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

Moved Into Dance Education

Ramirez stopped touring and returned to New York for good in 1963 to take over Lola Bravo's studio. Her former teacher and mentor was retiring and remembered that Ramirez had mentioned a desire to teach dance when she was 13, so she called her out of the blue and asked her to take over the studio. Ramirez agreed and promised to teach for a year because she didn't know if she would like it. Conservative by nature, Ramirez hated waste—especially human talent—so a passion for teaching came naturally to her. She told CHB, "I believe in discipline and a stick-to-itiveness … I taught (my students) that a profession has laws. If you wanted to be a dancer this is what you do. Not in so many words I would say 'I've never heard of such a thing. How can you be talking before you go on stage? It's never done!' So that's the way I taught the kids."

Ramirez also recognized the power of praising children and the positive benefits that talented kids brought to their families. It was this that inspired her to start Operation High Hopes, a professional dance and performance training program for underprivileged children from all five boroughs of New York City. The local Office of Economic Opportunity gave her $18,000 to start the program in the summer of 1967, and though it received high ratings from the OEO, Operation High Hopes was cut the following September. Some of the kids from the program continued to work with Ramirez in her studio, and because they wanted to be professional dancers and she wanted to stress professionalism by giving them employment, Ramirez decided to start a professional company.

In 1970 Ramirez founded Ballet Hispanico of New York to provide employment for Hispanics in the arts and to inspire understanding of the diversity of Hispanic culture through a blend of classical ballet, modern dance, and traditional Spanish dance with Hispanic music and literary themes. "I wanted people to know who Hispanics were, how we look, how we felt about music," she said to CHB. "I didn't want to be 'the other' because if people don't know you as a human being they treat you as 'the other.'" Ballet Hispanico encompasses three components, including the professional company; a school with more than 600 students; and Primeros Pasos (First Steps), an educational program that serves over 25,000 students and teachers in New York City and across the United States. The company tours both nationally and internationally, allowing people to see through the arts what Hispanics look like in a dramatic and abstract context. Ramirez, who has been managing Ballet Hispanico as founder and artistic director for thirty-plus years, doesn't plan to slow down anytime soon. Arts education will always be in the forefront of her agenda, but she also has dreams of bigger productions. "Every year we raise the bar on ourselves," she said to Iwasaki of the Deseret News. "I like challenges, if, of course, they help us become better."



Dance Magazine, April 1995; March 1997; March 2002.

Deseret News (Salt Lake City), February 23, 2003.


"Tina Ramirez Biography" Ballet Hispanico, http://ballethispanico.org/general_information/about_tina .html (May 30, 2003).


Additional information for this profile was obtained through a personal interview with Contemporary Hispanic Biography on May 20, 2003.

—Kelly M. Martinez

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