UNESCO makes Alicia Alonso World Ambassador for Dance

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) awarded the distinction to the prima ballerina assoluta during the 35th ITI-Unesco World Congress of Performing Arts, in Segovia.

"I am very grateful and honoured", the choreographer and director of the National Ballet of Cuba (BNC) said when receiving the distinction, having been made a Good Will Ambassador for UNESCO several years ago.

In an emotional speech, the flamenco dancer, choreographer and Spanish actress Cristina Hoyos – who was also named World Dance Ambassador together with Alicia Alonso said: "Both retired from the stage, we continue to dance inside". Hoyos in 1969 joined Antonio Gades in his company as his dance partner, and remained with him for two decades.

"If reincarnation existed, we would ask (Alicia and I) to do it in other dancers", said Hoyos before the huge audience in the Convent of Santa Cruz la Real, a 15th century building that serves as headquarters for the IE University.

During her stay in Spain, Alicia Alonso was received the day before by the mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, who thanked the Cuban ballet legend for her great contribution to dance and universal culture.

"It is an honour to be able to touch her hands", said Carmena excitedly as she greeted Alonso at the headquarters of the Madrid City Council.

The mayor confessed to feeling happy to welcome Alonso, considered one of the most influential artists of the second half of the twentieth century around the world.

"I am delighted to be with you," said Alicia Alonso and her husband, writer and dance critic Pedro Simón, who highlighted the successes of the recently completed tour of the prestigious Cuban company in Spain, Italy and France.

During the affectionate meeting, Carmena stressed that Alicia and her country, Cuba, had in Madrid a friendly city council.

Alicia Alonso also received the title of 'Illustrious Visitor' of Segovia, due to her influence and her fight for culture especially ballet to be accessible to all in Cuba, from the mayor of Segovia, Clara Luquero.

The legendary dancer and choreographer stated that it is an honour to receive these awards in recognition of her work and her "desire to be and to give", because, she said, "it is the greatest thing that can happen to the human being."

She stated that she continues to feel committed to life and that, wherever she is, she will always be grateful for the recognition of her work.

Link to original report in Spanish

About Alicia Alonso

Overcoming near blindness and numerous other obstacles that would have crippled lesser people, Cuban dancer Alicia Alonso (born 1921) became one of the greatest ballerinas and has starred in the most famous ballets all over the world. In 1948 she founded and directed the Alicia Alonso Ballet Company, which eventually became the Cuban National Ballet, after she returned to Cuba in 1959 after the triumph of the revolution and she was asked by Fidel Castro to launch a national ballet school.

Watch this BBC Witness documentary from 2015 in which Alicia Alonso is interviewed and talks about the development of the national school and ballet company in Cuba. 4 minutes with subtitles