CRITICAL ZONE: From Cuba to the World and Vice Versa

Cuban artists star a resounding festival in Washington as a sign of the strength of the cultural exchange with other countries of the world.

Highly-aesthetic proposals and resounding expressions of our art are usually part of the cultural exchange between our country and other nations. Obviously, there is a lot of potential here. There is a very rich, active cultural maze. There are top artists known worldwide representing different cultural expressions.

There is a strong artistic teaching system all around the country that ensures continuity and renovation. The perfect example is the Cuban delegation participating in the Cuba’s Art Festival at the Kennedy Center, in Washington. Almost all artists there have been trained in our art schools. Their quality is beyond discussion.

However, not every artistic expression made in Cuba performing abroad has the same quality standards. There are some poor proposals as well. In several cases, they lean more on the business standard than art itself. It is already known that every time market is the key, you cannot guarantee hierarchies.

Nonetheless, there are some entrepreneurs that assess fairly the richness of Cuban culture. And thanks to such determination, along with the work of Cuban art institutions, major stages of the world have boasted some of the greatest artists living in Cuba.

Artists are excellent ambassadors. Bridges built on culture are solid and create bonds among people. Such bridges, of course, work in both directions.

Thanks to the prestige earned by the Cuban culture, famous artists and bands have visited in Cuba. You can check the catalogue of the Havana Biennial, writers attending International Book Fairs, companies attending our festivals, and so on. We are out of several world art circuits due to economical issues. But Havana is a strong venue for art in Latin America.

We say Havana, but other provinces could be included. We are convinced much can be done to socialize art across the country.

The same occur with artists born in places far from the capital who can be included in the cultural delegations that travel abroad. It is a challenge for the institutions.

What is true is that culture and good art have been able to avoid political and economical pitfalls. The cultural bonds between Cuba and other nations are strong, rich, growing…They are symbol of an artistic movement which represents the pride of a country.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz / CubaSi Translation Staff

Cuba’s prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso leads U.S. tour

This 2018, the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) is set for abundant celebrations. Firstly, its 70th anniversary. The BNC was founded in 1948 by Alicia Alonso and the brothers Fernando (1914-2013) and Alberto Alonso (1917-2007). This year also marks 75 years since Alicia debuted in Giselle with the American Ballet Theatre, and the bicentenary of the birth of maestro Marius Petipa (1818-1910), as well as the 30th anniversary of the premiere of the Cuban version of his Don Quixote.

It is in this splendid context that the company directed by prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso is starting a new tour of the United States (May 15 through June 9), performing two monuments of world ballet representing resounding successes of its own: Giselle and Don Quixote.

A LIFE DEVOTED TO ART

As a significant historical reference, it should be noted that Alicia Alonso (Havana, 1920), one of the great legends of dance, is included among the founding members of the American Ballet Theatre. Her substitution of the famed Alicia Márkova in the leading role of Giselle on November 2, 1943, became legendary.

The illustrious ballerina retired from the stage in 1995, but as she has stated in several interviews, dance in all its senses, as a technique, as a teacher, as a choreographer, is her life.

Her devotion to this art can be appreciated in the extraordinary technique and stylistic care of the company she directs, especially in its lead dancers, including Anette Delgado, Viengsay Valdés and Sadaise Arencibia.

Portuguese Nobel Prize for Literature winner, José Saramago, noted that in order to continue to have the same meaning, proverbs must be adapted to the times, and this is something Alicia Alonso has cleverly done with the great ballet classics, without losing their stylistic essence. Thus she has “dusted off,” as she herself has described it, not only Giselle and Don Quixote, but also The Sleeping Beauty, La Sylphide and The Nutcracker.

THE CUBAN VERSION OF DON QUIXOTE

Igor Youskevitch and Alicia Alonso, in the first act of Giselle. The pair made history at the American Ballet Theatre. Photo: Courtesy of the BNC

The first performances by the BNC in the United States (May 18, 19 and 20) were in Chicago, at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, the headquarters of the Joffrey Ballet, where the company presented Alicia’s 1988 version of Don Quixote, with prima ballerinas Marta García and María Elena Llorente, based on the original piece by Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorski.

As a ballet created from Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra’s (1547-1616) masterpiece, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, Alicia took great pains to maintain the folkloric references in the choreography and dramaturgy, demonstrating maximum respect for the character of Don Quixote, an icon of world literature.

GISELLE: ONE OF THE MOST MAJESTIC PIECES

And Giselle lived among us, wrote the great Cuban intellectual Alejo Carpentier, after watching Alicia dance in Paris. The BNC performed this obligatory piece for all leading ballet companies, on May 23 at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, in Tampa.

Over time, Alicia not only enriched her personal performance of this piece, considered by critics as representing the peak of her career, but she did the same in her rigorous and beautiful version of the classic created in 1841 by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, with a libretto by Théophile Gautier, inspired by the Germanic folk tale by Heinrich Heine.

Alicia’s staging is distinguished by the excellent set, the character, strength and expression of the drama, seen in each character on stage, and her absolute respect for the romantic style. Alicia received the Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris in 1966 for this version of Giselle and her own performance.

The Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World Festival, underway in Washington’s Kennedy Center, will close with these two great classics: Don Quixote and Giselle, running until June 3.

After visiting the U.S. capital, and to conclude the tour, the company will perform Giselle at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, New York, June 6 through 8.

As well as various seasons at its headquarters, the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater of Havana, and several international tours throughout this 2018, the BNC will see an immense celebration in October-November, to mark the 70th anniversary of its foundation, with the 26th Havana International Ballet Festival.

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Acosta Danza to Premiere in Cuba Work of the American Justin Peck

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Alicia Alonso Willing to Strengthen Ballet in Latin America

Havana, Apr 6 (Prensa Latina) Cuban prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso said thar today it is a priority to increase the presence of the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) in Latin American countries and show the skills of the region in ballet.

Alonso just returned from a tour across Costa Rica and El Salvador, where the BNC performed under her direction and was given the Doctor Honoris Causa degrees at the universities named after the two countries.

Presidents Luis Guillermo Solis, from Costa Rica, and Salvador Sanchez Ceren, from El Salvador, attended the BNC performances starred by Viengsay Valdes, Grettel Morejon, Sadaise Arencibia, Anette Delgado, Dani Hernandez, Rafael Quenedit, Patricio Reve and Raul Abreu, amid others.

During a press conference at the BNC headquarters in Havana, Alonso appreciated all the expressions of gratitude given to her and the BNC, which in her view moved the audience in the two countries with works like the second act of Giselle and a piece of the classic Don Quixote.

The BNC will perform at Mella Theater in Havana city next Saturday and Sunday, during La Huella de España Festival, an event chaired by Alonso.

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Alicia Alonso to Receive Honorary Degree in Costa Rica

San Jose, Mar 22 (Prensa Latina) Cuban Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alicia Alonso received here today the Doctor Honoris Causa degree from the University of Costa Rica (UCR), for her important work and legacy to the world classical dance.

The University Council of the UCR, the highest entity of that high educational center, agreed on Thursday, March 16th, to grant the honorary degree to the famous 96-year-old dancer, who danced until the age of 70. She founded and directed the Cuban National Ballet, one of the most prestigious companies in the world.

At the proposal of the Faculty of Fine Arts, the University Council stated that Alicia Alonso's contribution to Cuban and world dance has allowed us to rethink this art from its cultural importance and its influence in the construction of the Latin American identity. This has generated an extraordinary impact and unique contributions that have been widely recognized worldwide.

The famous Cuban dancer also 'boosted and inspired the Cuban Ballet School, which is characterized by a new style and a new methodology within the classical dance. Thanks to her extraordinary pedagogical work, several generations of excellent dancers have arisen'.

Alicia arrived in San Jose on Monday, March 20th, and will be here until Sunday, March 26th, along with fifty members of the Cuban company. They will perform at the 'Melico Salazar' Popular Theater in San Jose on March 25th and 26th (double show).

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Cuban Baillarina Marta Garcia Dies in Spain

Famous Cuban Baillarina Marta García, 68, died today in a hospital from lung cancer, according to sources close to the artist.

García was born on Feb.7, 1949 in Guanabacoa, Havana and her long career made her one of the main pillars of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba (BNC) company.

With less than 5 years old the Best Artist Award given by a popular TV program at that time, when she sang, acted and danced.

In 1956 she starts in the Academia de Ballet Alicia Alonso located at then called Teatro Radiocentro (today renamed Yara).

Ten years later she perfoms her first presentation in Las Amigas de Gisselle;and Danza Española and Mazurca from the El lago de los cisnes.

With thel BNC she travels the world and performed all the main roles of the great classic ballet repertoire like La fille mar gardée, Giselle and El lago de los cisnes, Don Quijote y La bayadera.

Less than two years ago she published her memoirs in Spain.

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Legendary Cuban Ballerina Alicia Alonso Turns 96

Havana, Dec 21 (Prensa Latina) The most renowned Cuban artist worldwide, Alicia Alonso, turns 96 today with the strong will to give her country a lastign legacy through the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC).

Alonso devoted her life to dance, first to form herself as a respectable ballerina, then to the creation of her own personal style, and then to perpetuate the ballet deeply within the Cuban culture.

Together with brothers Fernando and Alberto Alonso she founded the first professional ballet company in Cuba, 60 years ago, when that art was scarcely understood in Latin societies.

Despite the social, political and health situations that she suffered, the decision and courage of this woman made her persist in raising her status as a dancer.

Alonso supported the social revolution that began in Cuba in 1959, and raised above prejudices and ideologies to take her art to the people, factories, fields, forests,and any street.

Famous for her unique technique, some people still speak of the Alonso fifth, referring to a specific position of the feet, while the old lovers of ballet especially cherish the times they saw her transform into Giselle and Carmen, among other classic ballet characters.

Being 96 years old, the artist is still active as a teacher, choreographer, director of the BNC and of the Havana's International Ballet Festival, in which the most renowned dancers of the planet participate.

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