Alicia Alonso (born 1920) is a Cuban Prima Ballerina Assoluta highly regarded for her convincing portrayals of leading roles in the great works of classical and Romantic ballet.(See video at bottom) She was best known for her lively, precise ‘Giselle’ and for her sensual, tragic ‘Carmen.’ Alonso is a miracle not just for her exceptional qualities as a ballerina, but because she was practically blind throughout almost her entire career, the result of a detached retina.
Born in Havana, she took flamenco lessons in early childhood in Spain, then started ballet at eight with Sophie Fedorova, a former dancer with the Bolshoi and Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Married early to a fellow ballet student, she moved to New York where she trained at the School of American Ballet and took private classes with Alexandra Fedorova. She danced with George Balanchine’s company and the American Ballet Theatre, then toured as a guest dancer forming a great partnership with Igor Youskevitch. In 1948 she founded the Alicia Alonso Ballet Company in Cuba, which was renamed Ballet de Cuba in 1955, then National Ballet of Cuba in 1959, after Fidel Castro took power.
In the late 1950’s, Alonso was the first ballerina from the West to dance with the Bolshoi and Kirov ballets in Moscow and St. Petersburg (Leningrad). She did not perform again in the US until 1975, when she was still in exceptional shape. In 2002 the United Nations Educational„ Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named her Goodwill Ambassador for ‘outstanding contribution to the development, preservation and popularization of classical dance.
To demonstrate Alicia’s amazing dancing, here are clips of her performing Giselle from 1963 to 1993(at age 72) Amazing.