Fernando Alonso What I enjoy
By Marlén Martínez Tabares / Photos: Courtesy Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso, dancer and teacher, has a paramount place in the history of Cuban ballet. He is the founder, together with his brother Alberto Alonso, of the first professional ballet company in Cuba and the creator of the famed Cuban school of ballet and of its teaching methodology.
At 93 years of age, Maestro Fernando, as everyone calls him, is one of the relevant figures in Cuban culture and he stays active and up to date on everything regarding dance.
He preserves the elegance and freshness of a dancer. His blue eyes light up and he smiles the smile of a person who has seen his wishes come true when discussing his recent Benois de la Danse Prize awarded by a jury of top ballet notables in Moscow for his lifetime achievement.
"It was a great surprise. For any artist such a prize is emotional. What I have been doing all of my life, I haven't considered it work, but pleasure. To receive an international award on top of that, fills me with happiness".
How do you see the work you have done, and continue doing, in the Cuban Ballet School?
"The school is in very good hands. Clearly we need to pay attention to not lose the Cuban style. We should keep within those guide lines and beware that the current globalization tendencies not influence our style and lose its character."
What is the method you created?
"We started with pure ballet lessons, but characteristics began to arise in the dancing that indicated the creation of a style. So, we insisted on some movements, certain steps, some exercises we then created to develop that line of the Cuban school which, so far, has been very successful; confirmed by the leading dancers in the world. "
"It was not easy because when we started (the company was founded in 1948) there was no tradition of ballet teaching in Cuba. We created a method and talked it over with Alicia (Alonso) and Alberto: such as which step should come sooner or later and, like studying any technique, you go from the simple things to the more difficult ones. We also understood the need to learn music, physiology and anatomy and conceived a method that was very successful the first six years, after which the system was extended."
"I mainly wanted to develop what the dancers were creating. That is very important since that is the true Cuban school. The dancers and the students are the creators and a deeper development is achieved by accentuating what the artists create."
You are considered a legend in dance. Who has given life to whom? Ballet to you or the other way around?
"Ballet gave life to me. When I discovered it, I felt it was a combination of art shapes, music, physical strength, body control and discipline. That perception you reach when performing a really complicated step, turn it into an act of beauty, that's an erotic sensation, something so emotive that it goes to the core of sensitivity."
You have dedicated all your life to ballet. What if ballet had never got into you?
"As a child I wanted to be a fireman. My grandfather was a volunteer fireman and I ad mired him greatly. As you can see, intelligence, art and pleasure went to my legs and I became a dancer. Why? I listened to music, watched the movement, rhythm, body control and it made me feel great."
"I saw my brother Alberto dancing before me. I saw how elegant he looked dressed as a prince, traveling and dancing with so many ballerinas in many places and being applauded by the public. I said to myself then: 'I've got to do the same!' As I was leaving adolescence, when one does not know what to do with life, the skies opened in that direction and I jumped right in."
What is a normal day in your life?
"I get up in the morning and exercise. Sometimes I go to the National School of Ballet and other times I go to the Prodanza Centre, directed by my daughter Laura. I lead rehearsals and train classes at both places. I enjoy explaining and watching how this culture we are creating develops and seeing the possibilities of transformation according to the concept of body beauty and movement. It is something like the dynamic of a sculptor."
"I work everyday. I get up and go to sleep with ballet, but it is not work. It is pleasure. It's what I enjoy doing."