International Ballet Festival of Havana : Alicia Alonso’s legacy

Alicia Alonso is a living legend. Nobody doubts that. Cuba’s lead ballerina assoluta who is almost 95 is an icon in the world dance and a top figure of classical ballet at the Latin American level. Founder with Fernando and Alberto Alonso of the Cuban School of Ballet, the sixth at the international level, founder of the American Ballet Theater of the United States and director of the National Ballet of Cuba, Alicia realized every dancer’s dream : to be recognized, loved and acclaimed all over the world.

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Alicia never lost her passion for ballet. When her sight got worse she trained her ears with her body ; when her legs were not strong enough so that she turns on tiptoe, she kept on dancing with her hands ; when her health did not allowed her to go on stage, she sat in a box to feel, to listen and to live the combination of dance, poetry, music and painting that is ballet.

After premieres, galas, world tours, Alicia does not lose her vitality and as a good director she is always with her company, the National Ballet of Cuba, since she founded it in 1948.

However, beyond the performances of the National Ballet inside as well as outside of Cuba, an event in particular shows us the immense legacy of this ballerina who marked a whole era and a time under the sign of movement in this small island of the Caribbean : the International Ballet Festival of Havana.

Established in 1960 by Alonso with a non-competitive purpose, this event is one of the most prestigious and one of the oldest of the world. Since its creation, more than five decades ago, its objective remains the same : to gather the whole dance, as a protagonist, beyond trends and styles which are contemporary and traditional.

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Seventeen countries from all over the world together

Every two years, the Cuban capital hosts the Festival which emerged as one of the most important in the national culture and the international community of dance.

The 25th edition has just finished and has the merit of gathering again in this part of the Caribbean prestigious figures of the world dance and showing to the visiting personalities and to the public the development achieved in the Cuban School of Ballet. In addition, on this occasion, the event – which took place from October 28 to November 6 – linked its name with that of its president and main inspirer : Alicia Alonso.

The celebration at this time of year is usually done to commemorate two anniversaries : on October 28, date of creation of the National Ballet of Cuba and on November 2, the day Alicia premiered Giselle in the distant 1943.

Renowed dancers, choreographers, masters, dance instructors, specialists and personalities from 17 countries of Latin America, Europe, Asia, the United States and the Caribbean met in Havana to offer various trends in the art of dance.

In particular, Martha Graham Dance Company returned to Cuba after 75 years. The American ensemble brought to its reunion with the Cuban public a varied program that included classical pieces by Graham, like Dark Meddow Suite, Diversion of Angels and Errand Into the Maze, and pieces by new choreographers like Lamentation Variations, on the solo Lamentation by Graham, and Woodland.

Also were back to the Festival the first Puerto Rican ballerina, Laura Valentín, who already was invited to the Festival 2014, the first figure of the Washington Ballet, Brooklyn Mack, and the Uruguayan Maria Ricetto of the National Ballet of Uruguay (SODRE).


Very numerous works

Meanwhile, companies like Dance American and Ballet West from the United States, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Buenos Aires Ballet from Argentina, The National Ballet of Mongolia and Universal Ballet from South Korea made their debuts in the Festival widely acclaimed by the audience.

Public figures from the world of dance like Aurélie Dupont (director of the

Paris Opera Ballet), the French dancer Hervé Moreau, the Russian Maria Kochetkova (leading ballerina of the American Ballet Theater and the San Francisco Ballet) and the Spanish Joaquin de Luz, among others, also honored this meeting.

A rich program composed of classical, modern, contemporary, avant-garde and Spanish ballet was performed on the stage of the National Theater (with its two halls : Avellaneda and Covarrubias), the Teatro Mella and the Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso.

In this way, the audience enjoyed again the key choreographies in the history of ballet like Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote, La fille mal Gardée, Sleeping Beauty and world premieres such as Oscurio by Belgian-Colombian choreographer Anabel López Ochoa and more than thirty premieres in Cuba.


Havana, capital of ballet for 56 years

At the same time, several collateral events to the dance performances took place with the aim of offering a wide Cuban artistic and cultural panorama. For ten days, the Festival scheduled photographic exhibitions by national and foreign artists, plastic arts exhibitions, philatelic cancellations and presentations of new texts on dance.

The 25th International Ballet Festival of Havana Alicia Alonso left engraved another beautiful image where dance marked again, with its rhythm, a time. Alicia Alonso’s federative gift and the support of the cultural organizations of the Cuban State ensured that the Festival becomes an event that brings together the best of the world dance and attracts personalities, businessmen, choreographers, teachers, designers, soloists and musical composers, observers, critics, journalists from around the world and tourists.

Every two years, Havana becomes the universal capital of ballet with the inspirational figure of Alicia Alonso. It is enough to say that during these 56 years, the Festival was the meeting place for 77 foreign dance companies from 61 countries and witnessed the premiere of 1018 works (245 of them were global).

There can be no doubt, the Festival is also Alicia Alonso’s immense legacy towards the present and the future.

The dance curtains in Havana will be raised again in 2018.