I Am Woman: Tina Ramirez

September 25, 2018

The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State recognizes women in the arts. The center's 2018–19 season features women of all ages, cultures, genres and disciplines in leadership and supporting-artist roles. The scheduled events represent the success women artists and allies have found through determination, despite hardship and with the help of supporters. When you support women artists, you recognize their challenges, validate their talents and help them to advance their achievements. Learn more about “I Am Woman.”

Growing up in Venezuela, Ballet Hispánico founder and former artistic director Tina Ramirez fantasized about a life on stage. A move to the United States before she turned 10 provided her with the opportunities she needed to follow her dream.

Living in New York City with her grandmother, she enrolled in tap and ballet classes and dedicated the rest of her time to studying Spanish dance styles with renowned teacher Lola Bravo. Soon the talented pupil was working on club stages throughout New York City, plus on television and Broadway.

A woman shown from the shoulders up smiles at the camera

Growing up in Venezuela, Ballet Hispánico founder and former Artistic Director Tina Ramirez fantasized about a life on stage. A move to the United States before she turned 10 provided her with the opportunities she needed to follow her dream.

IMAGE: Ballet Hispánico

Ramirez’s career was taking off, but her dance instructor was about to call in a favor they had discussed years earlier; the student would take over Bravo’s Spanish dance school. With this experience, Ramirez would turn her passion for learning into a passion for sharing her education with new dancers. In 1970, she founded Ballet Hispánico. Now she would be able to share her beloved culture with larger audiences.

Throughout her life, a proud, independent streak led her to want to create artistic and employment opportunities for her fellow Hispanic dancers. Her mission with Ballet Hispánico was to show audiences that Latin culture was rich with beautiful music, movement, costumes and faces — not at all the stereotypes that Spanish-themed performing arts programs delivered.

Ballet Hispánico, under Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro’s leadership since 2009, will perform Oct. 17 at Eisenhower Auditorium in its first visit to Penn State since 1993. The program will feature three distinct pieces: “Linea Recta” by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa; “Con Brazos Abiertos” by Michelle Manzanales; and “Catorce Dieciséis” by Tania Pérez-Salas. Each work views aspects of Hispanic culture through a contemporary dance lens and without presenting worn-out ideas of what modern Latin culture is.

Ramirez on why she decided to start a company for young Latinx dancers:

In the early days, I just wanted Hispanics to have a voice in dance and for people to get to know us as a people. Because, you know, you went to see a ballet, and there was somebody crouched with a sombrero, and that’s not who we are. (The New York Times, 2008)

On the examination of social issues by Ballet Hispánico:

An artistic director shouldn’t impose their own view on an audience. I don’t like it when people get preachy. So I don’t, as a rule, do it myself. (Deseret News, 2003)

On how dance helps to create better communities:

People should know themselves better. I believe if people dance, all people dance, they are better people … because in dance, you have to learn how to work together. (Charlie Rose, 1991)

On the healing power of the arts:

I think the arts can make a change in people faster than anything. And it lasts forever. You sensitize people. (The New York Times, 1979)

The presentation by Ballet Hispánico is part of the Center for the Performing Arts Diversity and Inclusion Collaborative.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 26, 2018