Alonso’s work with George Balanchine and the School of American Ballet also connects her to City Ballet. 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. “Is Alonso still dancing?” became a ballet-world joke decades before, in her seventies, she reluctantly hung up her pointe shoes. Alicia Alonso was a Cuban prima ballerina assoluta and choreographer whose company became the Ballet Nacional de Cuba in 1955. For all its overseas tours, the BNC, along with its adoring local public, became artistically. 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. Alicia Alonso | Photo: Courtesy of Ballet Nacional de Cuba. From the age of nineteen, Alonso was afflicted with an eye condition and became partially blind. Fernando Alonso died in 2013. Her father, Antonio Martínez de Arredondo, was a veterinarian who disapproved of ballet. [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). She was married to Pedro Simón Martínez and Fernando Alonso.She died on October 17, 2019 in Havana. She also had the set designers install strong spotlights in different colors to serve as guides for her movements. [22][23], Alonso's sister, Blanca María "Cuca" Martínez del Hoyo, was born in 1918. 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. Two years later in 1950, the Alicia Alonso Academy of Ballet school was established to promote the talents of young Cuban dancers. 1966 – Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris for her role in the ballet. 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. 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. She was 98. 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. Castro permitted Alonso to perform again in the United States in 1975 and 1976. 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. She consented to a third procedure in Havana but this time was ordered to have bed rest for an entire year. From the age of nineteen, Alicia was afflicted with an eye disorder that left her partially blind. 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. She was best known for her lively, precise Giselle and for her sensual, tragic Carmen. 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. 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. She later founded and directed the Alicia Alonso Ballet Company, which eventually became the Cuban National Ballet. [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. "[4], Finally allowed to leave her bed, dancing could still not be considered. [14], Alicia Ernestina de la Caridad del Cobre Martínez del Hoyo. Even the President of the Republic kissed her hand. Her dance studies began in childhood with flamenco lessons in 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. Audiences were reportedly never the wiser as they watched her dance. 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. 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. All great dancers cultivate expressiveness in their hands but with Alonso it was more personal. Her husband sat with her every day, using their fingers to teach her the great dancing roles of classical ballet. But her ego turned her into a tyrant. [9] Her first serious debut was in Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty at the Teatro Auditorium on 26 October 1932. Miguel Cabrera, an official at the National Ballet of Cuba founded by Alonso, said she died at a hospital in Havana. Alicia Alonso, Actress: Giselle. [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. [25] They had a daughter, Laura Alonso, who danced and taught with the National Ballet. 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. She gave birth to a daughter, Laura, in 1938, but continued her training at the School of American Ballet. If Alonso had had no more than personal interest in mind, prudence might have suggested she remain where her career began, in New York. She was so talented that she gave her first public performance at the age of 11 in a Alicia Alonso Martinez is the Cuban prima ballerina assoluta and choreographer. The Ballet Theatre's Igor Youskevitch and her other partners quickly became expert at helping Alonso conceal her handicap. [11] There they found a home with relatives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, near Riverside Drive. What prompted the constant stream of defections had more to do with artistic frustration than material ambition. 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. When the bandages came off, she discovered the operation had not been completely successful. Combined with the lack of opportunities in Cuba, her behavior led many talented dancers to defect. 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