silvy

Alicia Alonso

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Hi - I have got hold a video called "Alicia", featuring world famous prima Alicia Alonso. I was particularly impressed by her Black Swan in which she turns FIVE EN DEHORS PIROUETTES (unsupported, of course), at the beginning of her variation.

I mean, I know that she was a virtuoso, but cud it be THAT VIRTUOSO? Or maybe the video was altered somehow...

Apart from that, I admired the fact that the focus of her performance was artistry all along the ballets she danced, not only virtuosity. Maybe after one virtuoso display she did very simple steps, so you was that her objective was NOT to show how good she was, in the tecnical sense.

She seemed to have a perfect sense of what a truly prima was, and of the difference between a virtuoso and an artist.

Can anyone still clarify this issue of the 5 pirouettes for me? I find it hard to believe!!!

thank you!!!!

silvy

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I haven't seen the video, silvy, however I have no doubts that Ms. Alonso was quite capable of 5 pirouettes! She was indeed both an artist and a virtuoso :mad:

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silvy, someone whose memory of the film is fresher than mine could tell you more about that, but my understanding is that Alonso was virtuoso enough to accomplish that, and more. (Balanchine made the ballerina role of Theme and Variations on her, just to give you an idea, and apparently she made it look easy.)

Any other insights for us? atm711?

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I noticed from the video I am talking about that Alicia is teaching new ballerinas a good lesson:that it is not enough to be pyrotecnnically brilliant to make you a prima, but that you need other ingredientes as well. I mean, I see too much enphasis on the technique (a clear example of that is, for me, ABT's Corsaire), but perhaps not enough depth into the roles. And going back to Alonso, I remember hearing her say in a TV docummentary that a dancer shud study and get information on a ballet before dancing it. I think that made the difference in her case.

Tell me what you think

silvy

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Alonso was very technically accomplished and the video of which silvy speaks proves it AND she wasn't all that young in that video......I highly recommend anyone/everyone viewing it if they can.

One of my first teachers was in her company in Cuba in the late 50's - just before Castro came in to power - and he had many stories to tell of Alonso's technique AND artistry.

Best,

B

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There will never be another Alicia Alonso. She was artistic, yet virtousic, musical yet technical. I think she brought ballet a big step forward. To think that she originated the lead role in Theme and Variations is only a testament to her talent. (As you can tell, she is a huge favorite!).

Rachel

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Yes, Alonso was a virtuoso---but what I have always loved about her technique was her impeccable turn-out---it was "text-book illustration" perfect. Seeing her do multiple pirouettes were fine---but to see her in the variation of the Bluebird PDD doing echappes was every bit as exciting. I remember a particular performance of 'Giselle' with Youskevitch partnering her. It was in Act II---with Youskevitch supporting her while she was on pointe---she did a developpee a la seconde and Youskevitch released his grip and slowly walked backwards towards the back of the stage--and there she stood--unsupported. I was so caught in the reverie of her performance that I hadn't noticed--until my friend nudged me and said "Look at that!" She made it look easy and natural.

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Yes! Her turnout is impeccable! The only dancer I can recall that can do an arabesque with minimal opening of the hip! When I saw Alicia Alonso I noticed her walk - almost completely turned out. I only wish I could have seen her perform live - being a ballet student I learn so much from watching her on film.

Rachel

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Oh, I can say I did see her dancing, but it was around 1986, and she was long past her prime. It was in Montevideo, and she came with the National Ballet of Cuba. She danced Swan Lake, second act, and her arms were still marvellous. She also danced a ballet called "la Diva", in which she impersonated Maria Callas, and I did not like her at all in this particular piece.

Anyway, I also took a course of the Cuban School of Ballet in Buenos Aires in 1991. This course was directed by her daughter Laura (who is a ballet mistress), and Alicia herself gave a master class, and it is one of those memories that remain with you forever. She showed the differences in styles, even within the different romantic ballets (I distinctly remember her showing how the pas de bourree for preparation for a supported pirouette shud be different in Fille than in Giselle, for instance). She also had 4 dancers modelling for the Pas de Quatre final pose, and I remember how she approached each one to correct details (with her poor eyesight and all!!!).

She also encouraged us to do strenghtening exercises for our pectoral? (spelling?) muscles to assist us in supported promenades.

Great Alicia - Most unforgettable!!!

Silvy

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The ARTS channel (shown on cable) is currently showing the Alicia Alonso video of the Black Swan. Her pirouettes and her balance are truly incredible! If you haven't seen her dance before, tune into ARTS and try to catch the video when it airs. She was amazing! :D:clapping:

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I've seen the same clip Amy's Mom. Due to the rather shaky quality of the film, I'm wondering if it enhanced the speed of her pirouettes.

