from Wikipedia

Tina Ramirez (born 1929) is a Puer­to Rican/Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can dancer and chore­o­g­ra­ph­er, best known as the Founder and Artis­tic Direc­tor (1970–2009) of Bal­let His­pan­i­co, the pre­mier Lati­no dance orga­ni­za­tion in the Unit­ed States.


Ramirez was born in Cara­cas, Venezuela in 1929, where her father, the Mex­i­can bull­fight­er Jose Ramirez, known as Gaoni­ta, was appear­ing. Her moth­er, Glo­ria Ces­tero, was the daugh­ter of a polit­i­cal­ly active Puer­to Rican fam­i­ly and sub­se­quent­ly became a leader in the Puer­to Rican immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty in New York City. Ramirez moved to New York City at the age of six or sev­en. As a young dance stu­dent, at a time when the worlds of bal­let, mod­ern dance, and eth­nic dance were large­ly sep­a­rate, she trained rig­or­ous­ly in all three, study­ing Span­ish dance with Lola Bra­vo and Luisa Pericet, clas­si­cal bal­let with Chester Hale and Alexan­dra Danilo­va, and mod­ern dance with Anna Sokolow. Her pro­fes­sion­al per­form­ing career includ­ed tours with the Fed­eri­co Rey Dance Com­pa­ny, the Xavier Cugat Orches­tra, solo engage­ments in Spain, the inau­gur­al Fes­ti­val of Two Worlds in Spo­le­to, Italy with John But­ler’s com­pa­ny, the Broad­way pro­duc­tions of Cop­per and Brass (in a num­ber chore­o­graphed by Bob Fos­se), Kismet and Lute Song, and the tele­vi­sion adap­ta­tion of Man of La Mancha.

In 1963, Ramirez ful­filled a promise to take over Miss Bravo’s stu­dio upon her retire­ment. In 1967, with fed­er­al fund­ing through an anti-pover­ty pro­gram, she con­ceived and direct­ed an inten­sive train­ing pro­gram for younger stu­dents called “Oper­a­tion High Hopes.” In addi­tion to teach­ing, Ramirez arranged per­for­mances for her young stu­dents. While she demand­ed pro­fes­sion­al behav­ior of them, she was aware that there were few oppor­tu­ni­ties for Lati­nos in pro­fes­sion­al dance at the time. Encour­aged by the grow­ing skill of her pupils and increas­ing requests for per­for­mances, Ramirez for­mal­ly estab­lished Bal­let His­pan­i­co in 1970 to include a com­pa­ny, a school, and edu­ca­tion­al programs.

Artis­tic Director

Ramirez’ vision for the Bal­let His­pan­i­co Com­pa­ny gave con­tem­po­rary His­pan­ic cul­ture its place in Amer­i­can dance, much as Alvin Ailey did for the Black com­mu­ni­ty. Dur­ing her 39 years as Artis­tic Direc­tor, she invit­ed 50 chore­o­g­ra­phers from diverse back­grounds to pro­vide a mod­ern-day inter­pre­ta­tion of Span­ish-speak­ing cul­tures, draw­ing on the ver­sa­til­i­ty of her dancers in bal­let, mod­ern dance, jazz, eth­nic and oth­er dance tech­niques. World-renowned artists respond­ed to her vision, includ­ing bal­let artists Vicente Nebra­da and Alber­to Alon­so; Tal­ley Beat­ty and Anna Sokolow from mod­ern dance; Paco Fer­nan­dez and Jose Coro­n­a­do from eth­nic dance; and Gra­ciela Daniele and Ann Reink­ing from Broad­way. “More than most artis­tic direc­tors, she has con­sis­tent­ly giv­en expo­sure to fresh tal­ent,” nur­tur­ing artists ear­ly in their careers, includ­ing William Whiten­er, for­mer Artis­tic Direc­tor of Kansas City Bal­let; MacArthur Award-Win­ner Susan Mar­shall; Ramon Oller, head of Spain’s Met­ros Dan­za; and Pedro Ruiz, then a mem­ber of the Com­pa­ny, now an inde­pen­dent choreographer.

For each of the 75 new works she com­mis­sioned for the Com­pa­ny (she also acquired 12 works, pro­vid­ed work­shops for four and chore­o­graphed four), Ramirez pro­vid­ed top pro­duc­tion val­ues, reg­u­lar­ly receiv­ing acclaim for sets, cos­tumes and light­ing designs pro­vid­ed by such award-win­ning tal­ents as Eugene Lee, Patri­cia Zip­prodt, Willa Kim, Roger Mor­gan, and Don­ald Holder.

