Ballet Hispánico Part I: History & Mission

For fifty years Ballet Hispánico has been the leading voice intersecting artistic excellence and advocacy, and is now the largest Latinx cultural organization in the United States and one of America’s Cultural Treasures.

Audience at oudoor performanceBallet Hispánico

One of America's Cultural Treasures

Ballet Hispánico, America's leading Latinx dance organization, has been bringing people together to celebrate the joy and diversity of Latino cultures for 50 years. Over the past five decades, Ballet Hispánico’s mission-driven ethos has been a catalyst of change for communities throughout our nation.

The Company Performs Línea Recta at the Block PartyBallet Hispánico

Ballet Hispánico creates a platform to showcase the richness of the Latinx culture, via performances, education and social advocacy.

Tina Ramirez headshotBallet Hispánico

The Founder

Tina Ramirez sought to give voice to the Hispanic experience and break through strereotypes. Founded by Ms. Ramirez in 1970, Ballet Hispánico quickly became a haven for Black and Brown Latinx youth and families seeking artistic place and cultural sanctuary.

Tina Ramirez, professional portraitBallet Hispánico

Ms. Ramirez was born in Caracas, Venezuela. In 1950, she arrived in New York City and began her training with Lola Bravo, a classical Spanish dancer and teacher.

Lolita Gomez, Tina Ramirez posed with Federico ReyBallet Hispánico

She studied classical, contemporary and Spanish dance.

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

Company perfomance shot, female dancersBallet Hispánico

Ms. Ramirez gave Hispanic culture a place in American dance and established what is now the nation's largest Latinx cultural organization.

School of Dance students with TinaBallet Hispánico

Ballet Hispánico was founded at the height of the post-war civil rights movements. As a Latina immigrant, Ramirez's vision for Ballet Hispánico was to provide Black and Brown communities access and opportunities within the arts.

It is the service in Ms. Ramirez's mission that makes the founding of this organization unparalleled.

Sandra Rivera Teaching FlamencoBallet Hispánico

Years ahead of her time, Ms. Ramirez was one of the first artistic directors to view education as a core component.

She wanted students to feel empowered. Ms. Ramirez believed dance could transform lives.

Tina Ramirez teaching at Ballet Hispánico's studio on 34th StreetBallet Hispánico

“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!'" – Dr. AnaMaria Correa

Original female Company dancers by Kenn DuncanBallet Hispánico

The Birth of the Company

From its grassroots origins as a dance school and community-based performing arts troupe, the organization quickly expanded beyond its own Upper West Side neighborhood. Ballet Hispánico debuted its first New York Season at the Clark Theatre, initiated community arts programs in New York City Public Schools, and began touring repertory nationally and internationally within the first decade of its founding.

Company performance 1Ballet Hispánico

Tina Ramirez with the Dancers of Ballet Hispánico (1991-08-30) by Bruce LauranceBallet Hispánico

Founder, Tina Ramirez’s idea for the Company was to model it similar to a Theater Repertory Company, with a roster of diversified choreographers trending on the dance scene.

Photo of Company in Danse Creole by Geoffrey Holder and 1976Ballet Hispánico

Ms. Ramirez's ability to find storytellers who could work with Latin music and history led to some of Ballet Hispánico’s most beloved works.

Tina with Ballet Hispánico CompanyBallet Hispánico

The Company's reach grew with international touring in Spain and Argentina. The exceptional artistry displayed by the Company, solidified Ballet Hispánico as America's premier Latino Dance Company by its 20th anniversary.

Tina Ramirez at medal of honor ceremonyBallet Hispánico

In recognition of her enduring contributions to the field of dance, Ms. Ramirez received the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest cultural honor, in 2005.

Dance Magazine diversity photoshootBallet Hispánico

A New Era

In 2009, Ms. Ramirez stepped down as Artistic Director and selected Eduardo Vilaro, a former Company member of Ballet Hispánico, to take the reins of what she had built.

Eduardo Vilaro and Pedro Ruiz in Cafe America by Tom BrazilBallet Hispánico

Mr. Vilaro was a Company member from 1988 to 1996. He assisted Ms. Ramirez in building educational programs for inner-city children.

Eduardo Vilaro, Dancer by Photo by William FrederkingBallet Hispánico

With bachelor's and master's degrees in dance and interdisciplinary arts, Vilaro established Luna Negra Dance Theater in Chicago in 1999. After a 10-year record of achievement as Luna Negra's Founder and Artistic Director, he returned to Ballet Hispánico with authority and vision.

"For me, culture and the cultural dialogue is about inclusion. I want to make everyone feel that they can come in and be a little Latino." – Eduardo Vilaro

Ballet Hispánico Founder, Tina Ramirez, with Artistic Director & CEO, Eduardo VilaroBallet Hispánico

Learn More

Continue exploring in Part II and Part III of our Google Arts & Culture stories or learn more about Artistic Director & CEO, Eduardo Vilaro in our story dedicated to his leadership and artistic vision for the organization.

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