Cuba: London Royal Ballet Pays Tribute to Alicia Alonso
Making its first visit to the island, the 96-member troupe began with daring dances from «Chroma» then was joined on stage by performers from the company Alonso founded, the Cuban National Ballet. The evening also featured a dance from «Giselle,» which Alonso is perhaps best-known for. Former student Carlos Acosta, now with the Royal Ballet, was featured in scenes from «El Corsario. A mesmerized crowd filled Havana's majestic Gran Teatro, many fanning themselves against the heat of the weakly air-conditioned building.
Alonso, who attended the performance, was a prima ballerina with some of the United States' most important companies in the 1940s and '50s and she has become the face of a state-sponsored arts program that the government of Fidel Castro touts worldwide as a jewel of 50 years of communist rule. «It's a beautiful tribute, very pretty, but it's not just for me, it's also for the people of Cuba,» Alonso said in a brief interview Wednesday night.
Royal Ballet director Monica Mason told the crowd that her company's performing jointly with the Cuban ballet «shows that in the world of ballet, we are all a big and dedicated family, passionate and humble.
Because of government subsidies of the arts, tickets sold for under a dollar apiece and all five of the Royal Ballet's shows sold out quickly.
A short distance from the theater, authorities erected an outdoor screen in front of Havana's capitol dome _ a slightly taller replica of Washington's Capitol _ planning to broadcast the Royal Ballet performances to overflow crowds, but technical difficulties derailed the effort for the Royal Ballet's opening performance Tuesday night.
Acosta grew up in Havana and trained with Alonso and other Cuban stars, but has lived overseas for more than 15 years, performing with the Royal Ballet since 1998. He has made several trips back to Cuba with other companies to perform over the years and appeared in Tuesday night's opening performance as well as Wednesday night's tribute to Alonso.
«It's a dream come true,» Acosta said just before Wednesday's performance. «And I hope that the Cuban public feels the same way.
Roberto Marquez, a 29-year-old Royal Ballet dancer from Brazil, said the company's members were excited to making the company's first visit to Cuba.
«Alicia Alonso will always be a great dancer and an inspiration for all of us,» he said. «Ever since I was little, I watched her dance on video and her dancing inspired me.
Cuba's state-run news agency, Prensa Latina, praised Tuesday's debut and even mentioned Acosta by name, treatment rarely given Cuban athletes and performers who leave the island.
After three nights at the Gran Teatro, the Royal Ballet's performances will shift to the larger Carlos Marx Theater in Havana's leafy Miramar neighborhood.