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Dance & Theater
Cinema & Television


famous for its libidinous rhythms and sensuous moves. It comes as no surprise to discover
that the country has produced some of the world’s most exciting dancers. With an innate
musical rhythm at birth and the ability to replicate perfect salsa steps by the age of two or
three, Cubans are natural performers who approach dance with a complete lack of selfconsciousness – something that leaves most visitors from Europe or North America feeling
as if they’ve got two left feet. Most Cuban dances are connected with a specific genre of
music, including rumba and mambo; see p36 for more details.

In a country famous for its machismo, it might seem strange that the traditionally graceful art of ballet has risen to a
position of such eminence. Yet not only does Cuba possess one of the world’s most prestigious ballet companies, it also
boasts one of its oldest, greatest and most enduring ballet divas, Alicia Alonso.
Born Alicia Ernestina de la Caridad del Cobre Martnez Hoya in Habana in 1921, Alonso was a child dancing prodigy
who relocated to New York in the 1930s to study at the School of American Ballet. Despite suffering from an eye condition
that left her partially blind at the age of 19, she quickly became a regular in such illustrious Broadway shows as Stars
in Your Eyes and Great Lady. Married at the age of 15 to fellow dancer Fernando, Alonso’s talent ultimately led her to
the American Ballet Theater, with whom she traveled to the Soviet Union in the ’40s and ’50s, where she became the
first American representative to dance with the Bolshoi. She returned to Habana in 1948 where, patronized by Cuban
president Fulgencio Batista, she founded the Alicia Alonso Ballet Company. But the institution’s early days were far from
easy and in 1956, after objecting to the gross excesses of Cuba’s Mafia-run capital, she moved into exile.
In stark contrast to other disaffected artists, Alonso was lured back to Cuba in 1959, where she set up the Ballet
Nacional de Cuba with a gift of US$200,000 from Fidel Castro. A longtime supporter of both Castro and his revolution,
her loyalty has been richly rewarded over the years with state funding, professional recognition, and a countrywide
network of teachers and schools.
As synonymous with Cuban ballet as Fidel Castro is with facial hair and military fatigues, Alonso regularly scours
the country for bright young ...
Dance & Theater 28
Literature 29
Painting 31
Cinema & Television 32
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