Where are you from? When did you first start dancing?
I was born and raised in Southern California. All of my grandparents were Mexican immigrants. I was raised in the Mexican-American (Chicano) culture, rich in music and dance. I first leaned and performed Mexican Folkloric dances as a child, at school, and for family.
As a teenager, I performed in school musicals, and my love of performing was, from then on, fully engaged in my heart. I graduated from San Jose State University (CA) where I studied and performed ballet, modern dance, dance dramas, choral music, musical theater and opera. I arrived in NYC in 1974 as a MFA student of Dance Performance at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. There, I continued my study in ballet (Nenette Charisse), Martha Graham technique (Bertram Ross, Stuart Hodes) and jazz dance (Fred Benjamin).
Why did you choose to come to Ballet Hispánico and what was the audition process like?
Tina saw me in a performance at Dance Theater Workshop (NYC) and asked me to audition for BH. I took company ballet class with Lolita San Miguel and stayed for rehearsal. Soon after, I accompanied BH to a performance in New Jersey, and while on the bus to the theater, I was told by Tina that I would be performing that night with the Company! So, I learned from Tina, that you always have to be at your best at all times. Tina also taught me about stage presence, focus, and dancing from my soul. I was blessed to be a dancer in a company with ballet, modern, jazz, Spanish, and ethnic dance choreography which all required deep performance commitment.
What was your favorite performance experience with Ballet Hispánico?
Becoming a dancer with BH was a dream come true, dancing and performing in a variety of theaters and performance settings throughout the USA and Europe! Long tours and one-night performances, dancing in prestigious theaters, universities, Alice Tully Hall, outdoors at Lincoln Center, Symphony Space and the Delacorte Theater were all fulfilled career dreams of mine. Wherever BH performed, we impressed audiences with the flare of the urban Latinx experience, driven in excellence by our director Tina Ramirez.
Who was the most memorable choreographer you worked with?
While at BH (1976-1980), I had the honor of working with many outstanding choreographers including Talley Beatty, Louis Johnson, Geoffrey Holder, William (Bill) Carter, and Anna Sokolow. They also taught me to excel in performance in a variety of dance styles, and dramatic themes. The knowledge I acquired at BH was invaluable and applicable to various dance and theatre performances (Radio City Music Hall, Musical Theater, and TV Music Video) that I would perform in after BH.
How did your time at Ballet Hispánico influence your career as a professional dancer? What do you remember most about working with Tina Ramirez?
After BH, I continued to perform and also began teaching modern jazz dance (Lynn Simonson Studio), aerobics classes, and as a personal fitness trainer at Crunch Gyms. I then taught Elementary Dance for the NYC Board of Education from 1994-2016. I designed and taught elementary dance curriculum, and trained dance teachers from PK-5th grades. In 2016, I retired after 21 years teaching Elementary Dance at PS 116 in Manhattan. Teaching and inspiring children to move and dance to music was an absolute joy. I taught my students the same dance styles and techniques I had performed with BH. I strove to instill in the students the integrity in performance, and the great rewards of hard work, which I had learned at Ballet Hispánico with Tina Ramirez.