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Ballet Nacional de Cuba

The Ballet Nacional de Cuba is one of the most prestigious companies in the world. Its artistic and technical severity as well as diverse aesthetic conceptions have granted this company a relevant place among international dance institutions. In 1948, Alicia Alonso founded and was principal ballerina of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Two years later a school was established to create a strong artistic vision and promote the talents of young dancers in Cuba. Alonso set a tradition of romantic and classical excellence while encouraging new choreographic creations. The company regularly tours Europe, Asia and South America and has received an award from the Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris. Each year, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba hosts an international ballet competition and for the past 17 years has invited dance companies from around the world to its international ballet festival in Havana.

Alicia Alonso, Choreographer and General Director of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, is one of the most famous personalities of ballet in our century. She was born in Havana, and in 1931 she began her dance studies at the Ballet School of the Sociedad Pro Arte Musical. Later, she came to the United States where she continued her studies with Enrico Zanfretta, Alexandra Fedorova and other eminent teachers of the School of American Ballet.

In 1938 she made her professional debut in two musical comedies: Great Lady and Stars In Your Eyes. A year later she joined the American Ballet Caravan (under the direction of Kirstein and Christensen) and in 1940 she was selected by American Ballet Theater (under the direction of Pleasant and Chase). From that moment on, a brilliant stage of her career began. She danced leading roles of masterpieces from 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 our century.

She performed leading roles in important world premieres such as Undertow, Fall River Legend and Theme & Variations. As a member of the American Ballet Theater (ABT), she performed as a principal dancer in various European and American countries. Her desire to develop ballet in Cuba lead her to organize the Ballet Alicia Alonso, which she maintained in Havana with little financial support. This company eventually became the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. After she founded her company in 1948, she divided her time between ABT and this company. In 1950 the Escuela Nacional de Ballet Alicia Alonso was established. This school is a direct link to the company encouraging choreographic -creative work and combining classical traditions with contemporary elements.

Between 1955 and 1959, Alicia Alonso danced every year with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as guest star. She was the first dancer of the Western Hemisphere to perform in the Soviet Union, and the first American representative to dance with the Bolshoi and Kirov Theaters of Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg) respectively in 1957 and 1958. During the decades to follow Alicia Alonso had cross-world tours through West and East European countries, Asia, North and South America, and she danced as guest star with the Opera de Paris, the Royal Danish Ballet, the Bolshoi and with other companies.

She has staged her versions of Giselle, Grand Pas de Quatre, and Sleeping Beauty for the Opera de Paris She also staged Giselle at the Vienna Opera and the San Carlo Theater of Naples, Italy; La Fille Mal Gardee at the Prague Opera, and Sleeping Beauty at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. She has served on juries at international dance competitions in Bulgaria; Russia; Japan; U.S. and Brazil. Alicia Alonso is considered by dance critics as one of the greatest ballerinas of all times. She has been given numerous awards in Cuba as well as in many other countries. Among them: the Dance Magazine Annual Award in 1958; the Order of Work of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1964; the Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris in 1966; and jointly with her company in 1970; the Anna Pavlova Award of the University of Dance, Paris, 1966; the Gold Medal of the Gran Teatro by the Premio Gran Teatro de La Habana in 1985.

Being an eminent figure of Cuban cultural life, Alicia Alonso was granted in 1973 an honorary Doctorate in Art from the University of Havana, and in 1987, from the Superior Institute of Arts of Cuba, she obtained an honorary Doctorate in Dancing Art. She was named "National Hero of Labor" in Cuba and she holds membership in the Advisory Council to the Ministry of Culture in the National Committee of Writers and Artists Union of Cuba, and in the Collaborating Council of the Governing Boards of the Federation of Cuban Women. In 1980, she received an international homage in Paris, organized by UNESCO, and in 1981 the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba gave her the Order Felix Varela. She has been given the highest official awards from Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Panama: the Order Aguila Azteca, the Order Vasco Nunez de Balboa, and the Order Duarte, Sanchez and Mella, respectively. In 1993 she received the Commendation of Isabel Catholic Order, given by the King of Spain Juan Carlos I. In September 1996, a public homage was given in her honor at the Scientific, Artistic and Literary Ateneo of Madrid for her valuable artistic and cultural creations. ABT honored Alicia Alonso, in May 1997, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Theme & Variations, the great ballet created by George Balanchine for her and Igor Youskevitch. The following year she received an honorary degree from the Universidad Politecnica of Valence; a gold medal from the Circulo de Bellas Artes of Madrid; a National Prize for Dance from the Ministry of Culture of Cuba; and the Art & Letters Order-Commander Degree from the Ministry of Culture and Communication of France. In June 1999 UNESCO awarded her the Pablo Picasso Medal for her extraordinary contribution to dance.

As 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 left her mark on the international world of dance.