I have had the chance to interview the soulful and jubilant Eduardo Vilaro, CEO and Artistic Director at Ballet Hispánico, twice in 2020. We had the opportunity to chat in March and again in December, bookending a problematic year. And earlier this month, I had the honor to introduce him as a recipient of a Compassionate Leader of the Year Award in the category of arts, entertainment and sports. He has led his organization through the turbulence of 2020 with grace while attributing much of the credit for his abilities to his training as a dancer.
In our last conversation, I learned about his journey from Cuba to the Bronx as a child and how his artistry evolved over time. This process including telling his hardworking immigrant parents that he was choosing dance as a major in college. His mother embraced the idea immediately, but his father took more time to warm up to dancing as a profession. Eduardo began as a dancer at Ballet Hispánico and then developed skills as an educator, choreographer and artistic director before taking over as the leader. He has choreographed over 40 ballets in his career.
Ballet Hispánico is the nation’s renowned Latino dance organization and one of America’s Cultural Treasures. Despite postponing his company’s 50th-anniversary performances, he has kept his students, dancers and audiences engaged through innovative social media education and performances. Ballet Hispánico’s Instagram Series, called B Unidos, rolls out new programming every week and guarantees to lift spirits.
Vision resilience is the capacity to recast visions and get others behind them in times of rapid change and Eduardo mastered that skill in 2020. He and his team have had to shift many times as their grand anniversary plans, including community events and two weeks of performances at New York’s Joyce Theater, pivoted to online events. His background as a dancer has been essential as he has practiced improvisation and flexibility in this process.
Recently, Eduardo and his team led a successful fundraising campaign to support his dancers who have lost work that also featured personal stories of why they dance. Here is a sample of their collaborative genius for you to enjoy: (Go ahead, you deserve a 48-second art break.)
Eduardo believes in the arts’ power to change lives, impact culture, and strengthen community. As we ponder how to best support and rebuild businesses in 2021, we need to keep in mind that arts organizations are a precious part of our economy. Their survival is essential to restoring our souls as we face cultural, societal and political changes. Eduardo offers that the arts can provide a safe space to be uncomfortable or joyous as we grow, heal and change perspectives. Please consider donating to Ballet Hispánico or another arts organization in your community to keep artists working until they can offer live performances again.