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 Post subject: Alicia Alonso - my unique experience with her
PostPosted: Sun Oct 08, 2000 7:50 am 
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Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 11327
Location: San Diego, California, USA
<P>ALICIA ALONSO<P>In the late 1970’s the San Diego Ballet decided to invite Prima Ballerina Alicia Alonso to perform with the company in San Diego. The temerity of this proposal was breathtaking. It is comparable to asking Meryl Streep to play with a local high school drama group or to ask Thomas Jefferson to give a writing class tips on how to write a declaration of independence. Even more startling - Alicia Alonso accepted the invitation. She not only agreed to come, but to dance her greatest role, Giselle.<P>Let me introduce her to you should you not be familiar with the world of the classic ballet. She gained her fame in New York with American Ballet Theater in the 1940’s and her star ascended and continued to ascend through the rest of this century. In the 1960’s as our relations with her native country, Cuba, turned cold she had to make a choice between her homeland and the United States because of the travel restrictions placed against Cuba. She loyally chose Cuba. So for many years, though she traveled globally and danced on the world’s most renowned stages, the United States was bereft of her magic. Americans often went to Canada to see her - but she could not come to see us. Then in the 1970’s travel restrictions were eased and she was allowed to enter our country. Why she chose to accept the invitation of the San Diego Ballet is a question that has never been answered. She could have chosen to dance anywhere - anywhere at all. <P>There are a number of classical ballets whose roles represent the epitome of a ballerina’s accomplishment. However, the ballet Giselle not only presents vast technical difficulties, it is also considered the Hamlet of the ballerina’s repertoire. The dancer’s dramatic and technical range is on view to the fullest extent. In this particular ballet, Alicia Alonso excels. She is considered one of the century’s foremost exponents of Giselle. It is her favorite balet. <P> Because of the travel restrictions, most American dancers had never seen the legendary Alicia Alonso, but everyone was steeped in her fame. As we, the company and I, stood at the barre that morning we took our class literally trembling with excitement. No, she was not in the studio with us, she would take her class privately with her own instructor accompanied by her special partner, Jorge Esquivel. The ballerina had found him - a hungry orphan on the streets of Havana and had taken him in and trained him to be her partner. He was a marvelous dancer. <P>Just as our class finished the ballerina, her entourage and a large contingent of the press arrived. The fabled Alicia Alonso stood before us and was formally introduced. The dancers applauded, hardly able to believe their eyes. Everyone was asked to leave the room so the ballerina’s class could begin. The other dancers filed out. The press and cameras were shut out and the door was closed. I had gone to the corner of the studio to retrieve my things, but instead of leaving I sat down on the floor, drew my knees up to my chin and made myself invisible. I would be a fly on the wall, a speck of dust, a nothing. I know they saw me but did not ask me to leave. I have never been able to understand why everyone else was told to go and I was allowed to stay. <P>Prima Ballerina Alicia Alonso walked to the barre. By chance she chose the exact spot where I usually stood during class. A large window allowed a shaft of sunlight in and in that shaft of light she stepped and stood. The dust motes that swirled filtered the sunlight and softened her image and increased the magic. She placed an alabaster hand on the dark sweat soaked barre and drew herself up - back straight - head up - ready for the day’s work to begin. The pianist played. She pointed her toe. Ah, I thought, that is how a pointed toe really should be! The love and toil of fifty years went into that pointed toe. The firm curve of the arch of her foot, the fluidity of that simple movement took my breath away. Expressive as a hand that foot could punctuate the music or caress the floor. The pink satin of her slipper glowed softly and the ribbons sculpted her ankle. She turned her face toward the sunlight and I am sure she felt its warmth and it dimly penetrated her eyes. For, you see, this great ballerina is blind. <P>In a daze I watched the rest of her class. She did the exact same things all of us did everyday. But she filled the room with her presence as she has filled the dimensions of every theater in which she has danced. She possessed the space around her as she has taken possession of every stage upon which she had stepped. This woman before me had danced with all the great companies of the world, every great male dancer has been her partner, every great capital has received her; London, Beijing, Leningrad, Moscow, Paris, New York, Madrid, Sydney, Tokyo. For decades her name has had first claim on a theater marquee. Like fine wine a truly great ballerina becomes finer with age. <P>Later I watched her in rehearsal with the ballet company. She undertook every role of the ballet becoming in succession the young Giselle, or the old mother, or the visiting princess. She was showing the rest of the dancers exactly what she wanted. Because of her blindness every prop and dancer had to be exactly placed so the ballerina would know where they were on the stage. The dancers were awed, overwhelmed, enthralled. They were also jealous of me, the only one to have seen Alicia Alonso take her class.<P>The studios of the company at that time were located downtown and I had parked on a city street. When I returned to my car I was brought sharply back to the realities of life. I had multiple parking tickets. But it was with a sigh of infinite satisfaction that I joyfully wrote a check to pay those particular fines.<BR> <BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Alicia Alonso - my unique experience with her
PostPosted: Mon Oct 09, 2000 2:56 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 274
Location: Ontario, Canada
What a wonderful story!<P>Thank you for sharing it!!<P>


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 Post subject: Re: Alicia Alonso - my unique experience with her
PostPosted: Mon Oct 09, 2000 11:29 pm 
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Joined: Sun Oct 24, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 19616
Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
That's great Basheva. Clearly a wonderful experience for you and the rest of the Company. <P>Let's hope that the flow of artists back and forth from the US to Cuba continues to gather strength.


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