3 minute read

Tina Ramirez: 19(?)(?)—: Dancer, Choreographer, Educator

Dreamed Of Becoming A Performer

Ramirez was educated in the New York Public School system and attended Julia Rich-man High School, an all-girls school at the time. Although her mother dreamed that she would become a teacher, following in the footsteps of her relatives in Puerto Rico, Ramirez had different plans. "Ever since I was little I always wanted to be in the theater," she said to Contemporary Hispanic Biography (CHB). In fact, it was her mother, who was enamored by the arts, who introduced her to the theater. Ramirez recalled one of the first productions her mother brought her to see as a young girl, a performance of The Corn is Green with Ethel Barrymore. She also liked to attend popular films of the day, and remembered admiring Eleanor Powell, a Hollywood musical star who was known for her tap-dance numbers. "Whatever I would see, I would come home and do. And I had very strong feet so I could walk on my toes without toe shoes," she told CHB.

At a Glance . . .

Born on November 7, (birth year unknown), in Caracas, Venezuela; daughter of José and Cestero. Education: Studied with Lola Bravo.

Career: Frederico Rey Dance Company, principal dancer, 1940s; toured Spain with a Gypsy group, 1940s; teamed with her sister Coco to perform in supper clubs in New York City and around the United States and Cuba, 1940s; toured the United States with Xavier Cugat, 1950s; appeared in Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds with John Butler, 1950s; appeared in Broadway productions of Copper and Brass, Kismet, and Lute Song, 1950s; Lola Bravo's dance studio, owner and educator, 1963-70; Operation High Hopes, founder and educator, 1967; Ballet Hispanico, founder and artistic director, 1970–.

Memberships: The New 42nd Street; Dance USA.

Awards: New York City Mayor's Award of Honor for Arts and Culture, 1983; Mayor's Ethnic New Yorker Award, 1986; New York Governor's Arts Award, 1987; Manhattan Borough President Award, 1988; Citation of Honor, Capezio Dance Awards, 1992; Citation of Honor, New York Dance and Performance Awards, 1995; GEMS Woman of the Year Award, 1997; Hispanic Heritage Award, 1999; Dance Magazine Award, 2002.

She was also inspired by her father's performances in the bullfighting ring, which she recalled seeing from the age of two. "Bullfighting is like ballet," she told Scott Iwasaki of Salt Lake City's Deseret News. "Although it is more turned in; you have to move with elegance and strike the poses." Still, as she approached her adolescence Ramirez had not yet discovered the art form. Her sister Coco was very sickly as a child and was prescribed exercise by her doctor, so her mother decided to enroll her in dance lessons. It became Ramirez's responsibility to take her, and when she saw the dancers in action she knew that this was what she wanted to do. Her mother, however, was still adamant that she was to be the teacher of the family. But after a year she gave in and let Ramirez take lessons along with her sister.

Unlike most dancers who begin their studies at a very young age, Ramirez started her first lessons at around age 12. Her dance education was of high quality, however, having received instruction from Lola Bravo, New York's grande dame of Spanish dance. She started in the base class, but Bravo quickly moved her to the next levels. "I just took whatever I could learn, but she moved me fast from one class to the other," Ramirez told CHB. "She also believed in taking ballet because that's the way she was trained in Spain, so she always pushed ballet. So that's how I also became interested in ballet." Ramirez also studied other styles of Spanish dance, including Spanish folklore, flamenco, semi-classical Spanish, Mexican folklore, and Peruvian dance, getting a little taste of everything very early on. After studying with Bravo for a few years, Ramirez, still a teenager, moved on to professional work.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Jan Peck Biography - Personal to David Randall (1972–) Biography - PersonalTina Ramirez: 19(?)(?)—: Dancer, Choreographer, Educator Biography - Dreamed Of Becoming A Performer, Joined A Professional Company, Moved Into Dance Education