APRIL 6 - ALICIA ALONSO
Cuban ballet dancer, choreographer and founder of the Cuban National Ballet, Alicia Alonso riveted audiences as the leading lady in several classical and Romantic ballets, particularly known for her portrayals of Giselle and Carmen.
This is all the more notable considering that Alonso was diagnosed with a detached retina at the age of 20. Although she underwent three surgical procedures to repair the problem, it was concluded that she would never have peripheral vision and would suffer from partial blindness in one eye.
After her final surgery, she was ordered to lie in bed motionless for an entire year. Her husband, Fernando Alonso, would sit with her on a daily basis, and they’d use their fingers to learn each movement for the great dancing roles in classical ballet. She later recalled that it was there - “blinded, motionless, flat on her back” - that she taught herself the role of Giselle.
Without her peripheral vision, Alonso had to train her dancing partners to be exactly where she needed them, when she needed them. She worked with set designers to install different-colored spotlights to guide her movement, overcoming her handicap to receive rave reviews.