Tina Ramirez, the founding artistic director of Ballet Hispánico, passed away on September 6, 2022. The legendary dance innovator died peacefully on Tuesday evening, surrounded by her family, as confirmed to HOLA! USA.
Tina, born in 1929, founded Ballet Hispánico in 1970 and served as Artistic Director until 2009. Under her direction, over 45 choreographers created works for the company, many of international stature and others in the early stages of their career, including Talley Beatty, Ramon Oller, Maria Rivera, and William Whitener, among many others.
Those who closely worked with her, shared their condolences to the family and everyone affected by the loss. “Tina Ramirez was a bright light. She was an artist and activist who founded Ballet Hispánico to address structural inequities in the arts. From the moment I met her nearly twenty years ago, I knew I wanted to be part of the artistic movement she was passionately creating. Tina was fierce, brilliant, and completely her own person. She leaves behind a rich legacy of bringing dance, cultural connection, and transformation to students and communities throughout the world,” said Board Chair Kate Lear.
“I met Tina in 1967 when Ballet Hispánico was in residence at PS 75. I cemented myself to her then. She was a true visionary, a passionate and tireless cultural and artistic leader who was way ahead of her time. She built a company from community roots into a world-renowned treasure. With education always at the core of her mission, she gave the gift of dance and Hispanic culture to generations. I count myself lucky to be among the countless people she influenced,” said Board Chair Emeritus Jody Arnhold.
“I am heartbroken by the news of Tina’s passing. Her legacy lives on not only in the extraordinary gift she left the world but in every person, child, artist, and family member she touched and inspired. We are all part of her legacy of access and cultural pride and will continue her mission to give everyone the right to find their bliss in dance,” said Eduardo Vilaro, Artistic Director & CEO.
Ms. Ramirez was born in Venezuela, the daughter of a Mexican bullfighter and grandniece to a Puerto Rican educator who founded the island’s first secular school for girls. Her performing career included international touring with the Federico Rey Dance Company and the Broadway productions of Kismet and Lute Song.
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. Juilliard awarded her an honorary degree, Doctor of Fine Arts, in 2018. Numerous other awards include the Honor Award from Dance/USA (2009), the Award of Merit from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (2007), the Dance Magazine Award (2002), the Hispanic Heritage Award (1999), a Citation of Honor at the 1995 New York Dance and Performance Awards (the “Bessies”), the NYS Governor’s Arts Award (1987), and the NYC Mayor’s Award of Honor for Arts & Culture (1983).
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. Ballet Hispánico brings communities together to celebrate and explore Latino cultures through innovative dance productions, transformative dance training, and enduring community engagement experiences.
From its inception, Ballet Hispánico focused on providing a haven for Black and Brown Latinx youth and families seeking an artistic place and cultural sanctuary. By providing the space for Latino dance and dancers to flourish, Ballet Hispánico uplifted marginalized emerging and working artists, which, combined with the training, authenticity of voice, and power of representation, fueled the organization’s roots and trajectory.
Through its exemplary artistry, distinguished training program, and deep-rooted community engagement efforts, Ballet Hispánico champions and amplifies underrepresented voices in the field. Ballet Hispánico has provided a place of honor for the omitted, overlooked, and oppressed for over fifty years. As it looks to the next fifty years and beyond, Ballet Hispánico seeks to empower and give agency to the Latino experience and those individuals within it.