|Chita Rivera...certainly the most deserving GYPSY
AWARD honoree that we have struggled to land for this event. Literally, it took years! She is unique... dancing, singing and acting superbly on all levels. Punch up 'dancer' on Encyclopedia Brittanica's website and up pops Chita Rivera.
Some thoughts (not scientific insights) on how she got where she is... Chita listens! Invited to audition for Balanchine's NYC school at 15 years of age, her astute Washington DC teachers alert her senses with instructions to ignore the long legs and blonde pony tails and simply be herself. Chita listens. She got the scholarship. A bit later, a new friend nervously begs her to accompany her to an audition. She does. She gets the job. Call Me Madam is her professional debut. Her stage presence is appreciated by many, and several shows later, she lands a principal part: Anita, in West Side Story. Chita had no vocal training, so Leonard Bernstein, the composer, coached her in "A Boy Like That", and "America". She listens. She learns. She stops the show! Again, a few shows later she is set to do Chicago with her idol and inspiration, Gwen Verdon. Gwen, according to Chita, with her Jack Cole and Bob Fosse background, could take a movement which someone else would make into a cheap vulgarity, but Gwen's artistry and taste turned it into beautiful sensuality. Chita says she rarely went to her dressing room between scenes. She chose to watch Gwen from the wings. She watched...she learned... she listened. "I'm a thief", Chita chuckles.
Rivera has carved out a niche in Broadway history, most famously for her dancing skills but also for her considerable singing and acting gifts. Five Tony nominations and two Tony Awards are hers for best actress in a musical, The Rink and Kiss of the Spider Woman. Terrence McNally, the author of both musicals, say she has few peers. "She is a star and, at the same time, a trouper". In 2003, five decades after her Broadway debut, the Kennedy Center Honors lauded her uniqueness. For performers, especially dancers, this often comes at the twilight of a career.