Tina Ramirez, Founder of Ballet Hispánico, Has Passed Away
Ballet Hispánico announces with great sadness the passing of the founding artistic director of the organization, dance innovator Tina Ramirez, who died peacefully on the evening of September 6 surrounded by her family.
“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 that she left the world, but in each and every person, child, artist and family member that 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.
Tina Ramirez 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.
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, the Broadway productions of Kismet and Lute Song and the television adaptation of Man of La Mancha.
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 Award of Merit from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (2007), 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).
Ms. Ramirez founded Ballet Hispánico at the height of the post-war civil rights movements. From its inception, Ballet Hispánico focused on providing a haven for Black and Brown Latinx youth and families seeking artistic place and cultural sanctuary. By providing the space for Latinx 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.
From its grassroots origins as a dance school and community-based performing arts troupe, for more than fifty years, Ballet Hispánico has stood as a catalyst for social change. For more information, visit www.ballethispanico.org.