Ballet Hispánico: Over 45 Years of Celebrating Latino Dance & Culture 

Ballet Hispánico

A cultural institution
Ballet Hispánico has made a distinctive and indelible imprint on the artistic, social and cultural life of the United States.  From its origins as a dance school and community-based performing arts troupe, it has become a thriving artistic, educational and cultural institution. 
The Founder
Ballet Hispánico’s extraordinary journey began with Tina Ramirez.

The Venezuela-born daughter of a Mexican bullfighter and Puerto Rican homemaker, she immigrated with her family to New York at age 7. Ramirez studied classical, contemporary and Spanish dance.

Ramirez studied classical, contemporary and Spanish dance.

By the early '60s, she had toured internationally with the Federico Rey Dance Company and had hoofed in Broadway productions of Kismet and Lute Song.

Ballet Hispánico is born
Ramirez founded Ballet Hispánico in 1970. "People didn't know who Hispanics were," she explains. "We were all around New York City, but people thought we were dishwashers, people washing the floors. We weren't paid any attention."

“I just wanted Hispanics to have a voice in dance and for people to get to know us as people.” – Tina Ramirez

Years ahead of her time, Ramirez was one of the first dance artistic directors to view education as part of her core mission.

She wanted her students and dancers to feel empowered. Ramirez believed that dance could transform their lives.

“When you grow up poor and you walk into a place like this, you feel like something. You can come here and feel like, “Man, I’m something!” – AnaMaria Correa

A new chapter
Ballet Hispánico has been led since 2009 by Cuban-born Artistic Director & CEO Eduardo Vilaro.

He studied under Ramirez as a teenager and was a Company member from 1988 to 1996.

With bachelor's and master's degrees in dance and interdisciplinary arts, respectively, Vilaro had established Luna Negra Dance Theater in Chicago in 1999. He came to Ballet Hispánico with authority and vision.

“Our mission continues. We explore our Latino culture. We share our Latino culture and we celebrate our Latino culture. All through the lens of dance.” – Eduardo Vilaro

Nurturing Emerging Latino Voices
Under his leadership. Ballet Hispánico has won acclaim with performances in the United States and around the world. 

“Ballet Hispánico shows what it is to be Latino in the modern world.” – Financial Times

“Ballet Hispánico is contemporary dance’s hottest spot.” – Washington Post

Vilaro also launched Instituto Coreográfico in 2010, an “incubator” for emerging choreographers.

“Many companies pay lip service to nurturing talent, but Ballet Hispánico has devoted significant resources and care to cultivating emerging artists.” -The New York Times.

Ballet Hispánico’s additional innovations include an acclaimed program at the Joyce Theater in New York City which featured works by three female choreographers. Two were developed at the Instituto Coreográfico.

The School of Dance
With over 700 students – from all age groups – the Ballet Hispánico School of Dance continues to change lives.

“As I watched the beautiful babies of the School of Dance perform, it made me go back a long time ago in Puerto Rico. Back then, there were no wonderful organizations like Ballet Hispanico.”

“Can you imagine if I had the advantage of being one of the little girls we saw tonight, being supported and encouraged in arts education? Especially, especially for immigrant children!” – Oscar-winner Rita Moreno.

Under Vilaro’s leadership, Ballet Hispánico’s Community Arts Partnerships programs now have a dynamic presence in all five New York City boroughs as well as communities in California and Texas.

The programs pair highly trained dancers, choreographers and teaching artists with students, educators, dance audiences and the general public.

A Vision for the Future
As Ballet Hispánico moves toward its 50th anniversary in 2020, Latinos are now a vibrant, diverse and multi-faceted community often at the center of the American mainstream. But the mission, begun by Tina Ramirez, remains the same.

“We want every experience at Ballet Hispánico to be a transformative one.”

“Ballet Hispánico has never rested in this mission. We are not a trend; we do not react to the issues at hand.”

“We are a constant standard bearer for a vision of diversity and inclusion and have been so for 47 years.” – Eduardo Vilaro
Credits: All media
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