March 8th: Alicia Alonso


Alicia Alonso is a cuban ballerina best known for playing Giselle in the ballet version of Carmen.  Alonso found her love for dance at a young age and landed her first major part at twelve years old when she was cast in Tchaikovsky’s (a famous Russian composer) Sleeping Beauty.  When she was sixteen years old, she got married and moved to New York City where she joined the School of American Ballet.  After about a year there, Alonso began to have problems with her vision and was told by a doctor that she had a detached retina.  The corrective surgery involved taking her eyeball out of its socket, injecting it with antibiotics, and reinserting it.  After the surgery, Alonso was ordered to lie in bed, completely still, for three months.  However, Alonso was dedicated to her work and needed to “keep [her] feet alive” so while on bedrest she would stretch and point them so she wouldn’t forget her dances.  The first surgery was not successful, neither was a second.  After a third surgery, Alonso was told she would have to lie completely motionless for a whole year, she was not allowed to move her head at all.  Everyday during that year, her husband would sit next to her and teach her classic ballet routines by performing them with his fingers in her hand.  Later, when asked about that year, Alonso said “I danced in my mind.  Blinded, motionless, flat on my back, I taught myself to dance Giselle (the lead in a ballet)”.  And almost immediately after Alonso returned to work, the lead ballerina at her company was injured and she was asked to fill in as Giselle.  She was quickly given the role permanently and danced in it for five years.  Alonso became known for her versatility as she was able to beautifly dance in any genre of ballet especially classic, romantic, and comedic ballets.  Her vision was never fully restored so the companies she danced with employed a number of different methods to compensate and when she performed no one could tell she was partially blind with no peripheral vision.  Alonso later returned to Cuba and started her own ballet company.  She continued to perform all over the world and was given UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)  Pablo Picasso medal in 1999, an award for those who have made memorable contributions to arts and culture.

Video of her performing:


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