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Alicia Alonso visits the Canadian National Ballet School
The Betty Oliphant theatre of the National Ballet School of Toronto had no empty seat.
Even though the audience was exclusively composed by children and young people, students from the famous school and their teachers, there was an absolute silence.
One of those silences usually can be seen in great cathedrals.

A silence anticipated that something extraordinary was in the air. The audience was like that for a while, almost still, reverent; there was not a single whisper.

When Alicia Alonso entered the stage together with her husband Pedro Simon, a Cuban writer and Director of the National Dance Museum, over 300 children in the auditorium stood up.
The silence became a long, rapturous and deafening ovation. It could be said that we were in front of a popular music idol. Children knew well that they were witness of something unique, of an historic moment. They showed it with a genuine enthusiasm, usually reserved for members of the royalty.

For the children, young lives devoted to ballet since their childhood, Alicia Alonso does not need introduction. They know her history as the palm of their hands.
For the National Canadian School, an institution that keeps constant exchanges of students and professors with the National Cuban School, the visit was like a warm hug between two old and close colleagues and friends.

After brief words, Alicia simple and masterly gave the stage to the children. With a megawatt smile, the Prima Ballerina Assoluta invited her questions. Immediately after it, the theatre took the characteristics of a close family reunion, of an expression of deep tenderness between the teacher and the students, eager both to talk. It was really impressive.

Not every day a child exchanges opinions in such a confidence and with such affection with a person such as Alicia Alonso, with her humbleness and grace. Mavis Staines, Artistic Director of the National Ballet School, said it well when remembering the students and guest honor that "the visit of Alicia Alonso extremely honors us.

We feel ourselves in the presence of someone big. It is a majestic, unique experience and we will keep it in our hearts for the rest of our life". Children knew it very well.

For more than an hour the students talked with the Prima Ballerina Absoluta. There was no question that did not receive a special, long answer. When Alicia was asked when she started dancing, she replied that in her childhood. As if it was a conversation between friends, she told them that in those days "Im not telling you how many years ago", there were no ballet shoes in Cuba. "But I always wanted to dance and I danced in sport shoes.
While my brother played baseball and my sister played with the neighborhoods girls, I placed a record and danced. I danced the classic. My father who was a lieutenant in the army, asked my mother if I was never tired of dancing, to what my mother answered that no, I was never tired. A little while later on, an Italian gentleman brought a couple of ballet shoes. IN my school every body tried them, but they only fit me. From that moment on I didnt want to take them. I danced with my shoes all over my house" .

"Then I went to the USA. I studied ballet without my father knowing it. One day a famous photographer of LIFE magazine asked me to give some steps for the camera. LIFE published the pictures. Someone called my mother in Havana and told her.

She was worried that my father had seen the magazine, so when he arrived, she asked him if he had seen the magazine. My father answered that not only saw it, but bought all the numbers he could and gave them to his friends because he was very proud of her daughter".

Another student asked who her best teacher was. "The worst dancers", replied immediate Alicia. The laughing resounded for a long time in the theatre. And her most painful experience? Loosing sight, but I never allowed it to become an obstacle. I continue dancing.
Dancing is my life and I love it without any reserves. Off course, now Im the Artistic Director of the Cuban National Ballet and I have another job, but I never leave dancing, and dancing never leaves me, I take it in every aspect of my life. When someone asks me what else I would have loved to do, my answer is always to dance.

Nothing else. It is my happiness. Even now I dance, inside me, but I dance and not only that Im my toughest critic. Im terrible with myself! That is how you must be with yourselves. You take care even in the way you place your foot (and she showed) and every hand and body movement. It is your precious vehicle, the most valuable one.
In order to be successful, you must give everything to this career without giving in, with passion, discipline, dedication and complete determination. And you know what? I feel you will do it".

What is your favorite play? Every ballet is special to me, every one demand different interpretations, and different disciplines. Carmen, for example, is sensual and beautiful; The Swam is elegant and sensual in a different way. In Hansel and Gretel there are elements of extraordinary sadism, violence and murder.
You have to be very strong to interpret a character that, even though it is only symbolic, kills the father and step mother on stage. I took this character so deeply that could not left it in the stage. The director was always moving away from me because I was intolerable. Romeo and Juliet is romantic and Giselle is very difficult, but a dream ballet to me, it gave me huge pleasure and a lot of fame".

"My favorite moment? Every time Im going to go on stage and start to dance, Im moved by the emotion; I feel the presence of the public and totally give in".

There were other personal stories that would make me write several pages. What can not be left out is that the visit between Alicia and the students of the National Ballet School was something beautiful. It was characterized by the indescribable, sincere emotion by both parts and by the intense tenderness between Alicia and the children.

Alicia said it went she left the stage, followed by a deafening ovation. She did it, the way she knows how to do it. She didnt say another word. She simple said goodbye with a perfect, naughty and classic pirouette that delighted the audience.

We were really intimate and privileged witness of an unforgettable moment in the rich history of Alicia and the ballet she so much loves.


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