Where are you from and when did you come to BH?
My name is Pedro Ruiz and I was born in Cuba. My family left the country in the early 80’s and ultimately ended up in the United States. I was introduced to Tina and Ballet Hispánico in 1985, and what followed was a dream that came true.
When did you first know you wanted to dance?
At an early age, I was influenced by a class teacher who decided to teach us popular Cuban and foreign folk dances. It was while dancing at a festival at the age of eight that I was discovered by the Cuban National Ballet and so began my training in classical ballet.
Why did you to come to Ballet Hispánico?
When I met Tina in January of 1985 in New York City, I was working in a factory, the only job available at the time, to support my family and myself. Initially Tina invited and encouraged me to take afternoon classes in Modern and Flamenco dance. My official audition and the start of my career was in April.
How did your time with Ballet Hispánico shape or influence your career as a professional dancer?
It was the platform that BH offered, along with Tina’s vision and encouragement, that was the driving force that shaped my growth and career as a dancer, choreographer, artist and director. I became a principal dancer and in 1998, I received the highest award in dance, the Bessie Award. The following year Tina invited me to choreograph my first piece for the Company, Guajira, which became part of the Blueprint for the NYC Department of Education. My second piece, Club Havana, was part of Lincoln Center at the Movies, and The New York Times called it Ballet Hispánico’s signature piece.
Who was the most memorable choreographer you worked with?
I was with BH for 21 years, which allowed me to work with a large variety of extraordinary choreographers, all of whom shaped and influenced my training, technique, versatility and the trajectory of my career.
What did you learn from Tina?
Tina was an amazing woman with an extraordinary presence in dance. She used to say, “If you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.” It was her passionate focus that taught me to always persevere, be proud of myself, my culture, and always to be honest and sincere in one’s artistry.
She also made me understand and appreciate the importance of great costume design, makeup and lighting.
How have you watched dance progress as an art form and what impact has your generation of dancers made in the field of dance?
I think dance is like science - a continuous process of movement and research. Today’s dancers have a physical ability athletically that brings a new dimension to dance, though one should be careful never to lose the artistry. The extremely talented choreographers of today should not allow the pressure to conform, but rather always be true to their personal inner artistic voice.
I could never have dreamed as a child, or even as an immigrant, that I might one day perform at the White House and also have the opportunity to perform in some of the world’s greatest venues.
The celebration of my 20 years with BH in 2005 at the Joyce Theater was truly the most unforgettable night of my life. I thank BH and Tina for allowing me this great honor and privilege.