BWW Interview: Celebrating the Achievements of the Latino Culture with BALLET HISPANICO

BWW Interview: Celebrating the Achievements of the Latino Culture with BALLET HISPANICO

BWW Interview: Celebrating the Achievements of the Latino Culture with BALLET HISPANICO

On a typical Monday evening, most folks find themselves on their way home after a long day of work, beginning to unwind for the night, or enjoying the spring evening outside sitting on a bench or having a nice glass of wine. But May 7, 2018 was a special evening to celebrate the impact of Latino leaders at the Ballet Hispanico CARNAVAL gala at The Plaza Hotel in New York City. In addition to being the company's annual fundraiser, it is also a time to celebrate the impact of Ballet Hispanico in communities across the nation while honoring four pioneers and influential Latino leaders whose contributions have made them a major force in their respective fields around the world.

And as a super bonus, I had the opportunity to speak with Eduardo Vilaro, CEO and Artistic Director of Ballet Hispanico. about the gala and the celebration of the Latino culture.

Q: Who are this year's honorees and why were they chosen?

A: We have three spectacular honorees this year: Marcos Torres who is the Managing Director at RBC Capital Markets and is a shining example of a Latino digging themselves out of dire situations to become a successful business man; Carolina Herrera, the fashion icon, who revolutionized fashion in her own Venezuelan way; and finally, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, who are world renowned music industry legends. All four are true beacons of both the Latino community and the American dream.

Q: Can you talk about the roots of Ballet Hispanico, and the direction of the company today?

A: Ballet Hispanico was founded by Tina Ramirez, who wanted to give voice to the Latino artists. As a grassroots organization, it began as a studio for dance and developed into a professional dance company, a school of dance, and an outreach programs. Today, we are a national and international organization based on bringing the best of Latino dance to all audiences. Under my direction, I have focused on bringing innovative dance performances that share the huge diversity of the Latino(a) cultures and work to move us away from stereotypical and iconic representations that pigeonhole the culture. We have also built collaborations throughout the nation, bringing Ballet Hispanico's teaching methodology and cultural understanding to communities everywhere across the globe.

Q: As a dance company, how is Ballet Hispanico addressing different social justice issues?

A: Dance is its own language and has the ability to break down barriers that social constructs and language have built by creating environments on the stage that allow the viewer to become introspective about their own questions, thus building a new dialogue about culture. Personally, I think we address social justice in many ways. First, by our very existence! We are the example of diversity and the need for more of it in our nation. We are what is best in all of us- sharing, caring and nurturing our youth no matter what color or size. For 48 years, Ballet Hispanico has been providing arts education and experiences for the community. On the stage we bring the stories of the marginalized through their voices and create work that is inclusive and open for all to revel and learn. We give voice to the other.

Q: How does this year's gala represent the essence of Ballet Hispanico?

A: By celebrating those in our community who have exceled in their fields, we shine a light of the possibilities that perseverance and determination can bring. We celebrate and show our very own heroes so that our youth can then see a path of their own making.

Q: What about Ballet Hispanico are you specifically proud of as the Artistic Director and CEO?

A: I am most proud of the team, the people, I work with on a daily basis for this great mission. From our board of directors to our front desk receptionists and our families of the School of Dance. They are all dedicated to this vision and that is most humbling and rewarding.

The gala itself was a fabulous event. There was such a positive energy in the room. There was also a strong sense of pride- whether in support of Ballet Hispanico, and/or a cultural pride in being Latino and the many accomplishments to be proud of. Folks came from across the greater New York City area and beyond to celebrate the work of this wonderful company and everything they stand for. As a strong supporter and advocate of dance and diversity, I applaud Mr. Vilaro and the amazing work that Ballet Hispanico has, is, and will continue to do.

Photo Credit: Erin Baiano

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Caryn Cooper Caryn Cooper is an arts administrator, educator and performer from Long Island, NY. She began her dance training at a young age studying ballet in the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) technique and other dance forms such as tap, jazz, hip hop, modern and West African. She has had the opportunity to perform at various venues in the Greater New York City Area including, Radio City Music Hall, Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, the 92Y, Ailey CitiGroup Theater, Central Park, and The Wild Project. Administratively, she has worked for a number of arts organizations including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballet Hispanico, and the New York City Center. Currently at Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts, she works to plan arts education programs for schools and seniors in underserved communities throughout Queens and the New York City Metropolitan area. Caryn is currently a Moving for Life Certified Instructor (MFLCI) where she uses dance to help breast cancer recovery patients and those dealing with pain caused by chronic illnesses. She is currently pursuing a certification as a BodyMind Dancing (BMD) Instructor, under the direction of Dr. Martha Eddy, to guide students as they reflect and learn about the 3-dimenionality and repatterning of the body. Caryn is a member of Americans for the Arts, the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO), the New York State Dance Education Association (NYSDEA), and sits on the Young Professionals Committee of The Possibility Project and the Board of Trustees for Moving for Life, Inc. She is also a Contributing writer for BroadwayWorld Dance. She is the proud recipient of the 2016 Field Diversity Award and the 2017 Jessica Wilt Memorial Scholarship through the Americans for the Arts.


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