Festival of Havana:

alicia_0The presence of prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso, general director of the Cuban National Ballet, in the different editions of the International Ballet Festival of Havana, has been an uppermost point of it since its very beginning in 1960. We must not forget that one of the objectives that gave origin to the festival was to show the world the fruits Cuba was already harvesting in the field of ballet, by virtue of the historical work done in the country by Alicia Alonso and Fernando Alonso, with their closest collaborators, and by virtue of the material and moral support given to them by cultural bodies of the Revolutionary Government.

Alicia Alonso has done a multifaceted work in these Festivals, because besides being their source of inspiration and President of the Organizing Committee, she has added an extraordinary work as hostess, prima ballerina assoluta, choreographer and artistic director.

During all these festivals she has also presided over many activities, among them photographic and plastic arts exhibitions, philatelic cancellations, movie exhibitions, presentations of new texts about dance and ballet, congresses, talks, round tables, meetings with the press and foreign guests, Galas dedicated to figures and anniversaries of great historical transcendence, as well as homages to the Cuban National Ballet and herself.

The scenic miracle of Alicia Alonso, who made in these Festivals memorable interpretations of the romantic and classic legacy as Giselle, the Grand pas de quatreCoppeliaAurora’s Wedding and Swan Lake, the pas de deux Don Quixote and The Nutcracker, joined a numerous group of choreographies by Cuban and foreign contemporary creators who found in her an inspiring muse. That list, which includes 14 world premieres begins with Joan at Rouen (1960), by Russian-Cuban Ana Leontieva, in which there is a special participation of Alberto Mendez, who for more than one decade created for her in these festivals transcendental works like Mujer (Woman, 1974), which marked her return to the stage after the last operation upon her eyes. Works that followed were La Péri (1976), Canon (1980), La Diva (The Diva, 1982), La saeta dorada (The golden arrow, 1984) and The Merry Widow (1986). In 1978, during the holding of the 6th Festival, two foreign choreographers created for her the same number of works in which she showed all her artistic potential: Spartacus, a pas de deux of Russian Azari Plisétski, who was part of the Cuban National Ballet cast for a decade; and Remembrance by Canadian Brian Macdonald.

Alberto Alonso, an outstanding figure in the field of choreographic creation, added her two big challenges: Wuthering Heights (1982) and Diario perdido (Lost journal, 1986), in which Alicia Alonso’s dramatic talent reached the highest levels.

Other two Cuban choreographers gave her new works: Iván Tenorio, with Fedra (1984) and Iván Monreal, with Lances (Moves, 1992); while Chilean Hilda Riveros, member of the company for a long time, would do it with Jardín (Garden, 1988), a ballet recreation of Dulce María Loynaz’s celebrated homonymous novel. Two works premiered in Cuba also had Alicia Alonso as interpreter: In the night (1978) by US Jerome Robbins, and Medea (1982), by Czech Jiri Nemecek.

If her presence on stage as a prima ballerina assoluta has been extraordinary, also transcendental has been her participation in the Festivals as choreographer, because, in addition to her acclaimed versions of great works from the romantic and classic repertoire, she has bequeathed creations of the widest stylistic spectrum.

[For a long list of her numerous creations, please see full article at http://www.cubanow.net/articles/alicia-and-festivals.]

Photo above from http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2011/09/21/cultura/1316616010.html

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