Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza
Published in La Clave Musical Magazine. February 2000.


During September of 1999, the legendary National Ballet of Cuba made great performances with an outstanding success at the Albéniz Theatre of Madrid, with a repertoire made up by four different programmes, constituted by the best classical works, namely: "Giselle", "The Sleeping beauty", "The Nutcracker", "Coppelia", "Don Quijote", "Gottschalk Symphony" and "The Swan Lake".

From long before the first appearance of September 1st, all the tickets at Albéniz Theatre were sold out, with impressive daily full houses, which steadily raised a greater expectation.
And it wasn´t an unjustified demeanour, if we take into account the terrific group of relevant celebrities of international ballet that had been gathered within this formidable ensemble.

To start with, the "Giselle" character (from September 1st to September 5th) was performed by Lorna Feijóo (currently the best ballet dancer in the world), Galina Alvarez and Alihaydée Carreño, who interchanged their roles with Spanish ballerinas María Giménez (National Prize of Dance) and Tamara Rojo (English National Ballet), while the masculine character of Albretch was consecutively performed by Osmay Molina, Jorge Vega, Reyneris Reyes and the Spanish dancers José Carlos Martínez (Paris Opera) and Oscar Torrado.

On the other hand, "Coppelia" (from 15th to September 19th) had Laura Hormigón, Anissa Curbelo, Hoyna Gutiérrez, Anner Delgado and Linette González as stellar figures in the role of Swanilda, whilst Nelson Madrigal, Vladimir Alvarez, Octavio Martín, Joel Carreño and Rolando Sarabia starred in the role of Franz.

And finally, "The Swan Lake" (offered between 22nd and September 26th 1999) made Lorna Feijóo, Ivette Regueiro and Galina Alvarez stand out in the role of Odette and Jorge Vega and Lienz Chang playing the character of Prince Siegfred.
On September 25th 1999, there was the wonderful performance of Tchaikowsky´s "The Swan Lake", perhaps the most famous of the traditional repertoire for the great audience.

What we had the chance to watch live was an actual artistic apotheosis of the highest level, a thoroughness of movements, speed, synchronization and interpenetration between dancers and ballerinas very uncommonly seen on a stage, with superb batteries (very speedy elevations and crossing of legs), rather quick fouettes
(fast turns on the tips of the
toes), marvellous releves (liftings
on the tips of the toes) and very difficult and deserving arabesques (swayings on both legs with arms stretched backwards).

It must be underlied the certainly unique fact that the numerous spectators, almost unanimously, were absolutely spellbound by the performance, very satisfied by the effort level, professionalism and artistic quality of the National Ballet of Cuba, in some moments even bursting into applause with delight and uttering loud bravos in some specific instants of the performance!.



Probably, a lot of neophytes will ask themselves: How is it possible that Cuba, a small Caribbean island, has the best ballet ensemble in the world?

As a matter of fact, it is due to the great constant work, huge perseverance, experience, utter dedication and impressive creativity and working capacity of the famous diva Alicia Alonso, General Director of the National Ballet of Cuba (founded by herself in 1948), an authentic living legend (and for many experts the best ballerina of all time together with the Russian Ana Pavlova), who always carried out simultaneously both her task as Prima Ballerina Assoluta and Director of the National Ballet of Cuba with her extraordinary quality as a choreographer.

It mustn´t be forgotten that Alicia Alonso, at the beginning of her career, moved to United States and was taught by the best international dance teachers of that period, between them Enrico Zanfretta, the most eminent professors of the "School of American Ballet" and above all by the great Russian ballerina Alexandra Fedorova (renowned for her stagings of "Coppelia" in the Riga Opera).

Her professional activity began in 1938, on making her debut in Broadway in the musical comedies "Great Lady" and "Stars in your eyes", a year later going into the "American Ballet Caravan", forerunner of the current "New York City Ballet", entering the Ballet City of New York in 1940, year of its foundation.

Since that precise moment, a brilliant stage of her career started, as a supreme performer of the great plays of both the romantic and classical repertoire, and she began working with the most prominent creators of the century: Mikhail Fokine, George Balanchine, Bronislava Nijinska, Anthony Tudor, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille, Leonide Massine, etc.

Alicia Alonso was the main performer at the world premiere of important plays as "Undertow", "Fall River Legend" and "Theme and Variations".
n 1948, with the great illusion of promoting the art of ballet in Cuba, Alicia Alonso founded in La Habana "The Alicia Alonso Ballet", which would later become into the "National Ballet of Cuba", famous all over the world, and from then on, she has devoted itself to a great many international tours, with great universal acknowledgement.

Alicia Alonso is considered as the best all time ballet choreographer in the world, and her choreographic versions of the great classics are internationally remarkable, being staged in relevant ensembles as the Ballets of the Opera of Paris (Giselle, Gran Pas de Quatre, The Sleeping Beauty), Opera of Prague (La Fille Mal Gardee) and the Teatro alla Scala of Milan (The Sleeping Beauty), the Opera of Vienna, the San Carlo of Naples (Giselle), etc.

Alicia Alonso was awarded the Honoris Causa Doctorate by La Habana University and by the Cuban Superior Institute of Art, the
Encomienda of Isabel La Católica, Honoris Causa Doctorate by the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Gold Medal of Fine Arts Circle and the title of Work Heroine.
In 1993, she founded a Dance Chair bearing her name at Complutense University in Madrid and in 1998 she was given the Spanish Gold Medal of Fine Arts, nowadays presiding over the Madrid based "Alicia Alonso Foundation".
For almost seventy years, the labour of this XX and XXI centuries Muse of Dance has been specially titanic and deserving, if we bear in mind that from the scratch line, the National Ballet of Cuba had to compete with the great historic ballets Bolshoi of Moscow and Kirov of Leningrad (currently St Petersburg) and the same with the ballet ensembles of the Opera of Paris, Scala of Milan and American Ballet.
Amongst many others, the great achievement of creating the mythical Cuban Ballet School falls to Alicia Alonso, who has faced the tradition with great respect and creativity, and with a modern and exceptional choreography in which both the assimilation of the academic technique regarding universal subjects and the molding of national essences are present.


We thank the cooperation of the producers Mr Felipe Quintero y Solano and the National Ballet of Cuba External Relationships Director Mr Heriberto Cabezas, together with the Teatro Albéniz Directorship for the fulfilment of this report on the National Ballet of Cuba, the maximum world reference of the classic dance at the present time.

© Copyright José Manuel Serrano Esparza