Alicia Alonso (Cuba, 1920-2019)
Ballet dancer, choreographer, and artistic director
One of the most influential figures in establishing a unique Cuban identity within classical ballet, Alicia Alonso was known for her dramatic portrayals and superior technique. Alonso trained at the Sociedad Pro-Arte Musical and School of American Ballet and worked with notable choreographers and dancers of the twentieth century, including Mikhail Fokine, George Balanchine, Léonid Massine, and Agnes de Mille. Despite vision problems and a failed eye operation leaving her nearly blind, she established a prestigious international career in classical ballet, particularly with her roles in Giselle, Swan Lake, and Theme and Variations. She founded the Ballet Nacional de Cuba in 1948 and served as director until her death. Alonso received several coveted awards such as the Dance Magazine Award in 1958, and was given the title of prima ballerina assoluta, a rare honor reserved for the most prestigious and exceptional dancers within a generation. Alonso’s influence on Cuban ballet remains, as the Festival Internacional de Ballet de La Habana Alicia Alonso is held annually and the Gran Teatro de La Habana in 2016 was renamed to Gran Teatro de La Habana "Alicia Alonso".
A Portrait of Giselle features Alicia Alonso and other famous dancers as they are interviewed about performing the title role in Giselle, one of the most technical and emotionally demanding roles within the ballet repertory.
- A Portrait of Giselle, 1982 (available through Media Collections Online to authorized users)
These performances were recorded during the later part of Alonso's career as a dancer and showcase her technical precision and dramatic emotional portrayals. It was also at this time that she had begun serving as director for the Ballet Nacional de Cuba and focused more on choreographing a unique Cuban style within the classical ballet repertory. For the clips from Swan Lake and Coppélia, Alonso utilized parts of Marius Petipa's revival choreography and added her own artistic flourish.
- Alicia as the Black Swan in Swan Lake
- Alicia as Swanilda in Coppélia
This film discusses Alonso's leadership of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba.
- Dibb, Michael. Classically Cuban: Alicia Alonso & the Cuban National. BBC Worldwide, 1982. (Alexander Street Press)
A film featuring Alicia Alonso coaching excerpts from George Balanchine's Theme and Variations.
- Balanchine, George, Alicia Alonso, Catherine Tatge, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, Paloma Herrera, Angel Corrella, Josefina Mendez, Gladys Celeste, and Doris Hering. Alicia Alonso Coaching Excerpts from Theme and Variations. New York: George Balanchine Foundation, 2008. (IUCAT)
Some resources are only available to authorized users through Indiana University-Bloomington.
Alonso wrote the introduction for this book on the American Ballet Theatre, available at the William and Gayle Cook Music Library.
- Dallal, Alberto. "Alicia Alonso." Diálogos: Artes, Letras, Ciencias Humanas 16, no. 4 (94) (1980): 18-25. (JSTOR)
- Durbin, Paula. “Alicia Alonso: Legend of Spirit and Style.” Américas 56, no. 4 (July–August 2004): 49–53.
- Tomé, Lester. “‘Music in the Blood’: Performance and Discourse of Musicality in Cuban Ballet Aesthetics.” Dance Chronicle: Studies in Dance and the Related Arts 36, no. 2 (2013): 218–42.
- De Gámez, Tana, and Arnold Haskell. Alicia Alonso: At Home and Abroad. New York: Citadel Press, 1971. (IUCAT)
- Newman, Barbara, ed. Never Far From Dancing: Ballet Artists in New Roles. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014. (IUCAT)
- Siegel, Beatrice. Alicia Alonso: The Story of a Ballerina. New York: Warne, 1979.
- Simón, Pedro, and Francisco Rey Alfonso. Alicia Alonso, órbita de una leyenda. Madrid: Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, 1996. (IUCAT)
- Terry, Walter. Alicia and Her Ballet Nacional de Cuba: An Illustrated Biography of Alicia Alonso. Garden City: Anchor Books, 1981. (IUCAT)
- Martinez, Andrew Michael. An Archeology of Cuban Ballet: Reading State Discourse in Alicia Alonso's Ballet Nacional de Cuba. University of California, Los Angeles, 2017. (ProQuest Dissertations and Theses)
- Tomé, Lester. The Cuban Ballet: Its Rationale, Aesthetics and Artistic Identity as Formulated by Alicia Alonso. PhD Diss., Temple University, 2011. (ProQuest Dissertations and Theses)
- Thomas‐Woodard, Tiffany. "Alonso, Alicia." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. (Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in History)
- Tomé, Lester. "Giselle in a Cuban Accent." In The Cambridge Companion to Ballet, ed. Marion Kant. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2015. (IUCAT)
For additional works on Alicia Alonso available at IU Bloomington Libraries, click here.
Ballet Nacional de Cuba
- Gran Teatro de La Habana "Alicia Alonso" (1837)
Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso. Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso. Dec 8, 2020, Video, 4:20. Accessed December 9, 2020.
(video by Adolfo Izquierdo; music: "Cinco Salsa" (First Movement of the 5. Symphony) from Clasicos a lo Cubano, ℗2011).
Video of the Gran Teatro Nacional “Alicia Alonso” produced in commemoration of Alicia Alonso's centennial. It highlights a sculpture unveiled in January 2018 that pays homage to the prima ballerina assoluta. The music featured in the video is an assimilation of Beethoven's Symphony no. 5, op. 67 in C minor with a Cuban flair. You can enjoy better angles of the sculpture as well as read about the unveiling event in the following articles “Teatro por dentro,” 2019 from Habana Radio and "Develan estatua de Alicia Alonso en Gran Teatro de La Habana" from the Cuban newspaper Escambray.