Dur­ing her tenure, Bal­let His­pan­i­co per­formed for over two mil­lion peo­ple across three con­ti­nents. The Com­pa­ny’s nation­al tours includ­ed engage­ments at such major venues as The John F. Kennedy Cen­ter in Wash­ing­ton, DC, the Music Cen­ter in Los Ange­les, The Wortham Cen­ter in Hous­ton, Boston’s Celebri­ty Series, and Jacob’s Pil­low. In 1983, the Com­pa­ny was one of the first to appear at The Joyce The­ater, and has since reg­u­lar­ly pre­sent­ed its New York sea­son there. The Com­pa­ny rep­re­sent­ed the Unit­ed States at Expo ’92 in Seville, Spain, where it was fea­tured at a spe­cial Inde­pen­dence Day Cel­e­bra­tion at the Unit­ed States Pavil­ion. While on a three-week tour of South Amer­i­ca in 1993, Ramirez and the dancers were hon­ored guests at a pri­vate recep­tion with Pres­i­dent Car­los Men­em. The Com­pa­ny’s tele­vi­sion appear­ances includ­ed “CBS Sun­day Morn­ing” with Charles Osgood in 1995 and CBS “The Ear­ly Show” in 2008.


Ramirez’ “con­tri­bu­tion as an edu­ca­tor is in many ways as impor­tant as her lega­cy as an artist and direc­tor.” The Bal­let His­pan­i­co School of Dance employs Ramirez’ orig­i­nal core cur­ricu­lum of bal­let, mod­ern, and Span­ish dance tech­niques — a sin­gu­lar prac­tice among Amer­i­ca’s dance train­ing insti­tu­tions. The School has grown to train hun­dreds of stu­dents year-round. To ensure access for chil­dren of all back­grounds, the School pro­vides schol­ar­ship sup­port, which has grown to over $100,000 per year.

In addi­tion to per­form­ing with Bal­let His­pan­i­co’s own com­pa­ny, alum­ni trained at the School have gone on the sig­nif­i­cant careers, includ­ing Lin­da Celeste Sims, a lead­ing dancer with the Ailey Com­pa­ny; Kim­ber­ly Bray­lock, a mem­ber of the San Fran­cis­co Bal­let; Nan­cy and Rachel Ticotin in film, tele­vi­sion and Broad­way; Michael DeLoren­zo in film and tele­vi­sion; Sara Erde, Span­ish dance artist at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Opera; and Nel­i­da Tira­do, fea­tured Span­ish dancer with the inter­na­tion­al tour of River­dance. Leelee Sobies­ki and Jen­nifer Lopez also took their ear­li­est dance class­es at the School.

A num­ber of alum­ni are now artis­tic direc­tors in their own right, includ­ing Damaris Fer­rer, founder and Artis­tic Direc­tor of Bailes Fer­rer; solo fla­men­co artist San­dra Rivera; and Nel­i­da Tira­do, who was fea­tured in Dance Mag­a­zine’s “25 to Watch” in 2007. For­mer Com­pa­ny mem­ber Eduar­do Vilaro was Founder and Artis­tic Direc­tor of Luna Negra Dance The­ater before tak­ing the reins as Artis­tic Direc­tor at Bal­let His­pan­i­co when Ramirez stepped down.

Ramirez drew on the resources of the Com­pa­ny and School to cre­ate Bal­let His­pan­i­co’s inno­v­a­tive edu­ca­tion­al pro­gram, Primeros Pasos (“First Steps”), which pro­vides pub­lic schools with cus­tom-tai­lored units of study in dance and His­pan­ic cul­ture and offers a broad range of oth­er edu­ca­tion­al activ­i­ties for the pub­lic. This wide-rang­ing ini­tia­tive reg­u­lar­ly reach­es 15,000 stu­dents and adults in New York City and across the nation.


Ramirez’ endur­ing con­tri­bu­tions to the field of dance earned her the Nation­al Medal of Arts, the nation’s high­est cul­tur­al hon­or, in 2005. Juil­liard award­ed her an hon­orary degree, Doc­tor of Fine Arts, in 2018. She received the Hon­or Award from Dance/USA in 2009 and the Award of Mer­it from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Per­form­ing Arts Pre­sen­ters in 2007. In 2004, AARP Mag­a­zine cit­ed Ramirez as “a cul­tur­al trail­blaz­er” and chose her as one of its ten “Peo­ple of the Year.” She received the Dance Mag­a­zine Award in 2002. Ramirez was named a Lati­na of the Year by Lati­na Mag­a­zine in 2000. In 1999, she received an His­pan­ic Her­itage Award, pre­sent­ed at a gala cel­e­bra­tion at The Kennedy Cen­ter. Among her oth­er hon­ors are a Cita­tion of Hon­or at the 1995 New York Dance and Per­for­mance Awards (the “Bessies”), a spe­cial trib­ute at the Capezio Dance Awards in 1992, the NYS Gov­er­nor’s Arts Award (1987), the NYC May­or’s Award of Hon­or for Arts and Cul­ture (1983), and the Man­hat­tan Bor­ough Pres­i­den­t’s Award (1988). She was hon­ored by the Nation­al Puer­to Rican Forum at their 25th Anniver­sary Dinner.

Ramirez has served on the boards of The New 42nd Street, the Asso­ci­a­tion of His­pan­ic Arts, and Dance The­atre Work­shop. She was Co-Chair for the NYC Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion Dance Cur­ricu­lum Blue­print Com­mit­tee; she has also served on numer­ous pan­els, includ­ing the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts, the New York State Coun­cil on the Arts, and The Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion’s Chore­o­g­ra­phers Awards.

Pho­to from the Col­lec­tion of Bal­let Hispanico