▶ Watch Video: Ballet Hispánico, labeled a cultural treasure, offers safe space for Latina and Latino dancers

Ballet Hispánico, the largest Latinx cultural arts organization in America, has been a renowned training ground for top-tier dancers for over 50 years. 

The school, located in New York City, welcomes children as young as 2 and serves as a sanctuary for dancers who have historically faced marginalization in the predominantly White world of classical dance. It has left an indelible mark on the dance world, training accomplished dancers like Jennifer Lopez.

Recently, the cultural powerhouse was named one of America’s Cultural Treasures by the Ford Foundation.

Overcoming racial stereotypes and resistance, dancers like Gabrielle Sprauve-Bloom, who is Guatemalan and Black, have discovered solace and a sense of belonging within the vibrant and diverse environment of Ballet Hispánico. Growing up dancing in Georgia, she said she was told by a teacher she would end up being too “voluptuous” to dance in companies like the New York City Ballet or American Ballet Theatre.

“I built resilience, a lot of resilience and a lot of strength that kids of color start building from way too young,” Sprauve-Bloom said. 

But she feels at home at Ballet Hispánico, a professional company that embraces the richness and diversity of Latinx culture in both its choreography and casting — creating a safe space where dancers can authentically express themselves.  

Paulo Hernanez-Ferella, a member of the company, highlighted the freedom and security he experiences, enabling him to express his true self. As a gay Hispanic dancer, he feels safe within the company.

Eduardo Vilaro, the artistic director of Ballet Hispánico, recognizes the significance of this safe haven.

“For kids like me who came from the Bronx and … felt like they were othered, this place gives them a home base,” he said. “And that’s why it’s so miraculous to have this organization today.”

Established in 1970 by Tina Ramirez, a Venezuelan immigrant who understood the transformative power of dance, Ballet Hispánico has become an influential pillar in the dance community.

Renata Suarez, a 16-year-old dancer who trains at Ballet Hispánico, faced challenges in connecting with her identity as an immigrant child. However, her perspective changed entirely when she witnessed Ballet Hispánico perform. 

“It was the most inspired I’d ever been in my life,” Suarez said. “I’d never seen people like be that upfront and be that, like, ‘this is who we are and this is how we dance and this is what we do.'” 

The organization now regularly shares the stage with renowned companies such as American Ballet Theatre and Alvin Ailey. Ballet Hispánico’s 2023 season begins June 1.