ARTICLE WAINAO N°32 - WITH HER EYES WIDE CLOSED
October 28, 1948: Alicia ALONZO, the famous ballerina who danced most part of her life almost blind, creates one the greatest ballet company in her own country: CUBA.
Alicia Alonso is a Cuban prima ballerina and choreographer. She was born in 1921, in Cuba, She's best known for her portrayals of Giselle and the ballet version of Carmen. Alicia began dancing in Cuba as a child then she started studying ballet at Sociedad Pro-Arte Musical in Havana with Nikolai Yavorsky. She originally danced in Cuba under the name of Alicia Martínez. In 1937, she fell in love with a fellow ballet student, Fernando Alonso, whom she married at age 16. After her marriage, she changed her surname to Alonso. The new couple moved to New York City, hoping to begin their professional careers. In 1938, she made her debut in the U.S., performing in the musical comedies Great Lady and Stars In Your Eyes.
From the age of nineteen, Alonso had serious vision problems and it went worse and worse with time. She became partially blind. Her partners always had to be in the exact place she expected them to be, and she used lights in different parts of the stage to guide herself. She would run and throw herself into her partner's arms without even seeing him, just listening his voice. Doctors diagnosed her in 1941 with a detached retina. She had two surgeries and was ordered to lie without moving in bed for 3 months so her eyes could completely heal. Alonso practiced during that time, with her feet alone, pointing and stretching to, as she put it, "keep my feet alive with no success. Unfortunately it didn’t work.
After her third surgery, for the first time in both of her eyes simultaneously, , she had lie in bed for one year and a half, forbidden to move her head. "It was torture to me being still, feeling my muscles lose their power. I danced my fingers, and after a while, I could do any step with my hands." The young ballerina was at the top of her career and the recovery was long. Her husband sat with her every day, they used their fingers to teach her the great dancing roles of classical ballet. She likes to say that she danced in her mind. Blinded, motionless, flat on her back, she taught herself to dance Giselle."After all that, the problem persisted.
When she was finally allowed to leave her bed, dancing was out of question. Instead, but she quickly started to go tothe ballet studio down the street every day and practice again. Doctors soon after cleared her . Alonso traveled back to New York City in 1943 and she hadn’t rebuilt her skills yet that she ‘s been asked to dance Giselle due to the prima ballerina Alicia Markova’s injury. He agreed andshe gave an incredible performance. So, for ten years, the ballerina was virtually blind, but that did not stop her from dancing. Instead, Alicia memorized not only her steps, but also the stage. She mapped the stage in her brain. When the handicap was at its worst, "I could hardly see the wings from the stage," To compensate her absence of peripheral vision, the ballerina trained her partners to be exactly where she needed them without exception. She also had the set designers install strong. . Audiences never noticed anything as they watched her dance.
Alicia Alonso has always had the desire to develop ballet in Cuba, so she returned to Havana and on October 28, 1948, she found her own company, the Alicia Alonso Ballet Company, which she maintained with little financial support, this company eventually became Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Alonso found herself funding the company with her savings to keep it going despite donations from wealthy families and a modest subsidy from the Cuban Ministry of Education. Meanwhile, she commuted between Havana and New York to recruit the world's best teachers to train her new students.
The company had closed in 1956 because of financial difficulties. Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba in 1959, and Alonso returned home and formed a new ballet company, Ballet Nacional de Cuba (National Ballet of Cuba). Fidel Castro made a 200 000 dollars donations and always supported the Ms Alonso. He helped develop the ballet in the country. Relationships between Cuba and USA forced the isolation of Ms Alonso but she still thinks she made the right choice. She once explained her move in these words: "Art is universal. But not the artist. I chose to come back to Cuba because artists have roots and my roots are here. I came back because my country needed me." She ‘s been rewarded by at least half a dozen postage stamps issued in her honor but mainly by the love people from Cuba and around the world gave her.
As director and leading dancer of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, Alicia taught many now notable dancers in Cuba and beyond. Some of her former students have danced or dance with the American Ballet Theatre, the Boston Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet, the Washington Ballet, the Cincinnati Ballet and the Royal Ballet, among others
To know more about the subject:
Steinberg, Barbara (October 21, 2019). "My Memories of Alicia Before Alonso". Dance Magazine. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
Cuba's Alicia Alonso: An International Ballet Legend". Panoramas. 2016-09-30. Retrieved 2018-12-22.
Slotnik, Daniel E. (2013-08-02). "Fernando Alonso, a Founder of Cuban Ballet, Dies at 98". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-12-22.
Horizontes: A glimpse of an almost mythical Cuba". Cineuropa - the best of european cinema. Retrieved 2018-12-22.
Kinetz, Erika (2005-11-11). "2 Cuba ballet dancers defect". DeseretNews.com. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
MIRROR DANCE: Alicia Alonso and the National Ballet of Cuba". Independent Lens PBS. Retrieved 2018-12-22.