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[Poetry Friday] The Beauty of the Prima Ballerina from Cuba

Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand and Illustrated by Raul Colon

poetry friday

Myra here.

It has been awhile since I joined the Poetry Friday community, and I am glad to be back. Thank you, lovely Tabatha of The Opposite Of Indifference, for hosting this week.

I try as much as I can to link our Poetry Friday posts to our current reading theme. From October til end of the year, we are celebrating beauty, music, film, visual and performing arts (among others) in literature. I am glad to discover this biography of a Prima Ballerina from Cuba told in glorious verse.

Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina

Written by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand Illustrated by Raul Colon
Published by Marshall Cavendish (2011)
ISBN-10: 0761455620 (ISBN13: 9780761455622)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

One of the greatest things I love about our reading themes is that it leads me to historical accounts that I was previously unaware of, or to interesting visionaries and highly talented individuals such as Alicia Alonso from Cuba.

This 64-paged book begins from Alicia’s birth in 1921. Known to her family as Unga, she was described to be a child of Hungarian gypsy grace. The reader is taken into a journey of her family history, and how she fell in love with ballet, especially after taking lessons from Nikolai Yavorsky.

There was a poetic description of her very first solo performance and her growing commitment to the beauty and pain of ballet. Raul Colon’s soft, ethereal art complements the verse perfectly, alongside a life that seems suffused with poise, agility, swan-like form, and an aesthetic that radiates from within.

I also liked how the beauty of ballet was not romanticized. I think it is important for young readers to understand and appreciate exactly what it takes to live with such constant pain, sacrifice, and bleeding toes to achieve a level of perfection that is always on point.

The fact that Alicia Alonso nearly lost her eyesight was sobering, yet her continued commitment to her art, firm resolve, and singular pursuit to be everything that she is meant to be – was truly awe-inspiring. My Poetry Friday offering to you all is “Flaming Souls” as Alicia met the man who would eventually become her husband.

I also found Youtube clips of Alicia Alonso performing Black Swan and Giselle. Enjoy!

#LitWorld2018GB Update: Cuba

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

8 comments on “[Poetry Friday] The Beauty of the Prima Ballerina from Cuba

  1. The book looks like a beautiful marriage of poetry and art – and non-fiction!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lindabaie

    New to me, Myra, & my youngest granddaughter, 7, is already aflame with ballet, starting her third year. I will share with her, hope to get the book from the library. The story sounds poignant, & that love at the end something to savor.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Myra, for this article. Alicia Alonso, born in December 21, 1921, was very much in control of Ballet National de Cuba when I visited the island in 2011. I asked how could she choreograph with her limited vision. “I imagine the ballets deep in my mind,” she said, “I draw them in my head. I feel what the dancer is doing on the stage.” What an icon!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This book looks wonderful–will have to see if it’s in my library. Thanks for featuring it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kay Mcgriff

    Thank you for sharing the book–I learned something new!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Fascinating story! And the illustrations complement the text so well.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve never seen this. I wonderful what year it was published. It looks divine, yet truthful, a hard balance. Perfect for such a subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a special treat, thanks for sharing the book (Raul Colon is a favorite of mine) and the lovely enchanting dancing clips Myra! The one of Giselle reminded me of a soft painting in the woods.

    Liked by 1 person

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