Cuba's most internationally acclaimed ballerina, Alicia Alonso, passed away today at the age of 98, the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) announced.
The legendary dancer, founder and director of the BNC, also participated in the founding of the American Ballet Theatre, in the early 20th century. Alonso's talent was legendary, offering technical and interpretative virtuosity in classical works, while her resolve to continue dancing despite her progressive loss of vision and will to remain active on the stage until a very advanced age was widely admired. The prima ballerina assoluta directed the BNC and staged shows until her death, as well as the International Ballet Festival of Havana. 'Art can contribute to understanding and dialogue between peoples as it shows some of the highest and purest coincidences among all human beings,' she once told Prensa Latina. The Cuban ballet school founded by Alicia, Fernando and Alberto Alonso is unique in the Americas and one of the six recognized in the world. The BNC created by the three of them in 1948, was distinguished by the Cuban government last year as Cultural Patrimony of the Nation. Alicia served as a model for maestro Fernando when he wrote the methodological bases of the Cuban school and starred in many of Alberto's choreographies, the first great defender of national identity in the choreographic field. Alonso was awarded Cuba's National Dance Prize, Spain's Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts, and the ALBA Prize for the Arts, awarded to recognized personalities of the continent. In 2000, the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba granted Alonso the highest decoration of the island, the Jose Marti Order and, in 2015, the same body decided to add her name to Havana's Grand Theater. Precisely in the foyer of the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater of Havana stands a bronze statue of the artist dancing her favorite classic, Giselle. In 2003, the then president of France, Jacques Chirac, presented Alicia with the National Order of the Legion of Honour, and in 2017, she was invested as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. In addition, UNESCO officially created the Alicia Alonso Ibero-American Dance Institute in 2018, attached to the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid, Spain. Since January 2019, she has shared the artistic direction of the BNC with one of her disciples, first dancer Viengsay Valdes. As such, the very school that Alonso founded has contributed to guaranteeing her continuity. The legendary artist received many more awards throughout her lifetime, including the Star of the Century award from the Latin Institute of Music for having been a true promoter of Latin cadence in classical dance. However, no award is comparable to the mark she has left as the leading paradigm of dance in Cuba, a legacy that lies with all Cuban ballet dancers today.