Alicia Alonso - The Cuban prima ballerina assoluta

Alicia Alonso

Alicia Alonso

Painted by Errol McKinson

Oil on Board 18 x 32

Alonso was born in Havana, one of two daughters of an army officer and his wife. The family was financially comfortable and lived in a fashionable section of the then-vibrant capital. Alonso revealed at a very early age an affinity for music and dance - her mother could occupy her happily for long periods with just a phonograph, a scarf, and some records. She started dancing at the age of seven or eight. In June 1931 she began studying ballet at Sociedad Pro-Arte Musical in Havana with Nikolai Yavorsky. She performed publicly for the first time 29 December 1931, aged 10 years old. Her first serious debut was in Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty at the Teatro Auditorium 26 October 1932. She originally danced in Cuba under the name of Alicia Martínez.

Rapid progress in her lessons came to an abrupt halt in 1937, when the teenager fell in love with a fellow ballet student, Fernando Alonso, whom she married. After her marriage, she changed her surname to Alonso. The new couple moved to New York City, hoping to begin their professional careers. There they found a home with relatives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, near Riverside Drive. Alonso gave birth to a daughter, Laura, but managed to continue her training at the School of American Ballet and took private classes. She arranged to travel to London to study with Vera Volkova. Meanwhile, her husband had joined the new Mordkin Ballet Company in New York.

Alonso danced solos in Europe and elsewhere well into her 70s. She continued to serve as the director of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba until the early 21st-century. Numerous books have been written on the ballerina, including Alicia Alonso: At Home and Abroad (1970), Alicia Alonso: The Story of a Ballerina (1979), Alicia Alonso: A Passionate Life of Dance (1984) and Alicia Alonso: First Lady of the Ballet (1993).

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