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Chita Rivera Celebrates Dancers, With Awards That Bear Her Name

Rivera talks to TheaterMania about the dancer's life and gives advice for career longevity. logo
Chita Rivera on stage in 2013.
(© David Gordon)

On September 11th, the inaugural Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography (formerly known as the Astaire Awards) will be given out at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Hosted by Bebe Neuwirth, the event will honor and, according to the awards' mission, "celebrate dance and choreographic excellence" and recognize "the immeasurable talents and passion of every theatrical choreographer and dancer."

Reflecting on the upcoming awards, Rivera — a performer whose career has spanned six decades and includes the original productions of West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, Chicago, and even Guys and Dolls — told TheaterMania, "I am humbled and grateful that they chose me. To use my name to represent Broadway dancers is a great honor."

The current nominees, who were announced earlier this year, include well-known leading actor talents including Corbin Bleu (Holiday Inn), Emily Padgett (Sweet Charity), and John Bolton (Anastasia), as well as rising ensemble players like Ricky Ubeda (Cats) and Jaime Verazin (Bandstand). Nominated choreographers this year include Broadway vets Andy Blankenbuehler, Warren Carlyle, Kelly Devine, and Sergio Trujillo, among others.

In addition, another dance and theater legend, 10-time Tony winner Tommy Tune, will be honored with a lifetime achievement award.

The evening will include performances by Robert Fairchild and Melanie Moore, dancing a duet from La La Land, A Bronx Tale, Come From Away, Off-Broadway's Sweet Charity and previously announced performances by the New York City Ballet honoring Rivera, and ADM21 performing "We'll Take A Glass Together" from Grand Hotel to honor Tommy Tune.

Chita Rivera with Tommy Tune in 2017.
(© David Gordon)

Rivera also broke ground in the dance world in another way. She remarked that at the start of her legendary career, dancers did not look like her. "When I first auditioned for George Balanchine at School of American Ballet, I walked into the room and saw all the tall, blond, blue-eyed, leggy dancers. I realized how different I was. It made me very nervous. When I told my first teacher Doris Jones how scared I was, she said, 'Don't be scared, Chita. Just stay in your own lane.' And I did."


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