Cuba's Top Ballet Stars You Need to Know

Cuban ballet dancer in motion ©  Chrys Omori / Flickr
Cuban ballet dancer in motion © Chrys Omori / Flickr
Photo of Jack Guy
21 December 2017

The history of Cuban ballet is a complicated one, with the economic embargo making life difficult for dancers and teachers. Nonetheless, the island has produced some illustrious ballet dancers, and here are some of the best ones to look up.

Alicia Alonso (right) is the queen of Cuban ballet |

Alicia Alonso

Alonso is Cuba’s most famous ballerina and has been director of the Cuban National Ballet since its formation in 1948. She is responsible for the development of Cuban ballet under Fidel Castro, who afforded her considerable funding and patronage. Now in her late 90s, Alonso is the grand old dame of Cuban ballet.

Carlos Acosta

Famed for his athleticism, Acosta has danced around the world during an amazing career. After leaving Cuba he danced for various companies before joining the Royal Ballet in London in 1998. He is still part of the company today. Acosta is renowned for being a mixed-race performer in a ballet world that is dominated by white dancers.

Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta in Tzigane | © scillystuff / Flickr

Lorena Feijóo

Like many dancers who trained with the Cuban National Ballet, Feijóo later left to perform with other companies around the world. In her case she spent time in Mexico and Belgium before becoming the principal dancer at the San Francisco Ballet. She spent 17 years at the company before retiring at the end of the 2017 season.

Alejandro Virelles

After rising to the rank of principal dancer at the Cuban National Ballet in 2009, Virelles spent two years at the top of the national dance scene before moving to the Barcelona Ballet in 2011. He now performs at the English National Ballet under director Tamara Rojo.

Cuban girls practice ballet | © vcheregati / flickr

Loipa Araújo

One of the so-called “Four Jewels of Cuban ballet” alongside Aurora Bosch, Josefina Méndez and Mirta Mirta Plá, Araújo is associate artistic director of the English National Ballet. She joined in September 2012 after stints as principal dancer at the Cuban National Ballet and the Ballet de Marseille.

Aurora Bosch

After rising through the system at the Cuban National Ballet, Bosch started to teach the art form at the Spanish National Ballet. She has since moved around the world teaching pupils at various schools.

Josefina Méndez

Nicknamed Yuyi, Méndez served as prima ballerina at the Cuban National Ballet for more than 30 years. She was also known for taking more of a hands-on role in the direction of the National Ballet as Alicia Alonso’s sight started to fail her. Méndez sadly passed away in 2007.

Mirta Plá

The last of the four jewels, Plá made her professional ballet debut in 1953 at the age of 13. She rose to become prima ballerina at the Cuban National Ballet before departing for various companies around the world. She later settled in Spain before she died from cancer in 2003.

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