Cuban ballet dancer Alicia Alonso, considered to be one of the greatest dancers in history, turned 96 on Wednesday.
"I'm still alive, I'm still dancing and I'm still living," the legendary ballerina told teleSUR in an exclusive interview.
Alonso is a former "prima ballerina" of the Cuban National Ballet, who is famous for bringing her personal style to ballet and helping to popularize the art in Cuba. She is well-known for choreographing and performing in the ballets “Carmen” and “Giselle.” Alonso also founded Cuba’s first professional ballet company 60 years ago.
After leaving Cuba for the United States at a young age to learn to dance, she then supported late Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s socialist revolution and went on to become one of the island’s most important cultural figures.
She also performed in a number of prestigious ballets in France, the Soviet Union and Italy. But due to her support of socialist Cuba, she was shunned by a number of international audiences. In 2000, Fidel gave Alonso the Order of Jose Marti, one of the greatest acts of state recognition in Cuba.
"The historic legacy that he leaves is overwhelming and it's also represented in Cuban culture. That's why, now and forever, we say: thank you Fidel!," Alonso said in a statement following Fidel’s death.
Early in her career, Alonso was first diagnosed with a detached retina and has had persistent vision impairments since, including a number of operations that rendered her unable to dance for significant periods.
While Alonso has been retired from professional dancers since 1995, she has since led her country’s national ballet and continued as a teacher and choreographer.