Rachel

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Oh, God...this is an old thread, but i can't resist to dig in, being a hardore fan of Mme. Alonso :huh: In an interview about her famous recreation of "Giselle', she stated that the first time she was given the role , it was by accident. Alicia Markova, who was supposed to dance that night, fell ill, and Alonso's Giselle was born. Refering to that first performance, (and many others before se created her own version for Ballet Nacional de Cuba), she said that she used to dance the role "a la Markova" (given the fact that Markova has always been her idol), and it wasn't until later on that she began to investigate the character, look at old lithographs of the ballet, understand the way that it had been danced 'till then by the most famous ballerinas of her time, all this in an attempt to go "back in time" to "feel" the romanticism of the plot to finally "DESIGN" her own Giselle and give the role her personal signature (in such a way that she became , for some critics, the best Giselle ever). She also stated that she NEVER danced Giselle the same way twice, saying that she would decide right before the performance how did she wanted that night her Giselle to be, more on the flirt mood , or more sad, or more fragile and sick, or even if she, earlier in the first act, wanted to let the non expert audience "feel" that a tragedy was about to happen later on. Having seen lots of her Giselles, i can give testimony of this. THEY WERE NEVER THE SAME CHARACTER. :thumbsup:

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I have recently had the privilege of seeing 2 performances of National Ballet of Cuba's Giselle. We saw Anette Delgado in both performances (with Joel Carreno) and she was terrific. Alicia Alonso came on for the (non) curtain calls at both performances and brought down the glass roof. This very traditional Giselle is a testament to her amazing commitment and dedication to dance. The whole company looked wonderful and Anette Delgado was everything you could ask for in a Giselle - very strong in both technique and acting, but looking very fragile at the same time. The corps were just awesome.

Alicia Alonso was obviously an amazing dancer but when you think of the dancers who have come through her company and are adored world-wide for their technique and style you begin to realise her genius.

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I was persuaded by cubanmiamiboy's recommendation to get the VAI dvd Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina Assoluta. It's a collection of abbreviated performance clips from 1958 (her portions of the Black Swan pdd) to 1985 (something from La Peri, with Jorge Esquivel). It's astonishing to think that Alonso was a principal with Ballet Theater before even the more elderly of us were born.

A couple of impressions that surprised me, and didn't quite fit with my previous impressions:

1) She obviously took complete artistic control of the way she is presented on video. Even regarding tempi. For example: the extremely slow, almost lugubrious adagio portion of the Giselle pdd (with Azari Plisetsky) -- switching abruptly to the fastest sequence of perfect soubresauts I've ever seen. I mean FAST. Both put the focus on things Alonso did particularly well.

2) Her hilarious, absolutely wacky scene with the mother in Fille Mal Gardee (1968) She was over 50, but she distills the manipulative teenager, just staying on the right side of caricature. You have to see it to believe it. Then there's her 1968 Swanhilda, posing as the doll, deliberately confusing and makiing fun of Dr. Coppelius. Wickedly funny, as Coppellia usually is not (for me at least). Yet it was as technically pure in its way as something very classical.

3) Something perhaps best forgotten -- the older Alonso's bedroom scene from Oedipus Rex, with a bare-chested and very young Esquivel and a weak, derivataive modernist score by the Cuban composer Leo Brouwer. Considering that Jocasta was, indeed, Oedipus's mother, the age difference may actually make sense. But it's an exercise in egoism and faux-modernity that is rather embarrassing.

The 1960 Pas de Quatre with Hayden, Kay, and Slavenska -- already mentioned on another thread -- is on this dvd.

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I, too, finally succumbed and bought the Alonso tape. The Black Swan with Youskevitch was a great disappointment. I hate to think of people who never saw him perform live would judge him by this tape; (he was about 46 at the time). I have always admired Alonso's aristocratic manner in this pas; no trace of the Vamp here. She also performed Florine's solo from Bluebird with this same aristocratic manner. She was the only dancer I saw who performed it this way---and to this day I cringe when the Florine's get too cutesy. (I wonder, cubanmiamiboy--how is it performed in Cuba?) I can live without most of the tape. I never cared for her Cuban Giselles, and especially her partners, nor the Alberto Alonso choreography. A taste of the real Romantic Alonso comes through in the PDQ; it's the reason I bought the tape after seeing it on youtube. I am very pleased at the way she was captured in this performance. When she first started performing Taglioni she would alternate with Markova; and unfortunately picked up on an annoying (for me!) habit of Markova. When striking an arabesque the foot on her extended leg broke at the ankle and pointed upward--(or, the leg was east and the foot was northeast). I was so pleased to see that this did not occur in this recorded performance.

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I too am a fan of Alonzo's Pas de Quatre, everything about it, the head positions, the shoulders, the subtle changes in hte ribs, the arresting balances -- but most of all the POINTED FEET in jumps. her little cabrioles are the prettiest things anywhere, the ankles, insteps, toes have such alacrity to them....

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Alicia Alonso was obviously an amazing dancer but when you think of the dancers who have come through her company and are adored world-wide for their technique and style you begin to realise her genius.

