Saturday, February 20, 2010

Alicia Alonso and Cuban Dance Music on Itinerarios

I am surely not the only one who recalls the week the great Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso came to town with her Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Wikipedia reports that it was in 1975 and 1976 that Alonso made several tours to the States. I remember it being a few years later than that, but I could be wrong. Members of the San Antonio Symphony were hired to accompany Alonso and her dancers. The performances took place in the pre-restoration Majestic Theater. Dust and musky odors permeated the space, though this did nothing to quell the sense of anticipation amongst the musicians and the public. You see, Alicia Alonso had been an avid supporter of the Castro regime and had therefore fallen from favor in the United States and Canada, even as she continued to be hailed by international critics as the finest ballerina of her time. Given her long absence from American stages, San Antonio was anxious to see what she and her company could bring to the Majestic.

As it turns our, Alicia Alonso and the Cuban National Ballet brought to San Antonio some great performances. Despite being by then in her mid-50s, Maestra Alonso brought a presence to the stage as she danced to music from Tchaikovsky. I think it was from Swan Lake, but here my memory is hazy. Vivid, however, is my memory of energetic choreography to the final Rondo of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5. I played first horn, and that's an experience you don't forget!

On this week's Itinerarios, KPAC's program of music with Latin American roots, we will recreate musically the Alicia Alonso experience as Enrique Batiz leads selections from Swan Lake and the youngster Gustavo Dudamel conducts Mahler's Rondo. The program will also feature some of the stylized social dances which were prevalent as Cuba transitioned from the late 19th Century to the 20th. Popular dance music from the second half of the 20th Century will also share the program with music written specifically for Alicia Alonso.

Itinerarios airs Sunday night from 7 to 9 o'clock on KPAC-San Antonio and KTXI-Ingram. You can listen online at

-Posted by James Baker

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