U.S. President, Barack Obama greets prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso. Photo: Granma

Minutes before giving his speech at the Alicia Alonso Grand Theatre of Havana, U.S. President, Barack Obama, greeted the prima ballerina assoluta.

In a brief encounter, Obama expressed his admiration for her work and satisfaction to finally be meeting her in person, noted Pedro Simón Martínez, director of the National Museum of Dance, speaking to Granma.

For her part, the Director of the National Ballet of Cuba noted that the meeting “has been marvelous, above all because he is the first figure I have received at the Grand Theater since it was renamed in my honor,” for which she felt “very happy.”

In September 2015, the Council of State made the extraordinary decision, in recognition of Alonso’s contribution to Cuban and global culture, to rename the establishment the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater of Havana.

The play house located on Prado and San Rafael Streets, reopened its doors - after undergoing a three-year restoration – on January 1, 2016, with a gala by the National Ballet, in commemoration of the 57th anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution.

Cuba and the U.S. share a long history of ballet. Alicia and Fernando Alonso traveled to the United States in 1937 to continue their education and begin their careers as professional ballet dancers.

Years later, on October 28, 1948, Alicia fulfilled her dream of creating a professional ballet company in Cuba with the support of important figures from U.S. ballet.

In recent years the National Ballet has toured 38 U.S. cities, while numerous choreographers from that country have created works for the company’s repertory.