The Gran Teatro de La Habana (Grand Theater of Havana, GTH), the oldest active coliseum in Latin America, has officially added the name of the prestigious Cuban dancer Alicia Alonso to its name, as agreed by the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba to honor the work of the talented Prima Ballerina Assoluta.
The decision made on September 8, 2015 recognizes the work of the artist, who will turn 95 years old on December 21.
Together with the brothers Fernando and Alberto Alonso, Alicia founded Cuba’s first professional ballet company in 1948, in times when this type of artistic manifestation was little known within Latin societies. Despite political, social and health issues, she was determined to increase her reputation as a ballet dancer.
Alonso supported the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and overcame prejudices and bourgeois ideologies in her efforts to take her art to the people; to factories, to the countryside, to forests, valleys, to any street.
She became widely known in the world of ballet for her exceptional turns and peculiar technique. Some people still refer to “the fifth Alonso” in alluding to a specific position of the feet; while old ballet fans hold very fond memories of the times when they saw her transform into Giselle and Carmen.
The resolution of the Cuban Council of State recalls that a considerable part of the Prima Ballerina Assoluta’s pedagogical work is closely related to the Gran Teatro de la Habana, which she ran for many years and also bore witness to great success. It was hence decided to place a sculpture of the artist in the foyer of the institution where the audience has always welcomed her with applauses and prolonged standing ovations. Alicia’s presence there has never gone unnoticed.
The building closed in early 2013 to undergo full restoration, sponsored by the Office of the Havana City’s Historian. Its reopening has been set for January 1, 2016, with a gala dedicated to the triumph of the Cuban Revolution and performed by the company directed by Alonso: the Ballet Nacional de Cuba (Cuba’s National Ballet).
Since the building opened on February 18, 1838, famous artists from all over the world have performed there including the actresses Sara Bernhardt and Eleonora Dusse, the tenor Enrico Caruso, pianists like Serguei Rachmaninov and Arthur Rubinstein, and dancers such as Carmen Amaya, Cristina Hoyos and Antonio Gades. All of them have captivated Havana’s audiences, setting a milestone in the Cuban culture.
An extraordinary event for the world of dance occurred in 1841 when Fanny Elssler, one of the world’s top five dancers of the 19th century, performed at this theater, bringing the art of ballet to Cuba for the first time.
Throughout the 19th century the institution opened its doors to the most talented Cuban artists, as were the cases of Cuban National Hero José Martí, and writer Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, whom poet Luisa Pérez de Zambrana presented with a laurel wreath.
Mythical Russian dancer Anna Pavlova would also captivate the audience in Havana, when the former Tacón Theater had been renamed The National Theater.
As for the 20th century, it is unforgivable not to refer to the performances at the theater of Ernesto Lecuona, Amadeo Roldán, Rita Montaner, Esther Borja, Bola de Nieve, Rosa Fornés, Omara Portuondo and Pablo Milanés. The mere mention of these names has bestowed the institution with great prestige.
It was there where Alicia Alonso played the role of Carmen for the first time, and it was her who baptized the building as Gran Teatro de La Habana in 1985.
The institution has served as the headquarters of Cuba’s National Ballet since the 1960s, and has hosted all the International Ballet Festivals of Havana, an event that honors the country every two years by bringing together the world’s most famous ballet stars.
The theater witnessed another cultural-historic event for Cuba when the Royal Ballet of London, one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world, performed there for the first time in Cuba in summer 2009, at the Federico García Lorca Hall.
Undoubtedly, the Gran Teatro de la Habana may well be considered the Cuban institution that has most shown the development of world dance. The spread of its name alongside the name of one of the world’s most prestigious ballet dancers reaffirms its importance and demonstrates even more clearly its impact.Share on FB Share on TT