Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

TADA! is proud to join The Library of Congress, National Endowment for the Humanities, and more, to pay tribute to the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society. Specifically, we want to take this opportunity to highlight, celebrate, and honor the fantastic Hispanic teaching artists, ensemble members, and supporters that we are proud to call #TADAFamily! 

Please read the contributions about what it means to be a part of the Hispanic community as artists, what inspires and influences them, and why representation matters in the arts.


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Celebrating & Honoring Hispanic Heritage

A member of the TADA! Artistic Advisory Board, Chita Rivera is a two-time Tony Award-winning actress who was recently honored at TADA!’s 30th Anniversary Gala. She is the first Hispanic woman and the first Latino-American to receive a Kennedy Center Honors award (December 2002). She recently starred in “The Visit” on Broadway, the final Kander/Ebb/McNally musical directed by John Doyle & choreographed by Graciela Daniele. Chita was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2009.

“You take a plug and put it in a socket, and that’s what the theatre is: it lights up right away. You speak, and they respond immediately.” Chita Rivera


Sonia Gonzalez joined the TADA! Board of Directors in early 2020. Sonia is a freelance writer and editor, and serves as a writer for the popular New York City blog Mommy Poppins. She loves exploring greater New York with her husband and three children. 

“I think it’s really important to have diverse representation in the arts. When children see themselves in art, theatre, and film, they see themselves, their culture, their household and their community represented. If they aspire to be an artist, a writer, or an actor, they can pursue those things because they have role models that look like them.”


Her son, Jaden, age 17, has been a member of the Resident Youth Ensemble for 7 years and has participated in 10 productions over the years.

Sonia says, “I think that TADA! is so unique in making the effort to have an Ensemble that is so representative of the city that it serves. And, that representation and inclusiveness is part of what makes TADA! so special and part of why my family feels so welcome and privileged to be a part of it.”

"The great thing about America is that we are a land with many cultures,
many histories, many colors, many abilities and we are at our best
when we work together, literally nothing in the world can stop us."
Chris Bell
Teaching Artist

Chris Bell has been an incredible asset to TADA!, serving as a professional teaching artist with our Education department for 7 years.

When asked why Hispanic representation in the arts is important, Chris says, “People don’t know what they don’t know. If they never see someone that looks like them doing something that they think is: cool or interesting or life-changing, they might believe that they can’t because no one else is. Or, they might love the craft, but never really dive in fully because they can’t resonate with the stories being told. Seeing and hearing people that look like you show that it is possible.”

Photo by Shannel J. Resto
"It reminds me how far we've come that now casting
someone in a race that isn't theirs is looked down upon."
Marlena Vega
Age 15

Marlena Vega, age 15, is entering her 5th year with the Ensemble. When Marlena was 8 or 9, she remembers watching Lin-Manuel Miranda interview the legendary Rita Moreno about her involvement in the movie West Side Story.

Marlena says, “I remember [Rita] talking about how she wasn’t cast as Maria, the main role, because they thought a white woman could play it better. Watching the movie made me grateful that she was in it at all, since most of the Sharks were just white people in bronze makeup!” Ms. Moreno played the role of Anita in Jerome Robbins’ film adaptation of Leonard Bernstein’s and Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking Broadway musical. “It reminds me how far we’ve come that now casting someone in a race that isn’t theirs is looked down upon. It’s helped me find more people like me to look up to,” says Marlena.

Soleil Mar Perez, age 13, is beginning her 3rd year with the Ensemble. Soleil is also inspired by actress Rita Moreno. “She is such an amazing singer, dancer, and actress who has made her mark in my life many times,” says Soleil. “Currently, she stars as Lydia in One Day At A Time, which is a show that I very much love and I think is very underrated. She is an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award Winner) and that is such an amazing accomplishment that so many people aspire to be. She has really influenced my opinion on the theatre and putting yourself out there, even if you are a person of color.”

"Hispanic representation in the arts is important because the arts are conceived within cultural realms. Culture and the arts coexist. How to conceive one without the other?"
Belinda A. Sáenz
Teaching Artist
Belinda A. Sáenz performing with the Calpulli Mexican Dance Company. Photo by Neil Zobler Photography.

Belinda A. Sáenz is an NYC-based multidisciplinary performer and instructional specialist who is thrilled to collaborate as a teaching artist with New York City Center, Disney Theatrical Group, Lincoln Center Education, and TADA! Youth Theater.

Belinda tells us she inherited her love and commitment to the field of education and the arts by a close relationship with a very special “Shero” in her life.

“My maternal grandmother, Manuela Lazo R., was a rural and urban elementary teacher in severely underserved communities in Mexico and retired with 43 years of service. Her arduous labor, the personal and professional challenges she overcame to provide for her family, while completing her studies at the Normal Superior built the image of a real-life heroine in my childhood that inspires me every day.” 

"Not only does that representation instill confidence in a young person,
it also helps them see that they are important enough to play a role
in our society; that their stories are important enough to be told."
Virginia Jimenez
Teaching Artist

Virginia Jimenez is a teaching artist with TADA! Working with children and young adults all over New York City, her work includes dancing for musical theatre, ballroom and social partner dancing, and theatrical skills.

Virginia believes Hispanic representation is important in the arts for several reasons. 

“First of all,” she says, “I believe that having Hispanic characters in stories, movies, plays, TV shows, even commercials, represents reality. One of my favorite examples of this is in Western movies. Often the cowboys are portrayed as white men, when in reality cowboys were often Hispanic (usually of Mexican origin) or free black men.

“Second, I believe that it’s incredibly important for young people of all colors and ages to see themselves represented in the arts because the experience of seeing someone who looks like you achieve great things is incredibly powerful. It’s difficult for young Latino people to imagine themselves as Rockettes if there are no existing Latina Rockettes; to see themselves as a “leading role” if there are no Latino actors playing leading roles. Not only does that representation instill confidence in a young person, it also helps them see that they are important enough to play a role in our society; that their stories are important enough to be told.”

Gabriela Gross is an alumnus of TADA!’s Resident Youth Ensemble, a Teaching Artist, and serves as the Ensemble & Alumni Manager. Gabi has stepped into many roles with TADA! including Assistant Stage Manager, Wardrobe Supervisor, House Manager, Assistant to the Choreographer and Assistant Director.

When asked about her inspirations and influences in the Hispanic community, she says, “A huge influence of mine is Lin-Manuel Miranda. ‘In The Heights’ was one of the first Broadway shows I saw and was the first time I truly saw someone who looked like me represented on the main stage. Lin-Manuel broke that barrier and continues to do so today.”

I will never forget the pride and happiness I felt when I saw In The Heights. I cried.
It was the first time I saw people who looked like me on stage.
Gabrielle Flores
Teaching Artist

Gabrielle Flores, a TADA! Teaching Artist, has her B.F.A in Theatre from Adelphi University and is currently a graduate student at The City College of New York working towards her Masters Degree in Educational Theatre. 

“There is a plethora of innovative work, diverse voices and perspectives, artistry and rich cultures to be shared, acknowledged and enjoyed,” says Gabrielle. “It is imperative that our students have the opportunity to see aspects of their culture and people who look like them up on stage, in museums, on the radio, etc. It will inspire them to continue to create, contribute to and be patrons of the artistic industry. It also creates the opportunity for people of various cultures to learn about and enjoy one another’s work.”