Alicia Alonso biography
Alicia Alonso, prima ballerina assoluta and General Director of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, is one of the most famous personalities in ballet history and is the top figure of classical ballet in Spanish-American culture. She was born in Havana, where she started her ballet training in 1931, at the Sociedad Pro-Arte Musical Ballet School. Later, she went to the United States where she continued her studies with Enrico Zanfretta, Alexandra Fedorova and other eminent teachers of the School of American Ballet. Alonso's professional activity began in 1938, in Broadway, with her debut in two variety shows: Great Lady and Stars in Your Eyes. A year later, she joined the American Ballet Caravan, the predecessor of the current New York City Ballet. In 1940, the year of its foundation, she was selected by American Ballet Theater of New York. From that moment on, a brilliant stage of her career began. She danced leading roles, as the utmost performer of masterpieces of the classical and romantic repertory. At that time, she worked with Mikhail Fokine, George Balanchine, Leonide Massine, Bronislava Nijinska, Anthony Tudor, Jerome Robbins and Agnes de Mille, among other relevant choreographers of the 20th century. Alonso performed leading roles in important world premieres such as Undertow, Fall River Legend and Theme and Variations. As a member of the American Ballet Theatre, she performed as a principal dancer in various European and Latin American countries. In 1948, Alonso's interest in developing the ballet in Cuba led her to organize in Havana the Ballet Alicia Alonso, now the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. After she founded her company in Havana, she divided her time between the American Ballet Theatre and her own company, which she maintained with very little financial support. In 1959, the Cuban Revolutionary Government offered her its support. Alonso's choreographic versions of the great classics are famous worldwide and have been performed by major companies such as the Opéra de Paris (Giselle, Grand Pas de Quatre, and The Sleeping Beauty); the Vienna Opéra and the Naples San Carlo Ballet Theatre (Giselle), the Prague Opéra (La Fille Mal Gardée), the Teatro alla Scala in Milan (The Sleeping Beauty); and the Royal Danish Ballet (Don Quixote). Being an eminent figure of Cuban cultural life, Alicia Alonso has been granted Honorary Doctorates from the University of Havana, from Cuba's Higher Institute of Art, from Spain's Universidad Politécnica de Valencia and from the University of Guadalajara in Mexico. In 1982, she was given the Order “El Águila Azteca”, the highest official award from the Mexican State. In 1993, she received the Commendation of Isabel la Católica Order, given by Juan Carlos I, King of Spain. That same year was created the Alicia Alonso Dance Chair at the Madrid's Universidad Complutense. Later, was created the Dance Foundation that carries her name, and the Alicia Alonso Higher Dance Institute, attached to the University Rey Juan Carlos. That same year, she was nominated Member of Honor of Spain's Association of Stage Directors (ADE). In September 1996, a public homage was given in her honor at the Ateneo Científico, Artístico y Literario of Madrid, for her valuable artistic and cultural creations. In 1998, she was awarded the Gold Medal from the Círculo de Bellas Artes of Madrid; the French Republic bestowed upon her the Arts and Lettres Order - Commander Degree, and was also decorated by the Cuban Council of State as National Hero of Labor of the Republic of Cuba. In 2000 she was awarded the Prix Benois de la Danse, for her lifetime artistic contributions. She was also awarded the José Martí Order, the most important decoration of the Cuban Council of State. In January 2002 she was nominated a Republic of Cuba Ambassador by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs; recently she was invested in Paris as UNESCO's Goodwill Ambassador. In 2003, the French President conferred on her the degree of official of the Legion of Honor and in 2005 she received in Cannes the Irene Lidova Lifetime Achievement Award. Recently she received, from the hands of the Their Majesties of Spain, The Gold Medal to the Merit in the fine Arts, granted by the Government of that Country. As general director and leading dancer of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, Alicia Alonso has been the inspiration and guide to the new generations of Cuban dancers. With her own style, she has left her mark on the international world of dance.