Absolutely true. I think that the Alonso phenomenom goes way beyond the ballerina herself. It is the school,(the biggest worldwide), the training method, the spirit and finally, the assimilation of the latin flavor by the public within the very euro-centered ballet world. That's what makes Mme. Alonso :) a genious.

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I was recently reading an old program from Ballet Nacional de Cuba from october 2000, when Mme. Alonso :off topic: organized a program called "Gala tribute to George Balanchine" during the XVII Havana Ballet Festival. The program notes is based in an interview in which Mme. Alonso describes some of her experiences working with Mr. Balanchine. I thought it would be a good idea to translate some of these notes . Here they go:

Mme.Alonso on Balanchine and the music/interpretation/pure dance issue:

"I remember the polemic discusions in United States, between those in favor of psichological/dramatic ballets, a la Tudor and Agnes de Mille, and then the tendency basically represented by Balanchine, in which form and music were enough reason, ojective and starting point. Some would criticize Balanchine for he would not create ballets with a story to tell, with an argument, to which he angrily answered "I create ballets to dance, not to suffer. To have that, i would rather go to a dramatic theater play!" In fact, his position wasn't as closed as it would appear, because in some ocassions he tried to create this "meaningful" type of works, althought he never achieved with them the success of his abstract and non-argument creations. With Balanchine i couldn't dance a ballet the way i was used to, for i had to go and interpret a score no by its melody, but basically by its rythm. Even though the dificulties, i totally enjoyed his choreographies. It really amazed me the fact that musically, he maintained a specific rythm, and that he would play with it due to an imagination that seemed to have not limits."

Mme. Alicia Alonso :pinch:

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This video will be released by VAI:

Giselle (Adam) VAI DVD 4391, $34.95

On October 31, 1980, a unique event in the world of dance took place at the Grand Theatre of Havana. Alicia Alonso, the prima ballerina assoluta of the 20th century, and Vladimir Vasiliev, the most distinguished Russian male dancer of his era, performed together for the first time. This video documents that unforgettable Giselle, presenting the two great stars accompanied by a first-rate supporting cast and the famous corps de ballet of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. (Please note: part of the original video master for this performance was lost; the version presented here was compiled from sources of varying quality. Though the final results are less than ideal, the video technicians did succeed in preserving a memorable performance that would otherwise be lost to posterity.)

DVD Bonus: “Encounter” – Alonso and Vasiliev in rehearsal for Giselle introduced by Anton Dolin (15 minutes). 110 minutes (plus bonus = 15 minutes), Color, Stereo/Mono, All regions.

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This video will be released by VAI:
Giselle (Adam) VAI DVD 4391, $34.95

On October 31, 1980, a unique event in the world of dance took place at the Grand Theatre of Havana. Alicia Alonso, the prima ballerina assoluta of the 20th century, and Vladimir Vasiliev, the most distinguished Russian male dancer of his era, performed together for the first time. This video documents that unforgettable Giselle, presenting the two great stars accompanied by a first-rate supporting cast and the famous corps de ballet of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. (Please note: part of the original video master for this performance was lost; the version presented here was compiled from sources of varying quality. Though the final results are less than ideal, the video technicians did succeed in preserving a memorable performance that would otherwise be lost to posterity.)

DVD Bonus: “Encounter” – Alonso and Vasiliev in rehearsal for Giselle introduced by Anton Dolin (15 minutes). 110 minutes (plus bonus = 15 minutes), Color, Stereo/Mono, All regions.

My old long time dream finally comes true... :):yahoo: :yahoo:

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(Please note: part of the original video master for this performance was lost; the version presented here was compiled from sources of varying quality. Though the final results are less than ideal, the video technicians did succeed in preserving a memorable performance that would otherwise be lost to posterity.)
I'm impressed by their honesty about this.

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Or you can take it as a warning that the final product is a jolt fest. :):yahoo::yahoo:

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I was recently reading an old program from Ballet Nacional de Cuba from october 2000, when Mme. Alonso :clapping: organized a program called "Gala tribute to George Balanchine" during the XVII Havana Ballet Festival. The program notes is based in an interview in which Mme. Alonso describes some of her experiences working with Mr. Balanchine. I thought it would be a good idea to translate some of these notes . Here they go:.

Mme.Alonso on Balanchine's Theme and Variations" staging with her and Youskevitch.

Alonso's variation:

"About my variation, i sill recall the intense rehearsals. Balanchine would take musically a tempo of four counts of repetitions of a given step and would ask me to dance 5 of them, and that was crazy, because i would listen to the music catching up while i was still turning! But then, he would establish a phrase system in which one,somehow, would connect the end just in time with the music. That was a hard mental and physical test for the ballerina. It was a divilish game between music and technique, very typical of Balanchine."

Mme Alicia Alonso :clapping:

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