HAVANA – Former ballet dancer, professor and founder of the Cuban Ballet School, Fernando Alonso, died in Havana after a life dedicated to dance on the island, state television reported. He was 98.
The cause of death was not released, but state television said Alonso’s funeral activities began on Saturday night and will continue on Sunday in the vestibule of the Cuban National Theater.
Alonso will be buried in Havana’s Colon Cemetery.
He was “the teacher of generations of dancers” in Cuba and worldwide, and the creator of what is known as the “Cuban method or school of ballet for the teaching of classic ballet,” state television said.
Alonso, born in Havana on Dec. 27, 1914, studied ballet under professors such as Mikhail Mordking, Mikhail Fokine and Alexandra Fedorova, and he made his debut in 1937 as a dancer with the Mordking Ballet Company.
In subsequent years, he was hired by the American Ballet Caravan, directed by George Balanchine, the American Ballet Theatre and the Russian Ballet of Monte Carlo (Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo).
Alonso, married at the time to Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso, in 1948 founded along with her and his brother, Alberto Alonso, the Alicia Alonso Ballet Company, which later would become the Cuban National Ballet, a company he directed until 1975.
In 2000, he was awarded Cuba’s National Dance Prize for lifetime achievement and in 2008 he received the Prix Benois de la Dance, considered to be the Oscar of dance, at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre.