Carmen in Cuba… 45 Years Later

The curtains of the García Lorca Hall of Gran Teatro de La Habana rise, and an experienced Alicia Alonso, ballerina of worldwide renown, irrupts on the stage embodying a seductive and sensual gypsy.

Carmen personifies the breaking of canons at a time that was dominated by men loaded with prejudices against women who tried to make their way in life.
The gypsy with multiple problems at the cigar factory where she works is put in prison by order of Captain Ziñiga because she despised his love. But conscious of men’s weaknesses and of the potentialities of her body, Carmen seduces Sergeant José to help her escape, forgetting his duty and turning him into a smuggler and a thief. As if it were not enough, the gypsy falls in love with bullfighter Escamillo, triumphant at the most recent bullfight. When José realizes that he has been betrayed by Carmen, he stabs her to death.

With new and stylized ballet movements, Carmen allows the dancers’ to develop the technique granting it more naturalness but at the same time abiding by the aesthetic principles of classic dance.

But the uniqueness of the Cuban interpretation of this one-act and three-scene piece – particularly prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso, whom I know only from video recordings of her spectacular performances – is the capacity to interpret and personify it with the contribution of the fusion between Cuba and Andalusia, with movements that characterize both the Cuban and the gypsy dancing styles.

Carmen was created by Roland Petit in 1949, becoming a scandal at the time due to the eroticist nature of the choreographies and the radical change of wardrobe that made it more daring.

Maestro Alberto Alonso created a new version in 1967 with other choreographic, aesthetic and dramatic elements, adding the music by Rodion Schedrin. This staging was premiered at the Bolshoi Theater in Russia, in April 1967, with Maya Plisetskaya in the main role. On August 1st of that same year, Alicia marked a milestone for that character with the premiere of the ballet in our country.

Carmen’s choreography has a high dramatic and technical content that requires great dancing skill and dedication in the interpretation. In our country it has been danced by other great figures of the dance: Loipa, Aurora, Josefina and Mirta (the four jewels), Bárbara, Anette and Viegsay, but there is no doubt that saying Carmen equals saying Alicia Alonso.

Forty-five years later, Carmen still lives in the memory of ballet fans as one of the ballets that resumes the greatness of the Cuban ballet school, of its creators: the Alonso trio (Alicia, Alberto and Fernando), and of the technical and interpretational potentiality of its members.

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